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IFRS footprint in the US intensifies, transition costs lower than feared: Hoogervorst

There is a large IFRS footprint in the US which is expected to grow, the International Accounting Standards Board (IASB) chairman Hans Hoogervorst said on Tuesday at a conference hosted by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA).

Speaking this week in Washington, Hoogervorst said that more than 450 non-US companies, whit a combined market cap of $5tr, are using IFRS to prepare their accounts in the US; while a number of US multinationals have also operations and subsidiaries in IFRS jurisdictions.

In relation to the costs that US issuers may incur when transitioning to IFRS, Hoogervorst said Canada's experience adopting the international standards was "insightful" as the country's GAAP was very similar to the US GAAP.

Hoogervorst said the IASB and the Canadian Accounting Standards Oversight Council co-commisioned an independent survey by Financial Executives International Canada on transition costs from Canadian GAAP to IFRS.

According to Hoogervorst, 62% of the companies surveyed reported transition budgets under $500,000.

"For larger companies with revenues of more than $1bn, the highest recorded transition cost was less than 0.1% of turnover. These numbers are consistent with surveys elsewhere such as in Europe and South Korea, so we know the costs of transition are manageable," Hoogervorst said.

Hoogervorst also mentioned Japan, a country where he said significant progress was made with regards to the voluntary adoption of IFRS as "a way to satisfy the needs of those that wish to benefit from global standards without imposing on others the transitional burden.

"Personally, I believe Japan provides an interesting template for the US to explore," he said.

At the AICPA's conference, which focused on the current developments of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board, Hoogervorst recalled that Washington was the birthplace of the IASB.

"It was the former SEC chairman Arthur Levitt who was the driving force after the Asian financial crisis of the late 1990s. He encouraged the appointment of Paul Volcker as the first chairman of our trustees and it was Paul Volcker that appointed my predecessor, Sir David Tweedie," he said.

Hoogervorst said that the SEC's interest in the IASB work was driven by what he called "enlightened self-interest" to protect US investors abroad.

He added 2013 was a very productive year for the IASB: "We have taken many concrete steps towards accomplishing our mission of bringing transparency to the world."

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