The phrase “generally accepted accounting principles” is a technical accounting term that encompasses the conventions, rules, and procedures necessary to define accepted accounting practice at a particular time. It includes not only broad guidelines of general application, but also detailed practices and procedures. Those conventions, rules, and procedures provide a standard by which to measure financial presentations. Auditing Standards Board (ASB), AU Section 411
Generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP) are concerned with the measurement of economic activity, the time when such measurements are to be made and recorded, the disclosures surrounding this activity, and the preparation and presentation of summarized economic information in the form of financial statements. GAAP develops when questions arise about how to best accomplish those objectives—measurement, timing of recognition, disclosure, or presentation. In response to those questions, GAAP is either prescribed in official pronouncements of authoritative bodies empowered to create it, or it originates over time through the development of customary practices that evolve when authoritative bodies fail to respond. Thus, GAAP is a reaction to and a product of the economic environment in which it develops. As such, the development of accounting and financial reporting standards has lagged the development and creation of increasingly intricate economic structures and transactions.