Magazine article Public Finance

Welfare Payments Standard Is Nearer

Magazine article Public Finance

Welfare Payments Standard Is Nearer

Article excerpt

Public sector balance sheets have changed dramatically in recent years and now give a comprehensive view of assets and liabilities. However, a few pieces of the jigsaw remain.

One of the more tricky questions is how they account for social benefits. Social benefits are a major area of expenditure - but there is no common standard in accounting for them.

The International Public Sector Accounting Standards Board (IPSASB) has therefore been working for some time on the recognition and measurement of social benefits to improve accountability, transparency and decision-making.

The proposed standard is intended to provide information to help assess: the nature of social benefits and schemes' key features; and their effects on financial performance and position.

Feedback from early consultations suggests information provided on prospective future liabilities to pay benefits (assessed actuarially or otherwise) is of limited use unless equivalent information is provided on future inflows, such as taxation. In terms of prospective cashflows, IPSASB has developed Recommended practice guidance 1 on preparing financial reports that meet users' needs for long-term fiscal information, including information about social benefit obligations they can expect to settle in the future.

After issuing its Conceptual framework for general purpose financial reporting by public sector entities, IPSASB has looked again at social benefits and published a consultation, Recognition and measurement of social benefits. This covers social assistance and social security but excludes employment-related social insurance, other transfers in kind and collective goods and services. Social assistance is the provision of benefits to all citizens; social insurance arises outside an employee-employer relationship. The exclusions include areas such as defence, health and education. …

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