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Generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP) refer to the standard framework of guidelines for financial accounting used in any given jurisdiction; generally known as accounting standards or standard accounting practice. These include the standards, conventions, and rules that accountants follow in recording and summarizing and in the preparation of financial statements.
Many county and city governments in the United States choose to "opt out" of GAAP practices due to the fact that they operate on a cash basis, as opposed to an accrual basis. A comparison would be the way that most people balance their checkbook. When a check is written, that amount is deducted from the total balance even though the funds have not yet been removed from the account. Financial decisions made after that check are based on the amount minus the check that was written, not the current balance before the amount is deducted for the check.
Many countries use or are converging on the International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) that was established and is maintained by the International Accounting Standards Board. In some countries, local accounting principles are applied for regular companies but listed or large companies must conform to IFRS, so statutory reporting is comparable internationally, across jurisdictions.
In the United States, while "...the SEC published a statement of continued support for a single set of high-quality, globally accepted accounting standards, and acknowledged that IFRS is best positioned to serve this role..." progress is less evident.