Summary - Statement No. 68

Summaries / Status

Summary of Statement No. 68
Accounting and Financial Reporting for Pensions—an amendment of GASB Statement No. 27
(Issued 06/12)


The primary objective of this Statement is to improve accounting and financial reporting by state and local governments for pensions. It also improves information provided by state and local governmental employers about financial support for pensions that is provided by other entities. This Statement results from a comprehensive review of the effectiveness of existing standards of accounting and financial reporting for pensions with regard to providing decision-useful information, supporting assessments of accountability and interperiod equity, and creating additional transparency.

This Statement replaces the requirements of Statement No. 27, Accounting for Pensions by State and Local Governmental Employers, as well as the requirements of Statement No. 50, Pension Disclosures, as they relate to pensions that are provided through pension plans administered as trusts or equivalent arrangements (hereafter jointly referred to as trusts) that meet certain criteria. The requirements of Statements 27 and 50 remain applicable for pensions that are not covered by the scope of this Statement.

Statement No. 67, Financial Reporting for Pension Plans, revises existing standards of financial reporting for most pension plans. This Statement and Statement 67 establish a definition of a pension plan that reflects the primary activities associated with the pension arrangement—determining pensions, accumulating and managing assets dedicated for pensions, and paying benefits to plan members as they come due.

The scope of this Statement addresses accounting and financial reporting for pensions that are provided to the employees of state and local governmental employers through pension plans that are administered through trusts that have the following characteristics:

  • Contributions from employers and nonemployer contributing entities to the pension plan and earnings on those contributions are irrevocable.
     
  • Pension plan assets are dedicated to providing pensions to plan members in accordance with the benefit terms.
     
  • Pension plan assets are legally protected from the creditors of employers, nonemployer contributing entities, and the pension plan administrator. If the plan is a defined benefit pension plan, plan assets also are legally protected from creditors of the plan members.
This Statement establishes standards for measuring and recognizing liabilities, deferred outflows of resources, and deferred inflows of resources, and expense/expenditures. For defined benefit pensions, this Statement identifies the methods and assumptions that should be used to project benefit payments, discount projected benefit payments to their actuarial present value, and attribute that present value to periods of employee service.

Note disclosure and required supplementary information requirements about pensions also are addressed. Distinctions are made regarding the particular requirements for employers based on the number of employers whose employees are provided with pensions through the pension plan and whether pension obligations and pension plan assets are shared. Employers are classified in one of the following categories for purposes of this Statement:

  • Single employers are those whose employees are provided with defined benefit pensions through single-employer pension plans—pension plans in which pensions are provided to the employees of only one employer (as defined in this Statement).
     
  • Agent employers are those whose employees are provided with defined benefit pensions through agent multiple-employer pension plans—pension plans in which plan assets are pooled for investment purposes but separate accounts are maintained for each individual employer so that each employer’s share of the pooled assets is legally available to pay the benefits of only its employees.
     
  • Cost-sharing employers are those whose employees are provided with defined benefit pensions through cost-sharing multiple-employer pension plans—pension plans in which the pension obligations to the employees of more than one employer are pooled and plan assets can be used to pay the benefits of the employees of any employer that provides pensions through the pension plan.
In addition, this Statement details the recognition and disclosure requirements for employers with liabilities (payables) to a defined benefit pension plan and for employers whose employees are provided with defined contribution pensions. This Statement also addresses circumstances in which a nonemployer entity has a legal requirement to make contributions directly to a pension plan.

Defined Benefit Pensions

This Statement requires the liability of employers and nonemployer contributing entities to employees for defined benefit pensions (net pension liability) to be measured as the portion of the present value of projected benefit payments to be provided through the pension plan to current active and inactive employees that is attributed to those employees’ past periods of service (total pension liability), less the amount of the pension plan’s fiduciary net position.

Actuarial valuations of the total pension liability are required to be performed at least every two years, with more frequent valuations encouraged. If a valuation is not performed as of the measurement date, the total pension liability is required to be based on update procedures to roll forward amounts from an earlier actuarial valuation (performed as of a date no more than 30 months and 1 day prior to the employer’s most recent year-end). Unless otherwise specified by this Statement, all assumptions underlying the determination of the total pension liability and related measures set forth by this Statement are required to be made in conformity with Actuarial Standards of Practice issued by the Actuarial Standards Board.

