Selected Core Resources

Sponsored by the BRASS Education Committee


Maintained by
Paul Brothers
University of Alabama

See the BRASS Best of the Best Business Web Sites page on Accounting & Taxation for quick links to selected, highly-useful resources on this topic.

Scope | Important Terms | Frequently Asked Questions


Basic accounting competencies for librarians listed in this guide are directories for finding accountants, various certifications, accounting standards, and regulatory bodies, as well as recommended sources to learn more about accounting basics.

Accounting and tax questions are often related, and research of one area may include research in the other. Consult the Core Competency Taxation guide for more information on that topic, and see the Best of the Best Business Websites (Free Resources) on Accounting and Taxation for additional links.

Special acknowledgement goes to Edith Gilbreath for her initial work for this page and to Tony Lin, library volunteer and now graduate library school student, for support in locating some of these sources.


Definitions taken from:
Klopper, Susan M. "Sailing on the AccountanSea."
Database Magazine 22 issue 3 (1999): 65-72.

For additional terms consult:
The Blackwell Encyclopedic Dictionary of Accounting. Rashad Abdel-Khalik, ed.
Cambridge, MA: Blackwell Business, 1997.

Accounting - Provides information used to assess the financial well-being of businesses and other economic entities, including government agencies and nonprofit organizations. Accounting specialties include financial accounting, which prepares company financial reports for external use, and management accounting, which provides reports to help the management of a company evaluate production costs and efficiency.

American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) - The AICPA is the national, professional organization for all Certified Public Accountants. Its mission is to provide members with the resources, information, and leadership that enable them to provide valuable services in the highest professional manner to benefit the public as well as employers and clients. Website:

Audit - An unbiased examination and evaluation of the financial statements of an organization. It can be done internally (by employees of the organization) or externally (by an outside firm). An audit can also be an IRS examination of a taxpayer's return or other transactions. The IRS performs this examination to verify the correctness of these filings.

Cost Accounting Standards Board (CASB) - The CASB is an independent legislatively-established board that has the exclusive authority to make, promulgate, and amend cost accounting standards and interpretations designed to achieve uniformity and consistency in the cost accounting practices governing the measurement, assignment, and allocation of costs to contracts with the United States.

Certified Public Accountant (CPA) – The CPA is an accountant who has met certain standards, including experience, age, and licensing, and passed exams in a particular state. All CPAs must pass the Uniform CPA Examination, which is created and graded by the AICPA. The AICPA recommends that a candidate have a university or college degree, and at least 150 semester hours of classes. Many states require some previous accounting work experience as well.

Emerging Issues Task Force (EITF) - The EITF is a task force within FASB that identifies new accounting and reporting issues and distributes reports for timely dissemination. Website:

Exposure Draft - Outlines and discusses the proposed standards of financial accounting and reporting, which are precursors to the SFAS.

Financial Accounting Research System (FARS) – Compiled by FASB to include all authoritative accounting literature and standards.

Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) - Since 1973, FASB has been the organization designated to establish authoritative financial accounting and reporting standards for businesses and other private organization. FASB pronouncements are recognized as authoritative by the Securities and Exchange Commission. With Sarbanes Oxley Act of 2002 their role is changing. Website:

FASB Interpretations (FIN) - Clarification and elaboration of existing FASB standards.

FASB Technical Bulletins (FTB) - Bulletin updates on the application of FASB statements or interpretations.

Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) - Generally regarded as the common set of accounting principles, standards and procedures. GAAP is a combination of authoritative standards (set by policy boards) and the accepted ways of doing accounting.

Governmental Accounting Standards Board (GASB) - Sets standards for financial accounting and reporting by state and local governmental units. Website:

Generally Accepted Auditing Standards (GAAS) – Auditors use GAAS, a set of guidelines, while conducting audits on a company's finances. GAAS has created a systematic guideline for auditors to follow, ensuring the accuracy, consistency and verifiability of auditors' actions and reports.

