Task Forces Will Help GASB Research Leasing and Fiduciary Responsibility
October 21, 2013
The Governmental Accounting Standards Board has formed two separate task forces as part of its research efforts to address possible new accounting requirements. GASB assembles task forces for most major current projects and certain research activities to serve as a sounding board, providing suggestions and feedback as a project progresses. Task force members also review papers the GASB staff prepares for Board meetings and monitor the Board's deliberations, commenting as appropriate. Higher education is fortunate to have a system controller (and member of NACUBO's Accounting Principles Council) and NACUBO staff as representatives on the leasing and fiduciary responsibilities task forces, respectively.
Task forces are officially appointed by the GASB chairman after consultation with other GASB members, the Governmental Accounting Standards Advisory Council chair, and GASB staff. Task force members have experience with the issue being addressed and are asked to identify possible implementation difficulties, assess the potential cost of proposed standards, or opine on the usefulness of the information that will result from those standards. Members actively participate by reviewing papers and proposed standards prepared for the Board and by providing regular feedback to the project staff.
Fiduciary Responsibilities. The primary objective of the fiduciary responsibilities project is to consider developing guidance regarding the application of the fiduciary responsibility criterion when deciding whether and how governments should report fiduciary activities in their general purpose external financial reports. Other objectives of this project include assessing whether additional guidance should be developed to (1) clarify the difference between a private-purpose trust fund and an agency fund; (2) clarify whether a stand-alone business-type activity engaging in fiduciary activities should present fiduciary fund financial statements; (3) require a combining statement of changes in assets and liabilities for agency funds; and (4) amend existing disclosure requirements or require additional disclosures for fiduciary activities. The fiduciary responsibility project has the potential to change the way pass-through financial aid is reported by public colleges and universities.
Leasing. The objective of the leasing project is to reexamine issues associated with lease accounting and considering improvements to existing guidance. This project will provide a basis for the Board to consider whether current operating leases meet the definitions of assets or liabilities. Current guidance is provided by National Council on Governmental Accounting (NCGA) Statement 5, "Accounting and Financial Reporting Principles for Lease Agreements of State and Local Governments," GASB Statement No. 13, "Accounting for Operating Leases with Scheduled Rent Increases," and GASB Statement No. 62, "Codification of Accounting and Financial Reporting Guidance Contained in Pre-November 30, 1989 FASB and AICPA Pronouncements." Statement 62 incorporates the provisions of FASB Statement No. 13, "Accounting for Leases," as amended and interpreted, into GASB's authoritative literature. Because public institutions essentially follow FASB 13 (and FASB is currently deliberating a new lease standard), new guidance from GASB on lease accounting will add to the list of accounting differences between public and independent higher education institutions.
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