Projections of benefit payments are required to be based on the benefit terms and legal agreements existing at the measurement date and to incorporate the effects of projected salary changes (if the pension formula incorporates future compensation levels) and service credits (if the pension formula incorporates periods of service), as well as projected automatic postemployment benefit changes, including automatic cost-of-living-adjustments (COLAs). Projections also are required to include the effects of ad hoc postemployment benefit changes (including ad hoc COLAs), if they are considered to be substantively automatic.

Projected benefit payments are required to be discounted to their actuarial present value using the single rate that reflects (1) a long-term expected rate of return on pension plan investments to the extent that the pension plan’s fiduciary net position is projected to be sufficient to pay benefits and pension plan assets are expected to be invested using a strategy to achieve that return and (2) a tax-exempt, high-quality municipal bond rate to the extent that the conditions for use of the long-term expected rate of return are not met.

The actuarial present value of projected benefit payments is required to be attributed to periods of employee service using the entry age actuarial cost method with each period’s service cost determined as a level percentage of pay. The actuarial present value is required to be attributed for each employee individually, from the period when the employee first accrues pensions through the period when the employee retires.

Single and Agent Employers

In financial statements prepared using the economic resources measurement focus and accrual basis of accounting, a single or agent employer that does not have a special funding situation is required to recognize a liability equal to the net pension liability. The net pension liability is required to be measured as of a date no earlier than the end of the employer’s prior fiscal year (the measurement date), consistently applied from period to period.

The pension expense and deferred outflows of resources and deferred inflows of resources related to pensions that are required to be recognized by an employer primarily result from changes in the components of the net pension liability—that is, changes in the total pension liability and in the pension plan’s fiduciary net position.

This Statement requires that most changes in the net pension liability be included in pension expense in the period of the change. For example, changes in the total pension liability resulting from current-period service cost, interest on the total pension liability, and changes of benefit terms are required to be included in pension expense immediately. Projected earnings on the pension plan’s investments also are required to be included in the determination of pension expense immediately.

The effects of certain other changes in the net pension liability are required to be included in pension expense over the current and future periods. The effects on the total pension liability of (1) changes of economic and demographic assumptions or of other inputs and (2) differences between expected and actual experience are required to be included in pension expense in a systematic and rational manner over a closed period equal to the average of the expected remaining service lives of all employees that are provided with benefits through the pension plan (active employees and inactive employees), beginning with the current period. The effect on the net pension liability of differences between the projected earnings on pension plan investments and actual experience with regard to those earnings is required to be included in pension expense in a systematic and rational manner over a closed period of five years, beginning with the current period. Changes in the net pension liability not included in pension expense are required to be reported as deferred outflows of resources or deferred inflows of resources related to pensions.

Employer contributions subsequent to the measurement date of the net pension liability are required to be reported as deferred outflows of resources.

Financial Statements Prepared Using the Current Financial Resources Measurement Focus and Modified Accrual Basis of Accounting

In governmental fund financial statements, a net pension liability should be recognized to the extent the liability is normally expected to be liquidated with expendable available financial resources. Pension expenditures should be recognized equal to the total of (1) amounts paid by the employer to the pension plan and (2) the change between the beginning and ending balances of amounts normally expected to be liquidated with expendable available financial resources.

Notes to Financial Statements

The Statement requires that notes to financial statements of single and agent employers include descriptive information, such as the types of benefits provided and the number and classes of employees covered by the benefit terms. Single and agent employers also should disclose the following information:

  • For the current year, sources of changes in the net pension liability
     
  • Significant assumptions and other inputs used to calculate the total pension liability, including those about inflation, salary changes, ad hoc postemployment benefit changes (including ad hoc COLAs), and inputs to the discount rate, as well as certain information about mortality assumptions and the dates of experience studies
     
  • The date of the actuarial valuation used to determine the total pension liability, information about changes of assumptions or other inputs and benefit terms, the basis for determining employer contributions to the pension plan, and information about the purchase of allocated insurance contracts, if any.
Required Supplementary Information

This Statement requires single and agent employers to present in required supplementary information the following information, determined as of the measurement date, for each of the 10 most recent fiscal years:

  • Sources of changes in the net pension liability
     
  • The components of the net pension liability and related ratios, including the pension plan’s fiduciary net position as a percentage of the total pension liability, and the net pension liability as a percentage of covered-employee payroll.
If the contributions of a single or agent employer are actuarially determined, the employer should present in required supplementary information a schedule covering each of the 10 most recent fiscal years that includes information about the actuarially determined contribution, contributions to the pension plan, and related ratios. If the contributions of a single or agent employer are not actuarially determined but are established in statute or by contract, the employer should present a schedule covering each of the 10 most recent fiscal years that includes information about the statutorily or contractually required contribution rates, contributions to the pension plan, and related ratios.

