Gaps in GAAP: Issues in Nonprofit Accounting and Reporting in India

Essay by arvindharvardUniversity, Master'sC, August 2005

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Nonprofit Organizations (NPOs) in India play an important role as change agents for social and economic development. As they command substantial resources, their financial performance measurement and reporting is a major concern. In the absence of a single regulatory authority and specific accounting standards for NPOs, the practices of accounting and reporting vary across organizations. Based on an exploratory study, this paper documents the status on requirements of accounting and reporting vis-Ã -vis the current practices of NPOs, identifies the gaps, and proposes an action plan to bridge the gaps. The paper classifies the gaps in accounting and reporting under conceptual and institutional frameworks. In order to bridge the gaps in the conceptual framework, the paper recommends the need for developing a uniform accounting and reporting system for all NPOs. This should start with conceptualizing the information needs of the stakeholders and end with conceptualizing appropriate financial statements to meet these needs and, in the process, resolve any ambiguity in the accounting treatment of specific transactions.

At an institutional level, the paper suggests consultative processes among various stakeholders to develop the proposed system and recommends a need for amendments in various acts to implement it.

Nonprofit Organizations (NPOs) provide important services throughout the world. Their scope covers inter alia, health and welfare, research, education, social organizations, and professional associations. The fundamental features of NPOs are: (1) They exist to fulfil a charitable purpose, (2) they function without the use of coercion, (3) they operate without distributing profits to shareholders, and (4) they exist without simple and clear lines of ownership and accountability (Keating and Frumkin, 2001).

In India, the state played a dominant role in the process of economic and social development after independence in 1947. NPOs also emerged soon after independence as...