Project Description: The objective of this project is to update the GASB’s User Guide Series to encompass accounting and financial reporting standards issued since their publication in the early 2000s.
Status: Updates in process
The User Guide Series—Project Plan
Background: In the late 1990s, the GASB initiated an effort to improve its relations with users of state and local government financial statements. The GASB’s first strategic plan, developed in 1997, included a variety of initiatives intended to communicate more meaningfully and effectively with users.
The issuance of Statement No. 34, Basic Financial Statements—and Management’s Discussion and Analysis—for State and Local Governments, was viewed as an ideal vehicle for many of the planned outreach and communication activities, including plain-language guides to government financial statements written for interested laypersons with little or no knowledge of or background in governmental accounting. The GASB ultimately published seven guides:
The local government and school district guides were written with the layperson in mind. The quick guides were distilled from those two longer guides and were prepared for legislators, council members, board members, and similar readers. The analyst’s guide and the disclosure guide were intended for persons with some experience using financial statements. Except for the disclosure guide, the user guides principally focused on the financial statements and described only those note disclosures and RSI that were introduced by Statement 34.
This project involves updating the user guides to incorporate GASB standards issued during the past decade and revising them to address issues raised by readers. The project ultimately will lead to the publication of a new series of four user guides to replace the original series:
Issues: The update and revision of the user guides would entail the following:
1. Removing the context of the release of Statement 34
2. Incorporating pronouncements issued since the publication of the original series
3. Incorporating concepts set forth by the two Concepts Statements issued since the publication of the original series (namely, Concepts Statement No. 3, Communication Methods in General Purpose External Financial Reports That Contain Basic Financial Statements, and Concepts Statement No. 4, Elements of Financial Statements)
4. Writing a new guide focusing on BTAs
5. Addressing major note disclosures and RSI in the local, school district, and BTA guides
6. Briefly covering the sections of a comprehensive annual financial report and the information they contain in the local, school district, and BTA guides
7. Combining the analyst and disclosure guides into a single, comprehensive guide.
Project History: A draft of the local government guide was completed and distributed to the advisory committee for review in April.
2011: The local government guide was discussed by the Board at its May 2011 teleconference. The Board commented on the level of prior knowledge necessary to read and understand the guide, which is intended for laypersons with no prior knowledge of governmental accounting, and identified certain portions that could be further revised to make them less complex. The review by the advisory committee for the guide was completed in May 2011. The local government guide was published in December 2011.
The Board provided feedback on an outline of the contents and organization of a revised draft of the GASB user guide, An Analyst’s Guide to Government Financial Statements. The Board generally provided positive feedback of the plan for organizing the combined guides and the substantive topics to be covered as proposed by the project staff. The analyst guide was reviewed by its advisory committee in August 2011. The advisory committee was appointed in late May 2011.
The Board reviewed a draft of the revised and updated school district user guide at its June 2011 meeting, providing general feedback on the appropriateness of the level of discussion and the subject matter covered. An advisory committee for the school district guide was appointed in June and reviewed the guide in July 2011.
The Board reviewed an outline of the business-type activities guide at the August 2011 meeting.
Current Developments: Production continued on the school district and analyst guides. The Board discussed a drafting of the BTA guide at its January 2012 meeting, and the guide was subsequently distributed for review to an advisory committee of constituents experienced with BTAs.
Topics to be considered
Publish school district guide.
|May 2012:||Publish analyst's guide.|
|July 2012:||Publish BTA guide.|