Significant methods and assumptions used in calculating the actuarially determined contributions, if applicable, should be presented as notes to required supplementary information. In addition, the employer should explain factors that significantly affect trends in the amounts reported in the schedules, such as changes of benefit terms, changes in the size or composition of the population covered by the benefit terms, or the use of different assumptions.

Cost-Sharing Employers

In financial statements prepared using the economic resources measurement focus and accrual basis of accounting, a cost-sharing employer that does not have a special funding situation is required to recognize a liability for its proportionate share of the net pension liability (of all employers for benefits provided through the pension plan)—the collective net pension liability. An employer’s proportion is required to be determined on a basis that is consistent with the manner in which contributions to the pension plan are determined, and consideration should be given to separate rates, if any, related to separate portions of the collective net pension liability. The use of the employer’s projected long-term contribution effort as compared to the total projected long-term contribution effort of all employers as the basis for determining an employer’s proportion is encouraged.

A cost-sharing employer is required to recognize pension expense and report deferred outflows of resources and deferred inflows of resources related to pensions for its proportionate shares of collective pension expense and collective deferred outflows of resources and deferred inflows of resources related to pensions.

In addition, the effects of (1) a change in the employer’s proportion of the collective net pension liability and (2) differences during the measurement period between the employer’s contributions and its proportionate share of the total of contributions from employers included in the collective net pension liability are required to be determined. These effects are required to be recognized in the employer’s pension expense in a systematic and rational manner over a closed period equal to the average of the expected remaining service lives of all employees that are provided with pensions through the pension plan (active employees and inactive employees). The portions of the effects not recognized in the employer’s pension expense are required to be reported as deferred outflows of resources or deferred inflows of resources related to pensions. Employer contributions to the pension plan subsequent to the measurement date of the collective net pension liability also are required to be reported as deferred outflows of resources related to pensions.

In governmental fund financial statements, the cost-sharing employer’s proportionate share of the collective net pension liability is required to be recognized to the extent the liability is normally expected to be liquidated with expendable available financial resources. Pension expenditures should be recognized equal to the total of (1) amounts paid by the employer to the pension plan and (2) the change between the beginning and ending balances of amounts normally expected to be liquidated with expendable available financial resources.

This Statement requires that notes to financial statements of cost-sharing employers include descriptive information about the pension plans through which the pensions are provided. Cost-sharing employers should identify the discount rate and assumptions made in the measurement of their proportionate shares of net pension liabilities, similar to the disclosures about those items that should be made by single and agent employers. Cost-sharing employers, like single and agent employers, also should disclose information about how their contributions to the pension plan are determined.

This Statement requires cost-sharing employers to present in required supplementary information 10-year schedules containing (1) the net pension liability and certain related ratios and (2) if applicable, information about statutorily or contractually required contributions, contributions to the pension plan, and related ratios.

Defined Contribution Pensions

An employer whose employees are provided with defined contribution pensions is required to recognize pension expense for the amount of contributions to employees’ accounts that are defined by the benefit terms as attributable to employees’ services in the period, net of forfeited amounts that are removed from employees’ accounts. A change in the pension liability is required to be recognized for the difference between amounts recognized in expense and amounts paid by the employer to a defined contribution pension plan. In governmental fund financial statements, pension expenditures should be recognized equal to the total of (1) amounts paid by the employer to a pension plan and (2) the change between the beginning and ending balances of amounts normally expected to be liquidated with expendable available financial resources. A pension liability should be recognized to the extent the liability is normally expected to be liquidated with expendable available financial resources. Notes to financial statements of an employer with a defined contribution plan should include descriptive information about the pension plan and benefit terms, contribution rates and how they are determined, and amounts attributed to employee service and forfeitures in the current period.

