Governments are fundamentally different from for-profit business enterprises in several important ways. Their organizational purposes, processes of generating revenues, stakeholders, budgetary obligations, and propensity for longevity differ. These differences require separate accounting and financial reporting standards in order to provide information to meet the needs of stakeholders to assess government accountability and to make political, social, and economic decisions. Although state and local governments (herein after referred to as "governments") in the United States have had separate standards for over 100 years, the question is sometimes asked: Why can't general purpose governments (cities and counties, for example) simply apply the standards established for business enterprises? The following questions and answers briefly address that issue, and the accompanying paper and its appendices provide an expanded discussion
The term business enterprise is used to refer to private-sector entities organized for the purpose of earning profit. Business enterprises in the United States apply accounting pronouncements of the Financial Accounting Standards Board. Business enterprise does not refer to and should not be confused with business-type activities of governments.