What Were the Accounting Research Bulletins (ARBs)?

The Accounting Research Bulletins were documents published by the Committee on Accounting Procedure between 1938 to 1959 on various problems that arose in the accounting industry. The ARBs were discontinued with the dissolution of the Committee in 1959.

Key Takeaways

  • The Accounting Research Bulletins were documents published by the Committee on Accounting Procedure between 1938 and 1959 on issues that arose in the accounting world.
  • The ARBs were replaced in 1959 by Accounting Principles Board, which was active until 1973.
  • Today, two organizations—the Financial Accounting Standards Board and the Government Accounting Standards Board—create accounting reporting standards.
  • The ARBs were published to help create an unbiased set of principles that would govern corporate accounting.


Understanding the Accounting Research Bulletins (ARBs)

The Committee on Accounting Procedure (CAP) was the first private sector organization tasked with setting accounting standards in the United States. But its Accounting Research Bulletins never had binding authority. This means the content of the bulletins lacked significant influence and failed to encourage compliance by accountants. It was run by the American Institute of Accountants, now known as the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants.

When the Accounting Research Bulletins were discontinued in 1959, it was replaced by the Accounting Principles Board (APB), which was active until 1973.

Today, accounting standards in the United States are set by the Financial Accounting Standards Board on the federal level and the Government Accounting Standards Board (GASB), a private non-governmental organization that creates accounting reporting standards, or generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP) for state and local governments. They can be found in the Accounting Standards Codification, which became effective after September 2009, and which is the single source of U.S. GAAP and is maintained by the FASB.

FASB Accounting Standards Codification governs the preparation of corporate financial reports and is recognized as authoritative by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), which regulates American stock exchanges.

In total, the Committee on Accounting Principles published 51 bulletins. Topics covered by the bulletins included recommendations on United States Treasury tax notes, corporate accounting for ordinary stock dividends, intangible assets, and more. According to the very first bulletin, published in September 1939, the committee was created to implement an unbiased set of principles that would govern corporate accounting. The introduction read that accounting "must be judged from the standpoint of society as a whole—not from that of any one group of interested parties." 

The entire archive of ARBs is available on the University of Mississippi's website.