Magazine article Government Finance Review

Committee on Accounting, Auditing, and Financial Reporting

Magazine article Government Finance Review

Committee on Accounting, Auditing, and Financial Reporting

Article excerpt

In response to the unprecedented crisis facing U.S. state and local governments as a result of the COVID-19 virus, GFOA sent a letter to the Governmental Accounting Standards Board (GASB) in March requesting the GASB's immediate action to provide governments the option of postponing implementation of any GASB authoritative guidance that was not applicable to their previous financial statements, and calling specific attention to the difficulties of implementing GASB Statement No. 87, Leases, and related implementation guidance. Based on urgent requests from GFOA and many others, the GASB moved quickly to issue an exposure draft of a new statement postponing implementation of most statements that became effective for periods beginning after June 15, 2018. While the initial draft postponement proposal would have provided for a full 30-day comment period and resulted in a final standard being issued at the end of May, GFOA had urged a shorter period to provide relief to those governments that needed to issue financial statements by June 30. GASB subsequently changed plans and issued the exposure draft with the minimum-permitted comment period of 15 days.

GFOA's Committee on Accounting, Auditing, and Financial Reporting (CAAFR) provided comments during the exposure period, strongly supporting the postponement and noting that further delay might actually be required. The final guidance, GASB Statement No. 95, Postponement of the Effective Dates of Certain Authoritative Guidance, provided a one-year postponement of most pronouncements that became effective for periods beginning after June 15, 2018, and a full 18-month postponement for guidance on lease accounting. It was issued on May 7, 2020, and GFOA immediately posted information about the adoption on our social media feeds, notifying members even before the information was posted on the GASB website!

CAAFR Chair Melanie Keeton and Vice-chair Diane Allison convened a meeting of the full committee on April 24, 2020, a key portion of which was devoted to discussing experiences and challenges members are facing related to COVID-19, including remote work and technology, changes to procedures and their effects on internal control, as well as the results and implications of drastic revenue shortfalls, questions about rules governing the use, reporting and auditing of federal funds provided through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act of 2020. Committee members representing government audit agencies as well as CPA firm advisors to the CAAFR discussed the standards and implications of remote auditing.

Following consultation with GFOA members and staff as well as other stakeholder groups, GASB staff proposed language for a Technical Bulletin addressing accounting and financial reporting issues related to the CARES Act of 2020 and Coronavirus Diseases, which was issued for public comment on June 9, following a vote by the GASB members. (As staff documents, GASB Technical Bulletins are not formally approved by the GASB Board, which only acts to oppose or not oppose their being proposed for comment or their issuance in final form. Board action not to object to the issuance of staff documents are sometimes referred to as "clearance.")

The proposal included questions and answers to (1) clarify the proper accounting and financial reporting for several CARES Act funding streams, including the Coronavirus Relief Fund, Provider Relief Fund, Paycheck Protection Program loans, Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund, Airport Grants, Formula Grants for Rural Areas, and the Urbanized Area Formula Grant program; (2) address the possibility of changes to grant requirements that might be made subsequent to financial statement dates; and (3) indicate that costs incurred to respond to coronavirus disease should not be reported as extraordinary or special items. …

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