Statement No. 91
Conduit Debt Obligations
The primary objectives of this Statement are to provide a single method of reporting conduit debt obligations by issuers and eliminate diversity in practice associated with (1) commitments extended by issuers, (2) arrangements associated with conduit debt obligations, and (3) related note disclosures. This Statement achieves those objectives by clarifying the existing definition of a conduit debt obligation; establishing that a conduit debt obligation is not a liability of the issuer; establishing standards for accounting and financial reporting of additional commitments and voluntary commitments extended by issuers and arrangements associated with conduit debt obligations; and improving required note disclosures.
A conduit debt obligation is defined as a debt instrument having all of the following characteristics:
- There are at least three parties involved: (1) an issuer, (2) a third-party obligor, and
(3) a debt holder or a debt trustee.
- The issuer and the third-party obligor are not within the same financial reporting entity.
- The debt obligation is not a parity bond of the issuer, nor is it cross-collateralized with other debt of the issuer.
- The third-party obligor or its agent, not the issuer, ultimately receives the proceeds from the debt issuance.
- The third-party obligor, not the issuer, is primarily obligated for the payment of all amounts associated with the debt obligation (debt service payments).
An issuer should not recognize a conduit debt obligation as a liability. However, an issuer should recognize a liability associated with an additional commitment or a voluntary commitment to support debt service if certain recognition criteria are met. As long as a conduit debt obligation is outstanding, an issuer that has made an additional commitment should evaluate at least annually whether those criteria are met. An issuer that has made only a limited commitment should evaluate whether those criteria are met when an event occurs that causes the issuer to reevaluate its willingness or ability to support the obligor’s debt service through a voluntary commitment.
This Statement also addresses arrangements—often characterized as leases—that are associated with conduit debt obligations. In those arrangements, capital assets are constructed or acquired with the proceeds of a conduit debt obligation and used by third-party obligors in the course of their activities. Payments from third-party obligors are intended to cover and coincide with debt service payments. During those arrangements, issuers retain the titles to the capital assets. Those titles may or may not pass to the obligors at the end of the arrangements.
Issuers should not report those arrangements as leases, nor should they recognize a liability for the related conduit debt obligations or a receivable for the payments related to those arrangements. In addition, the following provisions apply:
- If the title passes to the third-party obligor at the end of the arrangement, an issuer should not recognize a capital asset.
- If the title does not pass to the third-party obligor and the third party has exclusive use of the entire capital asset during the arrangement, the issuer should not recognize a capital asset until the arrangement ends.
- If the title does not pass to the third-party obligor and the third party has exclusive use of only portions of the capital asset during the arrangement, the issuer, at the inception of the arrangement, should recognize the entire capital asset and a deferred inflow of resources. The deferred inflow of resources should be reduced, and an inflow recognized, in a systematic and rational manner over the term of the arrangement.
Effective Date and Transition
The requirements of this Statement are effective for reporting periods beginning after December 15, . Earlier application is encouraged.
How the Changes in This Statement Will Improve Financial Reporting
The requirements of this Statement will improve financial reporting by eliminating the existing option for issuers to report conduit debt obligations as their own liabilities, thereby ending significant diversity in practice. The clarified definition will resolve stakeholders’ uncertainty as to whether a given financing is, in fact, a conduit debt obligation. Requiring issuers to recognize liabilities associated with additional commitments extended by issuers and to recognize assets and deferred inflows of resources related to certain arrangements associated with conduit debt obligations also will eliminate diversity, thereby improving comparability in reporting by issuers. Revised disclosure requirements will provide financial statement users with better information regarding the commitments issuers extend and the likelihood that they will fulfill those commitments. That information will inform users of the potential impact of such commitments on the financial resources of issuers and help users assess issuers’ roles in conduit debt obligations.
How the Board Considered Costs and Benefits in the Development of This Statement
One of the principles guiding the Board’s setting of standards for accounting and financial reporting is the assessment of expected benefits and perceived costs. The Board strives to determine that its standards address significant user needs and that the costs incurred through the application of its standards, compared with possible alternatives, are justified when compared to the expected overall public benefit. The Board believes that the expected benefits that will result from the information provided through implementation of this Statement—more comparable and consistent accounting and financial reporting, and more relevant, reliable, and understandable information about conduit debt obligations and the commitments and arrangements associated with them—are significant and justify the perceived costs of implementation and ongoing compliance.
This Statement improves the comparability of financial reporting for issuers by eliminating the option to recognize a liability for a conduit debt obligation. Certain decisions made by the Board were intended to provide cost relief. For example, some ongoing costs will be avoided by not requiring an annual evaluation for certain issuers.
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. Paragraph 3 discusses the applicability of this Statement.