International Accounting Standards Board (IASB) - Effective April 1, 2001, the IASB assumed accounting standard setting responsibilities from its predecessor body, the International Accounting Standards Committee (IASC). Standards issued by the IASB are now designated "International Financial Reporting Standards" (IFRS). Website:

International Accounting Standards Committee (IASC) - An organization founded in June 1973 and restructured to the International Accounting Standards Board on April 1, 2001. It was responsible for setting the International accounting standards (IAS), a set of standards used from 1973-2001 stating how particular types of transactions and other events should be reflected in financial statements.

Industry Audit Guides and Accounting Guides - Prepared by the AICPA committee and task forces that include descriptions of specialized accounting and reporting principles and practices for the particular industry they cover. In addition, the Industry Audit Guides and Accounting Guides contain recommendations of the application of accounting principles and practices described.

Public Accountant - A person who offers independent professional accounting assistance to the public and consists of three main services: auditing, management services, and tax services for companies or clients.

Statement of Auditing Standards (SAS) - Official pronouncements issued by the AICPA and used by public accountants for external audits.

Statements of Financial Standards (SFAS) - FASB statements are the standards governing the preparation of financial reports.

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    Where can I find an accountant?

AICPA American Institute of Certified Public Accountants
Look for an accountant through the local state society of CPAs. The AICPA website maintains a list of all of the state society CPAs.

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    I need a basic accounting manual.

Accountant's handbook. Carmichael, Douglas R. and others, eds. New York: Wiley.

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    Who and what are the Big 4?

A convenient way to identify and search the Big 4 accounting firms is through the American Accounting Association's website,
  • Deloitte & Touche
  • Ernst & Young LLP
  • KPMG
  • PriceWaterhouseCoopers

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    What are the accounting specialties?

"Accountants and Auditors." In Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor. Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2004-05 Edition. Retrieved May 20, 2004 from

The BLS classifies accountants into four fields: public, management, government, and internal. The BLS site provides brief descriptions of each type, their associations and regulatory standards and their professional journals.

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    What are the major accounting standards bodies, boards and professional associations?

American Institute for Certified Public Accountants (AICPA)

American Accounting Association (AAA)

Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB)

International Accounting Standards Board (IASB)

Public Accounting Oversight Board

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    How can I access the FASB standards and what are the differences between the formats and products?

There are a number of titles and services that provide access to the standards that are listed below.

Financial Accounting Research System (FARS) – A service compiled by FASB to include all authoritative accounting literature and standards. It includes: Original Pronouncements, FASB Statements, Interpretations, Technical Bulletins, Accounting Research Bulletins, Accounting Principles Board Opinions and Statements, AICPA Accounting Interpretations and Accounting Terminology Bulletins. You will also find Current Text, EITF Abstracts (Emerging Issues Tax Force), and implementation guides. Updated bimonthly and available on CD-ROM with capabilities for stand-alone or networked access. Access details at the FASB web site, A variety of electronic services offer access to the FARS. See the list below for details.

FASB standards, concepts and interpretations – Available for viewing for personal non-commercial use on the FASB website, Most recent standards as published in the Journal of Accountancy available in print or electronically through a wide variety of electronic article databases.

It is helpful to know the accounting acronyms commonly referring to reports, bulletins, and interpretations issued as part of the accounting standards process.

ARB - Accounting Research Bulletins
ABP - Accounting Principles Board Opinions
AIN - AICPA Accounting Interpretations
APS - Accounting Principles Board Statements
ATB - Accounting Terminology Bulletins

Issued from the FASB are:

Statements of Financial Accounting Standards (FAS)
Statements of Financial Accounting Concepts (CON)
Interpretations (FIN)
Technical Bulletins (FTB)
Exposure Drafts
Discussion Memorandums
Invitations to Comment
Research Reports and Special Reports
FASB Report

EITF Abstracts (Emerging Issues Tax Force) – Available in paper or as part of the FARS CD-ROM product.

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    Can I research how other companies have disclosed their accounting information in their financial reports?

American Institute of Certified Public Accountants. Accounting Trends and Techniques in Published Corporate Annual Reports. New York: The Institute, Annual.

An annual publication written by accounting experts that analyzes financial disclosures in over 600 annual corporate reports.

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    Is there a difference between a CPA and an accountant? What about a bookkeeper?


