Share-Based Payments: IFRS vs GAAP Comparison

navigating share-based payments

Share-based incentives have become a cornerstone of modern corporate incentive plans, offering companies a powerful tool to reward and motivate their employees, executives, and stakeholders. These programs grant individuals a stake in the company’s ownership through various instruments like stock options, restricted stock units, or performance shares. However, beneath the surface of these enticing incentives lies a web of complex accounting procedures that companies must navigate to ensure transparency and accuracy in their financial reporting. In this article, we will explore the fascinating world of share-based payments, delving into both their role as incentive tools and the intricate accounting processes involved.

Share-Based Payment and the Geographical scope of IFRS vs. GAAP

The geographical scope of IFRS (International Financial Reporting Standards) and GAAP (Generally Accepted Accounting Principles) is another crucial distinction to consider. Deciding which set of standards to use depends on where your company operates. Work is being done to converge GAAP and IFRS, but the process has been slow going. IFRS is widely adopted across more than 168 jurisdictions across Europe, Africa, the Middle East, Asia and the Americas. GAAP, in contrast, is primarily used in the United States and is not recognised as the standard in most other countries.

IFRS vs GAAP Overview

Accounting standards are guidelines and regulations issued by governing bodies that dictate how a company records finances and presents its financial statements. Before we dive into the specifics of accounting for share incentives (referred to as share-based payment accounting), it is essential to understand the overarching accounting standards that govern financial reporting.

IFRS standards are developed and maintained by the International Accounting Standards Board (IASB), an independent international standard-setting body. The standard relevant to share-based payments is IFRS 2, which offers guidance on the accounting treatment for equity-settled and cash-settled share-based payment transactions.

On the other hand, the GAAP system is established by various standard-setting bodies in the United States, such as the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). In GAAP, the standard that governs the accounting treatment for share-based payments is ASC 718.

See Harvard Business School’s Online Business blog for more insights.

Rules vs Principles

Understanding the key differences between the distinct accounting approaches of IFRS and GAAP is crucial. IFRS is a principle-based system, emphasising the establishment of broad principles and objectives rather than rigid, specific rules allowing for more professional judgement and flexibility in applying the standards. Conversely, GAAP is a rule-based system offering specific guidelines and detailed rules for various accounting transactions.

Exploring Share-Based Payment Similarities in IFRS and GAAP Standards

The US GAAP guidance on share-based payments, as outlined in ASC 718, Stock Compensation, closely aligns with the guidance found in IFRS 2 Share-Based Payments. Both standards advocate for a fair value-based approach to accounting for share-based payment arrangements. This applies when an entity either obtains goods or services by issuing share options or other shares or incurs liabilities tied, at least partially, to the price of its shares or that may be settled in its shares.

The applicability of both US GAAP and IFRS extends to transactions with both employees and non-employees, encompassing all types of companies. The determination of fair value, described as the value at which the asset or liability could be traded between willing parties, is a shared requirement in both standards. This involves measuring the fair value of shares based on a market price (if available) or through estimation using an option-pricing model.

In cases where determining fair value is challenging, both sets of guidelines permit the use of intrinsic value, subject to remeasurement until share settlement. Furthermore, the treatments of modifications and settlements in share-based payments exhibit similarities in both frameworks. Lastly, both sets of guidelines mandate similar disclosures in financial statements, ensuring that investors receive adequate information to comprehend the nature and extent of an entity’s involvement in share-based payment transactions.

Understanding the Differences

While GAAP and IFRS share numerous similarities, several key distinctions go beyond their geographical applications. These differences encompass various aspects, highlighting the complexity and nuances in accounting standards. These distinctions emphasise the importance of understanding and navigating the specific requirements of each accounting standard, reflecting the dynamic landscape of global financial reporting.

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How Can ShareForce help?

Advancements in technology have significantly progressed within the realm of share incentive plans, making the automation of calculations and compliance with financial standards, notably IFRS 2 and ASC 718, more straightforward than ever before. Specialised share incentive plan platforms, such as ShareForce, can assist listed and private companies to adhere to IFRS 2 and ASC 718 standards and accurately depict the impacts of share-based payments without the hassle of manually executing intricate calculations.

Utilising state-of-the-art technology, the ShareForce platform accurately handles the accounting of your share-based payment expenses for both cash and equity-settled plans, ensuring 100% compliance with IFRS 2 and ASC 718. ShareForce is capable of swiftly and flawlessly executing complex IFRS 2 & ASC 718 calculations in a fraction of the time it used to take. This encompasses the generation of audit-ready valuation, accounting, and disclosure reports on demand.

You can book a demo by filling in the form below or by visiting website: to see first-hand how ShareForce prioritises data security and privacy.


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