Summaries / Status
Summary of Statement No. 45
Accounting and Financial Reporting by Employers for Postemployment Benefits Other Than Pensions
In addition to pensions, many state and local governmental employers provide other postemployment benefits (OPEB) as part of the total compensation offered to attract and retain the services of qualified employees. OPEB includes postemployment healthcare, as well as other forms of postemployment benefits (for example, life insurance) when provided separately from a pension plan. This Statement establishes standards for the measurement, recognition, and display of OPEB expense/expenditures and related liabilities (assets), note disclosures, and, if applicable, required supplementary information (RSI) in the financial reports of state and local governmental employers.
The approach followed in this Statement generally is consistent with the approach adopted in Statement No. 27, Accounting for Pensions by State and Local Governmental Employers, with modifications to reflect differences between pension benefits and OPEB. Statement No. 43, Financial Reporting for Postemployment Benefit Plans Other Than Pension Plans, addresses financial statement and disclosure requirements for reporting by administrators or trustees of OPEB plan assets or by employers or sponsors that include OPEB plan assets as trust or agency funds in their financial reports.
How This Statement Improves Financial Reporting
Postemployment benefits (OPEB as well as pensions) are part of an exchange of salaries and benefits for employee services rendered. Of the total benefits offered by employers to attract and retain qualified employees, some benefits, including salaries and active-employee healthcare, are taken while the employees are in active service, whereas other benefits, including postemployment healthcare and other OPEB, are taken after the employees’ services have ended. Nevertheless, both types of benefits constitute compensation for employee services.
From an accrual accounting perspective, the cost of OPEB, like the cost of pension benefits, generally should be associated with the periods in which the exchange occurs, rather than with the periods (often many years later) when benefits are paid or provided. However, in current practice, most OPEB plans are financed on a pay-as-you-go basis, and financial statements generally do not report the financial effects of OPEB until the promised benefits are paid. As a result, current financial reporting generally fails to:
- Recognize the cost of benefits in periods when the related services are received by the employer
- Provide information about the actuarial accrued liabilities for promised benefits associated with past services and whether and to what extent those benefits have been funded
- Provide information useful in assessing potential demands on the employer’s future cash flows.
This Statement improves the relevance and usefulness of financial reporting by (a) requiring systematic, accrual-basis measurement and recognition of OPEB cost (expense) over a period that approximates employees’ years of service and (b) providing information about actuarial accrued liabilities associated with OPEB and whether and to what extent progress is being made in funding the plan.
Summary of Standards
Measurement (the Parameters)
Employers that participate in single-employer or agent multiple-employer defined benefit OPEB plans (sole and agent employers) are required to measure and disclose an amount for annual OPEB cost on the accrual basis of accounting. Annual OPEB cost is equal to the employer’s annual required contribution to the plan (ARC), with certain adjustments if the employer has a net OPEB obligation for past under- or overcontributions.
The ARC is defined as the employer’s required contributions for the year, calculated in accordance with certain parameters, and includes (a) the normal cost for the year and (b) a component for amortization of the total unfunded actuarial accrued liabilities (or funding excess) of the plan over a period not to exceed thirty years. The parameters include requirements for the frequency and timing of actuarial valuations as well as for the actuarial methods and assumptions that are acceptable for financial reporting. If the methods and assumptions used in determining a plan’s funding requirements meet the parameters, the same methods and assumptions are required for financial reporting by both a plan and its participating employer(s). However, if a plan’s method of financing does not meet the parameters (for example, the plan is financed on a pay-as-you-go basis), the parameters nevertheless apply for financial reporting purposes.
For financial reporting purposes, an actuarial valuation is required at least biennially for OPEB plans with a total membership (including employees in active service, terminated employees who have accumulated benefits but are not yet receiving them, and retired employees and beneficiaries currently receiving benefits) of 200 or more, or at least triennially for plans with a total membership of fewer than 200. The projection of benefits should include all benefits covered by the current substantive plan (the plan as understood by the employer and plan members) at the time of each valuation and should take into consideration the pattern of sharing of benefit costs between the employer and plan members to that point, as well as certain legal or contractual caps on benefits to be provided. The parameters require that the selection of actuarial assumptions, including the healthcare cost trend rate for postemployment healthcare plans, be guided by applicable actuarial standards.