All CPAs are accountants but all accountants are not CPAs. In many states, anyone can call himself/herself "accountant." In order to become a CPA, almost all states require that an individual meet educational, experience and ethical requirements and pass the Uniform CPA Examination. Only then are individuals granted licenses to practice by State Boards of Accountancy. Also, only CPAs can perform the Securities and Exchange Commision’s mandatory audits of all publicly traded U.S. companies.

AIPB - American Institute of Professional Bookkeepers -

Bookkeepers specialize in the entry and maintenance of the financial statements, balance sheets, income statements and other accounts of a business. Read more about bookkeeping at a professional association web site, or read the Bookkeeping entry in the Gale’s Encyclopedia of Business.

Maurer, J. G., Shulman, J. M., Ruwe, M. L., & Becherer, R. C. Encyclopedia of Business. Detroit: Gale, 1995.

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    What are the requirements for becoming a CPA?


The AICPA website recommends reading the Digest of State Accountancy Laws and State Board of Regulations. Access instructions can be found at the above site.

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    What are the major Accounting Literature indexes and services?

These web indexes and services provide access to the many standards and reference tools needed by accountants, CPAs, other finance and accounting professionals, students, and researchers. They contain access to generally-accepted authoritative accounting procedures and standards, interpretations, and literature. The services often contain tax resources, as well.

The American Institute for Certified Public Accountants offers an online package that includes the AICPA Professional Standards, Technical Practice Aids, AICPA Audit and Accounting Guides and Audit Risk Alerts, and Accounting Trends and Techniques. Options to bundle with the FASB Pronouncements are also available.

CCH's Accounting Research Manager
Searchable full-text database of the authoritative accounting pronouncements.

CCH - Internet Tax Research Network
Offers a variety of accounting and tax research products for professionals and educational accounts. The database includes authoritative accounting literature from AICPA and FASB in a searchable database with convenient links between documents.

FASB Pronouncements
The FASB Pronouncements include the FASB and AICPA Original Pronouncements, Current Text, Financial Statement Accounting Standards, Financial Statement Accounting Concepts, and the FASB Interpretations. Scope and use information is provided at this site. In addition the site contains summaries of the Emerging Issues Task Force (EITF) material, Exposure Drafts, and other documents for comment, and many other essential resources for accounting professionals.

LexisNexis Academic -
Search Forms: Business, sub-section: Accounting Literature

ProQuest ABI/Inform Global or Tax and Accounting Database

RIA – Checkpoint
Contains the AICPA Library of authoritative literatures.

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    How do I cite accounting standards in my writing?

Professional Accounting Sources

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    Where can I read more about the basic reference sources for accounting literature?

In addition to the sources already indicated, those seeking more information about accounting information sources can read the following articles.

Bradley, Ann. "Electronic Sources of GAAP Literature." Academic BRASS 2, issue 1 (2004). Retrieved from RUSA/BRASS Publications.

Gibson, Charles. "Library gems: Relevant source of data for the accountant." The CPA Journal 64, issue 4 (1994): 52-56. Retrieved from ABI Inform at on 6/11/04.

Flynn, David A. "Core Accounting Web Resources." Journal of Business and Finance Librarianship 8, no. 2 (2002): 3-13.

Klopper, Susan M. "Sailing on the AccountanSea: Accounting research sources." Database, 22, issue 3 (1999): 65-71. Retrieved from ABI Inform database at on 06/11/04.

Moss, Rita. "Chapter 9: Accounting and Taxation." In Strauss’s Handbook of Business Information: a Guide for Librarians, Students and Researchers, 2nd ed., pp. 189-230. Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited, 2004.

Platt, Victoria. "Facts about the FASB." Business & Finance Division Bulletin 125 (Winter 2004): 5-9.

Rubin, Steven, "The House of GAAP." Journal of Accountancy 157, Issue 6 (1984): 122-127. Retrieved from ABI Inform at on 6/11/04.

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Last updated 02/09/09
Previously maintained by Lee Pike, University of Alabama
Originally compiled by Ann Fiegen, California State University, San Marcos

Sponsored by the BRASS Education Committee