Special Funding Situations

In this Statement, special funding situations are defined as circumstances in which a nonemployer entity is legally responsible for making contributions directly to a pension plan that is used to provide pensions to the employees of another entity or entities and either (1) the amount of contributions for which the nonemployer entity legally is responsible is not dependent upon one or more events unrelated to pensions or (2) the nonemployer is the only entity with a legal obligation to make contributions directly to a pension plan.

This Statement requires an employer that has a special funding situation for defined benefit pensions to recognize a pension liability and deferred outflows of resources and deferred inflows of resources related to pensions with adjustments for the involvement of nonemployer contributing entities. The employer is required to recognize its proportionate share of the collective pension expense, as well as additional pension expense and revenue for the pension support of the nonemployer contributing entities. This Statement requires the employer to disclose in notes to financial statements information about the amount of support provided by nonemployer contributing entities and to present similar information about the involvement of those entities in 10-year schedules of required supplementary information.

The approach required by this Statement for measurement and recognition of liabilities, deferred outflows of resources and deferred inflows of resources, and expense by a governmental nonemployer contributing entity in a special funding situation for defined benefit pensions is similar to the approach required for cost-sharing employers.

The information that should be disclosed in notes to financial statements and presented in required supplementary information of a governmental nonemployer contributing entity in a special funding situation depends on the proportion of the collective net pension liability that it recognizes. If the governmental nonemployer contributing entity recognizes a substantial proportion of the collective net pension liability, it should disclose in notes to financial statements a description of the pensions, including the types of benefits provided and the employees covered, and the discount rate and assumptions made in the measurement of the net pension liability. The governmental nonemployer contributing entity also should present schedules of required supplementary information similar to those required of a cost-sharing employer. Reduced note disclosures and required supplementary information are required for governmental nonemployer contributing entities that recognize a less-than-substantial portion of the collective net pension liability.

This Statement also establishes requirements related to special funding situations for defined contribution pensions.

Effective Date and Transition

This Statement is effective for fiscal years beginning after June 15, 2014. Earlier application is encouraged.

How the Changes in This Statement Will Improve Financial Reporting

The requirements of this Statement will improve the decision-usefulness of information in employer and governmental nonemployer contributing entity financial reports and will enhance its value for assessing accountability and interperiod equity by requiring recognition of the entire net pension liability and a more comprehensive measure of pension expense. Decision-usefulness and accountability also will be enhanced through new note disclosures and required supplementary information, as follows:

  • More robust disclosures of assumptions will allow for better informed assessments of the reasonableness of pension measurements.
     
  • Explanations of how and why the net pension liability changed from year to year will improve transparency.
     
  • The summary net pension liability information, including ratios, will offer an indication of the extent to which the total pension liability is covered by resources held by the pension plan.
     
  • The contribution schedules will provide measures to evaluate decisions related to the assessment of contribution rates—in comparison to actuarially, statutorily, or contractually determined rates, when such rates are determined. It also will provide information about whether employers and nonemployer contributing entities, if applicable, are keeping pace with those contribution rates.
The consistency and transparency of the information reported by employers and governmental nonemployer contributing entities about pension transactions will be improved by requiring:

  • The use of a discount rate that considers the availability of the pension plan’s fiduciary net position associated with the pensions of current active and inactive employees and the investment horizon of those resources, rather than utilizing only the long-term expected rate of return regardless of whether the pension plan’s fiduciary net position is projected to be sufficient to make projected benefit payments and is expected to be invested using a strategy to achieve that return
     
  • A single method of attributing the actuarial present value of projected benefit payments to periods of employee service, rather than allowing a choice among six methods with additional variations
     
  • Immediate recognition in pension expense, rather than a choice of recognition periods, of the effects of changes of benefit terms and the effects of projected pension plan investment earnings
     
  • Recognition of pension expense that incorporates deferred outflows of resources and deferred inflows of resources related to pensions over a defined, closed period, rather than a choice between an open or closed period.
The comparability of reported pension information also will be improved by the changes related to the attribution method used to determine service cost and the total pension liability, requirements for immediate recognition in pension expense of certain items, and the establishment of standardized expense recognition periods for amounts reported as deferred outflows of resources and deferred inflows of resources related to pensions.
 


Unless otherwise specified, pronouncements of the GASB apply to financial reports of all state and local governmental entities, including general purpose governments; public benefit corporations and authorities; public employee retirement systems; and public utilities, hospitals and other healthcare providers, and colleges and universities. Paragraphs 5 and 6 discuss the applicability of this Statement.