Financial Reporting Framework for Small- to Medium-Sized Entities: Questions and Answers

This framework greatly simplifies financial statement reporting

CPAs have asked for relief from the burden of complying with GAAP for many years. So, a few years back the AICPA created the Financial Reporting Framework for Small- to Medium-Sized Entities (aka FRF for SME). The following is a Q&A that will assist you in understanding this reporting framework.

FRF for SME

What is FRF for SMEs?

It’s an other comprehensive basis of accounting (OCBOA) that can be used as an alternative to generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP) as issued by the Financial Accounting Standards Board.

Who created FRF for SME?

The AICPA.

What is the size of FRF for SME?

A little over 200 pages.

What is the size of GAAP?

Thousands of pages.

How often will FRF for SME change?

About once every three to four years. That’s one of the beauties of it: Stability.

Why was FRF for SME created?

GAAP had become too complex for small- to medium-sized private businesses, driving up the costs of creating GAAP-compliant financial statements. Existing OCBOA (e.g., modified-cash basis) lacked standardization.

Does FRF for SME define a small- to medium-sized entity? Is there a dollar threshold?

No. It’s subjective. There is no dollar threshold.

Is “FRF for SME” GAAP?

No. It’s not GAAP.

Can entities with debt covenants requiring GAAP use FRF for SMEs?

No. But they can see if the lender will amend the debt agreement to allow its use.

Can financial statements created using FRF for SME be audited, reviewed or compiled?

Yes (for all three).

What are some of the characteristics of companies that might use FRF for SME?

  • For-profit
  • Closely-held
  • Not a public company
  • No regulatory requirements for GAAP
  • Individuals with controlling ownership also manage the company

What entities should not use FRF for SME?

  • Nonprofits
  • Those with complex transactions
  • Governments

Is FRF for SME principles-based?

Yes. Use the flexibility and disclose the accounting policies used.

Do the FRF for SME financial statements look like GAAP statements?

Yes. This is a downside (at least to me). I do think a user might mistakenly believe the financial statements are GAAP. You will need to clearly disclose that FRF for SME was used. Also, your opinion or SSARS report will refer to FRF for SME (rather than GAAP).

What are some key points of FRF for SME?

  • No comprehensive income
  • Investments will be at historical cost (market value used when held-for-sale)
  • Derivatives (e.g., swaps) are not recognized on the balance sheet
  • There is no hedge accounting
  • Goodwill amortized over the same period as that used for tax purposes or 15 years
  • All intangibles are amortized over their economic life
  • Income taxes recognized using taxes payable method (what you owe at period-end) or the deferred income tax method (as GAAP requires)
  • No requirement to accrue uncertain tax positions (no FIN 46)
  • Leases are recognized as operating or capital leases 
  • Policy choice to consolidate subsidiaries or account for them using the equity method
  • Parent-only presentation is allowed (use equity method accounting for subsidiaries)
  • Variable interest entities are not consolidated
  • No assessment of long-lived assets for impairment
  • Going concern assessment required by management 
  • Revenue recognition is principles-based (disclose how you recognize revenue); percentage-of-completion can be used by contractors
  • Stock-based compensation not booked as a liability (disclosure only)
  • Defined benefit plan liabilities can be recognized using contribution payable method (record current pension plan payments not made; no projected benefit obligation required)
  • Disclosure requirements are greatly simplified

Can’t I just continue issuing tax-basis financial statements?

Yes. But tax-basis statements do not incorporate some of the more traditional accounting concepts of FRF for SME.

How will the use of FRF for SME change the peer review process?

No change; FRF for SME is just another OCBOA – like tax-basis or modified-cash basis.

Does the AICPA offer any implementation tools?

Yes. Click here for toolkits.