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Heads Up — FASB proposes ASU to increase transparency of accounting for government assistance arrangements

Published on: Nov 20, 2015

Download PDFVolume 22, Issue 37

by Mark Crowley and Ermir Berberi, Deloitte & Touche LLP

Introduction

On November 12, 2015, the FASB issued for public comment a proposed ASU1 to increase transparency in financial reporting by requiring specific disclosures about government assistance received by businesses. Government assistance arrangements are legally enforceable agreements under which the government provides value to the entity (e.g., grants, loan guarantees, tax incentives). The objective of the proposed disclosure requirements is to enable financial statement users to better assess (1) the nature of the government assistance, (2) the accounting policies for the government assistance, (3) the impact of the government assistance on the financial statements, and (4) the significant terms and conditions of the government assistance arrangements.

Comments on the proposed ASU are due by February 10, 2016. The appendix to this Heads Up lists the proposed ASU’s questions for respondents.

Background and Key Provisions of the Proposed ASU

There is no explicit guidance in current U.S. GAAP on the recognition, measurement, and disclosure of government assistance received by business entities. As a result, there is diversity in practice related to how business entities account for, and disclose information about, government assistance arrangements.

The proposed ASU would require business entities to disclose the following information about government assistance arrangements in their annual financial statements:

1. Information about the nature of the assistance, including a general description of the significant categories and the related accounting policies adopted or the method applied to account for government assistance
2. Which line items on the balance sheet and income statement are affected by government assistance and the amounts applicable to each line item
3. Significant terms and conditions of the agreement, including commitments and contingencies
4. Unless impracticable, the amount of government assistance received but not recognized directly in the financial statements. The amount of government assistance received but not recognized includes value that was received by an entity for which no amount has been recorded directly in any financial statement line item (for example, a benefit of a loan guarantee, a benefit of a below-market rate loan, or a benefit from tax or other expenses that have been abated).

Such disclosures would provide financial statement users with information about the effect of government assistance on an entity’s financial results and prospects for future cash flows. In addition, the disclosures would help users better assess the nature of the assistance.

The proposed amendments would apply to entities, other than not-for-profit (NFP) entities within the scope of ASC 958,2 that have entered into a “legally enforceable agreement with a government to receive value.” However, such provisions would not apply to transactions in which the government is (1) “legally required to provide a nondiscretionary level of assistance to an entity simply because the entity meets applicable eligibility requirements that are broadly available without specific agreement between the entity and the government” or (2) “solely a customer” of the entity.

Effective Date and Transition

The Board did not propose an effective date. Rather, the Board indicated that it plans to determine such date after considering stakeholders’ feedback on the proposed ASU. In addition, the Board noted that the proposed amendments would be applied to the first set of financial statements after the determined effective date and to all agreements (1) existing as of the effective date and (2) entered into after the effective date. Further, retrospective application would be allowed.

Appendix — Questions for Respondents

The proposed ASU’s questions for respondents are listed below for reference.

Question 1: Do you agree that the scope of the amendments in this proposed Update should be limited to legally enforceable agreements in which an entity or entities receive value from a government? Do you also agree that the scope of the proposed amendments should not apply to transactions in which the government is (a) legally required to provide a nondiscretionary level of assistance to an entity simply because the entity meets applicable eligibility requirements that are broadly available without specific agreement between the entity and the government or (b) solely a customer? If not, what other types of arrangements should be included in or excluded from the scope of the amendments in this proposed Update? Explain why.

Question 2: Do you agree that the proposed disclosure requirements should be the same for both domestic assistance and foreign assistance? If not, please explain why and what proposed disclosure requirements you believe should differ. Are there any unique types of foreign assistance that should be considered? If so, explain why and be specific about any unique types of foreign assistance.

Question 3: Do you agree that the scope of the proposed amendments should not exclude government assistance agreements that are within the scope of Topic 740, Income Taxes? If not, explain why.

Question 4: Do you agree that the scope of the proposed amendments should exclude NFP entities? Alternatively, should any proposed disclosure requirement(s) be applied by NFP entities? If so, specify which proposed disclosure requirement(s) and explain why.

Question 5: Are the proposed scope and disclosure requirements operable and auditable? Do your existing information sets and systems, internal controls, and so forth capture the information required to be disclosed by the proposed amendments? If not, which aspects of the scope or disclosures pose operability, auditability, and/or cost issues and why?

Question 6: Do you agree that an entity should be required to disclose, unless impracticable, the amount of government assistance received but not recognized directly in any financial statement line item? If not, explain why.

Question 7: For preparers, are there any restrictions (legal or otherwise) that exist in government assistance agreements that would preclude an entity (for example, confidentiality or proprietary reasons) from disclosing the information required by the amendments in this proposed Update? If so, specify what those restrictions are, whether they relate to foreign or domestic assistance, and which proposed disclosures cause concern and why.

Question 8: For users, do you agree that the information required by the proposed amendments would improve transparency about government assistance agreements? Is the information required by the proposed amendments important for your analysis of an entity? If so, specify which disclosures and why. If not, identify the disclosures and explain why. Is there additional information that should be required to be disclosed in the notes to financial statements? If so, be specific.

Question 9: The proposed amendments would not amend Topic 270, Interim Reporting, to add any specific interim disclosure requirements. Instead, required interim disclosures about government assistance would be limited to material changes occurring since the most recent annual period. Should the proposed amendments include additional interim disclosure requirements? If so, what disclosures do you think should be added and why?

Question 10: Do you agree that the amendments in this proposed Update should be applied to all agreements (a) existing at the effective date and (b) entered into after the effective date with retrospective application permitted? If not, explain why.

Question 11: The proposed amendments would apply to both public business entities and nonpublic business entities (private companies). Should the proposed amendments be different for nonpublic business entities? If so, describe why and how you think they should be different.

Question 12: How much time would preparers need to implement the proposed amendments? Should the amount of time needed to implement the proposed amendments by entities that are not public business entities be different from the amount of time needed by public business entities?

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1 FASB Proposed Accounting Standards Update, Disclosures by Business Entities About Government Assistance.

2 FASB Accounting Standards Codification Topic 958, Not-for-Profit Entities.

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