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IFRS Education: Why Accountants Should Get It Before It’s Hot

IFRS Education: Why Accountants Should Get It Before It’s Hot

As the largest public companies in America begin their transition from Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) to International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS), they’re going to need accountants to show them the way.

Just over 100 of the largest public companies will be eligible to file IFRS statements with the Securities and Exchange Commission starting in December 2009. “They’re the largest employers in the country, so it makes sense to get up to speed on this,” says Mark Viego, vice president for Robert Half Management Resources’ Western US division in Las Vegas.

The SEC will decide by 2011 whether to make IFRS mandatory in 2014, with implementation from 2014 to 2016. If you’re not working at a large public firm, why worry about IFRS? “There’s going to be a tremendous demand for folks with this experience once the SEC finalizes the IFRS road map,” Viego predicts.

Learning about IFRS and the International Accounting Standards Board (IASB) doesn’t have to cost much either. Start by reading the IASB backgrounder, which explains what the organization does and how it sets standards.

Next, sign up for an IFRS course, either online or via an in-person seminar.

Ply Your Trade Group

Accounting trade associations are a great source of reasonably priced IFRS training, and if you attend a live course, you can network with other attendees.

The American Institute for Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) offers a two-hour IFRS overview course. “It walks through the major differences between GAAP and IFRS,” says Arleen Thomas, the AICPA’s senior vice president for member competency. The course is open to everyone. Cost is $145 for AICPA members and about $180 for nonmembers. There’s also a more advanced eight-hour online IFRS course that costs from $175 for members to about $220 for nonmembers.

If you prefer a live instructor and want to be able to discuss IFRS issues with other accountants, individual state CPA societies are offering live versions of the two AICPA courses as well.

Specialty accounting societies are another source of IFRS education. The Institute of Internal Auditors (IIA) is working with Deloitte on IFRS seminars and Webinars geared toward internal auditors, covering topics such as eXtensible Business Reporting Language (XBRL) and IFRS.

“We’re focusing on a high-level understanding of IFRS and how the major differences in IFRS and GAAP could potentially impact your organization,” says Cyndi Summers, the IIA’s vice president of educational programs. “Our course comes at IFRS from the internal audit perspective.”

The IIA courses cover how IFRS will impact the audit process, and how auditors can best position themselves to advise on implementation projects and work with the audit committee and board to track IFRS projects and cover potential risk areas.

The IFRS two-hour overview Webinar is $75 for members and $99 for nonmembers. Cost for a full-day IIA IFRS course is about $1,000, while the two-day course costs about $1,800.

CPA review course providers are also offering IFRS education. Initially, companies such as Becker Professional Review are focusing on IFRS versus GAAP. “We have a couple of courses in IFRS currently and will continue to build that offering out,” says Michael Mirretti, Becker’s continuing professional education product manager.

Becker’s courses include live Webcasts in which students can interact with the instructor by asking questions as well as on-demand Web courses. Cost is typically $175 for the two-hour offerings, Mirretti says.

Students Need to Get Up to Speed, Too

Current accounting students also need to pick up IFRS knowledge before graduation. And with very few universities teaching IFRS, it’s unlikely we’ll have a graduating class of seniors with IFRS knowledge until 2011, Viego says.

“If you’re in school now and you’re in a university that does not offer an IFRS course, reach out to one of those outside resources to gain that knowledge before graduation,” Viego says.

Shop Around

Before you purchase any online courses, here are some questions to ask:

  • How is the material presented? Are you getting Word documents or animated course material tied in with streaming audio and video?
  • Is there interaction with the instructor?
  • Does the course qualify for CPE for your state licensing board or trade association? If so, how is that credit issued and recorded?
  • Who is the instructor and what IFRS experience does he have?

Update Immediately

The nanosecond you finish your IFRS course, be sure to update your resume. “Anyone with IFRS education, experience or knowledge should highlight it at the top of the resume,” Viego says. “It shows you’re current on trends and standards.”

Next, put your new knowledge to work by volunteering to join your company’s IFRS committee or offering to head a project looking at what IFRS will mean for your firm.

Then, get ready for the offers to roll in. “This is going to pass the SEC, and every company is going to have to comply,” Viego says. “When a company sees this experience and the long-term potential to use that individual for several years through the compliance stage, it makes the candidate more marketable.”

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