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GASB Announces Major New Accounting Rule for OPEBs

Effective June 15, 2017, Rule Requires Cities to Account for Unfunded Liabilities in Net Fiscal Position

June 4, 2015
On June 2 the Government Accounting Standards Board (GASB) released Statement 75 that, effective June 15, 2017, requires governments with unfunded OPEB liabilities and their independent auditors to report either their net or total OPEB liability on their financial statements.
 
In short, OPEB liabilities will no longer just be reported in the financial statements of cities but will have to be reflected in the bottom line net fiscal position of cities, possibly causing reductions in bond ratings and other negative fiscal effects for some.
 
In a recent survey of California cities, 80 percent reported providing some level of OPEB benefits, including medical, dental and vision benefits. The number one strategy the cities reported for managing their unfunded liabilities was to establish an irrevocable OPEB trust, funded by annual budgeted contributions or year-end balances. Since a similar survey in 2008, the percentage of cities with irrevocable OPEB trusts has doubled.
 
The OPEB Statements
 
GASB Statement No. 74, Financial Reporting for Postemployment Benefit Plans Other Than Pension Plans, addresses reporting by OPEB plans that administer benefits on behalf of governments.
 
GASB Statement No. 75, Accounting and Financial Reporting for Postemployment Benefits Other Than Pensions, addresses reporting by governments that provide OPEB to their employees and for governments that finance OPEB for employees of other governments.
 
The new OPEB standards parallel the pension standards issued in 2012 — GASB Statement No. 67, Financial Reporting for Pension Plans, and GASB Statement No. 68, Accounting and Financial Reporting for Pensions. Together, the pension and OPEB standards provide consistent and comprehensive guidance for all postemployment benefits.
 
“These OPEB standards usher in the same fundamental improvements in accounting and financial reporting that were previously introduced for pensions,” said GASB Chairman David A. Vaudt. “Because OPEB promises represent a very significant liability for many state and local governments, it is critical that taxpayers, policy makers, bond analysts, and others are equipped with enhanced information, which will enable them to better assess the related financial obligations and annual costs of providing OPEB.”

Statement 75

Statement 75 replaces the requirements of GASB Statement No. 45, Accounting and Financial Reporting by Employers for Postemployment Benefits Other Than Pensions. Statement 75 requires governments to report a liability on the face of the financial statements for the OPEB that they provide:
  • Governments that are responsible only for OPEB liabilities related to their own employees and that provide OPEB through a defined benefit OPEB plan administered through a trust that meets specified criteria will report a net OPEB liability—the difference between the total OPEB liability and assets accumulated in the trust and restricted to making benefit payments. 
  • Governments that participate in a cost-sharing OPEB plan that is administered through a trust that meets the specified criteria will report a liability equal to their proportionate share of the collective OPEB liability for all entities participating in the cost-sharing plan. 
  • Governments that do not provide OPEB through a trust that meets specified criteria will report the total OPEB liability related to their employees. 
Statement 75 carries forward from Statement 45 the option to use a specified alternative measurement method in place of an actuarial valuation for purposes of determining the total OPEB liability for benefits provided through OPEB plans in which there are fewer than 100 plan members (active and inactive). This option was retained in order to reduce costs for smaller governments.
 
Statement 75 requires governments in all types of OPEB plans to present more extensive note disclosures and required supplementary information (RSI) about their OPEB liabilities. Among the new note disclosures is a description of the effect on the reported OPEB liability of using a discount rate and a healthcare cost trend rate that are one percentage point higher and one percentage point lower than assumed by the government. The new RSI includes a schedule showing the causes of increases and decreases in the OPEB liability and a schedule comparing a government’s actual OPEB contributions to its contribution requirements.
 
Some governments are legally responsible to make contributions directly to an OPEB plan or make benefit payments directly as OPEB comes due for employees of other governments. In certain circumstances — called special funding situations — Statement 75 requires these governments to recognize in their financial statements a share of the other government’s net OPEB liability.
 
Statement 74
 
Statement 74 replaces GASB Statement No. 43, Financial Reporting for Postemployment Benefit Plans Other Than Pension Plans. Statement 74 addresses the financial reports of defined benefit OPEB plans that are administered through trusts that meet specified criteria. The Statement follows the framework for financial reporting of defined benefit OPEB plans in Statement 45 by requiring a statement of fiduciary net position and a statement of changes in fiduciary net position. The Statement requires more extensive note disclosures and RSI related to the measurement of the OPEB liabilities for which assets have been accumulated, including information about the annual money-weighted rates of return on plan investments. Statement 74 also sets forth note disclosure requirements for defined contribution OPEB plans.

The Pension Statement
 
GASB Statement No. 73, Accounting and Financial Reporting for Pensions and Related Assets That Are Not within the Scope of GASB Statement 68, and Amendments to Certain Provisions of GASB Statements 67 and 68, completes the suite of pension standards. Statement 73 establishes requirements for those pensions and pension plans that are not administered through a trust meeting specified criteria (in other words, those not covered by Statements 67 and 68). The requirements in Statement 73 for reporting pensions generally are the same as in Statement 68. However, the lack of a pension plan that is administered through a trust that meets specified criteria is reflected in the measurements.

Effective Dates
 
The provisions in Statement 73 are effective for fiscal years beginning after June 15, 2015 — except those provisions that address employers and governmental nonemployer contributing entities for pensions that are not within the scope of Statement 68, which are effective for financial statements for fiscal years beginning after June 15, 2016. The provisions in Statement 74 are effective for financial statements for periods beginning after June 15, 2016. The provisions in Statement 75 are effective for fiscal years beginning after June 15, 2017. Earlier application is encouraged.
 
Availability of the Statements
 
Statements 73, 74, and 75 will be available for download at no charge from the GASB website in late June. Printed copies of the Statements will be available for purchase soon after. Other related resources also will be available on the website at that time.
 
About the Governmental Accounting Standards Board
 
Established in 1984, the GASB is the independent, private-sector organization based in Norwalk, Connecticut, that establishes accounting and financial reporting standards for U.S. state and local governments that follow Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP). These standards are recognized as authoritative by state and local governments, state Boards of Accountancy, and the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA). The GASB develops and issues accounting standards through a transparent and inclusive process intended to promote financial reporting that provides useful information to taxpayers, public officials, investors, and others who use financial reports. The Financial Accounting Foundation (FAF) supports and oversees the GASB. For more information, visit www.gasb.org.
 


 
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