How We're Funded
Funding the FAF, the FASB, and the GASBThe work of the Financial Accounting Foundation (FAF), the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) and the Governmental Accounting Standards Board (GASB) is funded by a combination of accounting support fees, subscription and publication revenue, and investment income. The largest share of financial support for the standard-setting boards comes from accounting support fees. Those fees are paid by publicly traded companies (for the FASB) and municipal bond brokers and dealers (for the GASB). Neither the FAF nor the FASB or GASB receive any funds from Federal, state, or local governments.
While our primary funding sources are stable and established by law, they are subject to factors both external and internal that change how that funding is allocated and assessed from year to year. As a result, the amount of accounting support fees needed to support the work of the FASB and GASB varies – sometimes significantly – from year to year.
Following is a brief overview of the how the FAF, the FASB, and the GASB are funded.
Main Funding SourcesThe FAF, FASB, and GASB presently obtain funding from three primary sources:
- FASB Accounting Support Fees are collected under Section 109 of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 to fund the annual recoverable expenses of the FASB. Recoverable expenses are the total FASB operating expenses adjusted to 1) exclude non-cash expenses (mainly depreciation) and 2) include other cash requirements (mainly capital expenditures). Put another way, recoverable expenses are roughly equivalent to operating expenses. FASB accounting support fees are assessed on and collected from issuers of publicly-traded securities, as those issuers are defined in the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, and are allocated based on the average market capitalization of each issuer. In 2015, a total of 8,410 publicly traded companies paid a total of $23.9 million in accounting support fees for the FASB. The FASB accounting support fees are reviewed by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) each year to ensure compliance with the statute.
- GASB Accounting Support Fees are collected under Section 978 of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010 to fund the annual recoverable expenses (again, roughly equivalent to operating expenses) of the GASB. These support fees were instituted in 2012 through an SEC order instructing the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) to establish, assess, and collect accounting support fees from its members. GASB accounting support fees for 2015 were $7.4 million, paid by a total of 477 broker dealers.
- Subscription and Publication revenue includes sales and licensing of copyrighted FASB- and GASB-related materials. The FAF licenses the content of the FASB Codification and GASB publications to commercial publishers and other licensees for inclusion in their proprietary online research systems. Both the FASB Codification and GASB materials also are available through various paid subscription plans and hard copy printed versions. In 2015, gross revenue from subscription and publication fees totaled $17.5 million.
Accounting Support FeesSarbanes-Oxley provides that the FAF may collect as accounting support fees the full amount of the FASB’s recoverable expenses, as described earlier. Similarly, Dodd-Frank provides that the FAF may collect as accounting support fees the full amount of GASB’s recoverable expenses.
The FAF voluntarily has chosen not to seek accounting support fees to fund the full amount of the FASB and GASB budget.
Instead, the FAF has chosen to fund a portion of FASB and GASB recoverable expenses with reserve funds that are forecast to exceed a targeted reserve balance.
For the 2016 budget, the FAF will make available reserve funds totaling $18.6 million to fund both FASB and GASB recoverable expenses. The reserve funds are allocated to the FASB and the GASB based on the average of each Board’s (1) share of net publications revenues and (2) share of recoverable expenses.
Target Reserve FundThe FAF’s investment balances consist of a reserve fund and a separate short-term investment fund. The reserve fund, established early in the FAF’s history, is intended to provide sufficient reserves to operate the FAF, the FASB, and the GASB during any temporary or permanent funding transition or to provide for any other unforeseen circumstances.
Beginning in 2007, the FAF established the targeted year-end reserve fund balance equal to one year of budgeted expenses for the entire organization, plus a working capital reserve equal to three months of net operating expenses for the entire organization. In addition, the FAF each year aims to have a balance in its short-term investment accounts on January 1 equal to three months of budgeted net operating expenses.
In 2014, the FAF Trustees approved a change to the FAF’s cash management policy to cap the targeted year-end reserve fund at one year of budgeted operating expenses. This eliminates the working capital reserves equal to one quarter of net operating expenses. The change is being phased in over a three-year period (2014-2016).
The target short-term investment account will remain equal to one calendar quarter of net operating expenses. The change in policy reflects, among other things, improved working capital cash flow from the quarterly billing of GASB accounting support fees.
Reserve Funds (and how they affect volatility in FASB/GASB accounting support fees)In preparing the budget each year, the FAF calculates the amount of reserve funds that are available to offset accounting support fees by estimating the projected year-end reserve balances and subtracting the target year-end reserve balances. These reserve funds pay for a portion of operating expenses that otherwise would be funded by accounting support fees.
The amount of reserve funds available generally depends on the amount of revenue that the FAF receives from subscriptions and publications. However, other factors can affect the level of reserve funds – and that creates some annual volatility in the amount of accounting support fees that need to be collected.
For example, the 2016 and 2015 projected reserve fund exceeds the target reserve fund by $18.6 and $19.0 million, both of which were unusually high amounts (compared to $9.3 million in 2012). The amount available to offset recoverable expenses in 2016 is the result of the Board approved reduction in the target reserve fund balance and favorable variances in expenses compared to the 2015 budget.
The 2015 amount made available to offset recoverable expenses benefited from the Board approved reduction in the target reserve fund balance and favorable variances in expenses compared to the 2014 budget.
The charts below show the trend of FASB and GASB recoverable expenses, accounting support fees, and amounts made available from reserve funds over the past several years. GASB accounting support fees began in 2012.
The charts demonstrate that the level of accounting support fees required to fund the FASB and the GASB operations is directly – and inversely – related to the amount of reserve funds made available to each Board, even as FASB and GASB recoverable expenses remain relatively flat. In years when increased reserve funds are available to fund FASB and GASB operations, the level of accounting support fees decreases. In years when reserve funds decrease, accounting support fees rise.
The amount of reserve funds made available, of course, depends on whether the FAF has incurred any extraordinary expenses, or receives any unanticipated revenue during the course of the year.