Alternative Measurement Method
A sole employer in a plan with fewer than one hundred total plan members (including employees in active service, terminated employees who have accumulated benefits but are not yet receiving them, and retirees and beneficiaries currently receiving benefits) has the option to apply a simplified alternative measurement method instead of obtaining actuarial valuations. The option also is available to an agent employer with fewer than one hundred plan members, in circumstances in which the employer’s use of the alternative measurement method would not conflict with a requirement that the agent multiple-employer plan obtain an actuarial valuation for plan reporting purposes. Those circumstances are:
- The plan issues a financial report prepared in conformity with the requirements of Statement 43 but is not required to obtain an actuarial valuation because (a) the plan has fewer than one hundred total plan members (all employers) and is eligible to use the alternative measurement method, or (b) the plan is not administered as a qualifying trust, or equivalent arrangement, for which Statement 43 requires the presentation of actuarial information.
- The plan does not issue a financial report prepared in conformity with the requirements of Statement 43.
This alternative method includes the same broad measurement steps as an actuarial valuation (projecting future cash outlays for benefits, discounting projected benefits to present value, and allocating the present value of benefits to periods using an actuarial cost method). However, it permits simplification of certain assumptions to make the method potentially usable by nonspecialists.
Net OPEB Obligation—Measurement
An employer’s net OPEB obligation is defined as the cumulative difference between annual OPEB cost and the employer’s contributions to a plan, including the OPEB liability or asset at transition, if any. (Because retroactive application of the measurement requirements of this Statement is not required, for most employers the OPEB liability at the beginning of the transition year will be zero.) An employer with a net OPEB obligation is required to measure annual OPEB cost equal to (a) the ARC, (b) one year’s interest on the net OPEB obligation, and (c) an adjustment to the ARC to offset the effect of actuarial amortization of past under- or overcontributions.
Financial Statement Recognition and Disclosure
Sole and agent employers should recognize OPEB expense in an amount equal to annual OPEB cost in government-wide financial statements and in the financial statements of proprietary funds and fiduciary funds from which OPEB contributions are made. OPEB expenditures should be recognized on a modified accrual basis in governmental fund financial statements. Net OPEB obligations, if any, including amounts associated with under- or overcontributions from governmental funds, should be displayed as liabilities (or assets) in government-wide financial statements. Similarly, net OPEB obligations associated with proprietary or fiduciary funds from which contributions are made should be displayed as liabilities (or assets) in the financial statements of those funds.
Employers are required to disclose descriptive information about each defined benefit OPEB plan in which they participate, including the funding policy followed. In addition, sole and agent employers are required to disclose information about contributions made in comparison to annual OPEB cost, changes in the net OPEB obligation, the funded status of each plan as of the most recent actuarial valuation date, and the nature of the actuarial valuation process and significant methods and assumptions used. Sole and agent employers also are required to present as RSI a schedule of funding progress for the most recent valuation and the two preceding valuations, accompanied by notes regarding factors that significantly affect the identification of trends in the amounts reported.
Employers participating in cost-sharing multiple-employer plans that are administered as trusts, or equivalent arrangements, in which (a) employer contributions to the plan are irrevocable, (b) plan assets are dedicated to providing benefits to retirees and their beneficiaries in accordance with the terms of the plan, and (c) plan assets are legally protected from creditors of the employers or plan administrator, should report as cost-sharing employers. Employers participating in multiple-employer plans that do not meet those criteria instead are required to apply the requirements of this Statement that are applicable to agent employers.
Cost-sharing employers are required to recognize OPEB expense/expenditures for their contractually required contributions to the plan on the accrual or modified accrual basis, as applicable. Required disclosures include identification of the way that the contractually required contribution rate is determined (for example, by statute or contract or on an actuarially determined basis). Employers participating in a cost-sharing plan are required to present as RSI schedules of funding progress and employer contributions for the plan as a whole if a plan financial report, prepared in accordance with Statement 43, is not issued and made publicly available and the plan is not included in the financial report of a public employee retirement system or another entity.
Employers that participate in defined contribution OPEB plans are required to recognize OPEB expense/expenditures for their required contributions to the plan and a liability for unpaid required contributions on the accrual or modified accrual basis, as applicable.
This Statement also includes guidance for employers that finance OPEB as insured benefits (as defined by this Statement) and for special funding situations.
Effective Dates and Transition
This Statement generally provides for prospective implementation—that is, that employers set the beginning net OPEB obligation at zero as of the beginning of the initial year. Implementation is required in three phases based on a government’s total annual revenues in the first fiscal year ending after June 15, 1999. The definitions and cutoff points for that purpose are the same as those in Statement No. 34, Basic Financial Statements—and Management’s Discussion and Analysis—for State and Local Governments. This Statement is effective for periods beginning after December 15, 2006, for phase 1 governments (those with total annual revenues of $100 million or more); after December 15, 2007, for phase 2 governments (those with total annual revenues of $10 million or more but less than $100 million); and after December 15, 2008, for phase 3 governments (those with total annual revenues of less than $10 million). Earlier implementation is encouraged.
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 4 and 6 discuss the applicability of this Statement.