Summary of Statement No. 47

Statement No. 47
Accounting for Termination Benefits
(Issued 06/05)

This Statement establishes accounting standards for termination benefits.

Recognition Requirements

In financial statements prepared on the accrual basis of accounting, employers should recognize a liability and expense for voluntary termination benefits (for example, early-retirement incentives) when the offer is accepted and the amount can be estimated. A liability and expense for involuntary termination benefits (for example, severance benefits) should be recognized when a plan of termination has been approved by those with the authority to commit the government to the plan, the plan has been communicated to the employees, and the amount can be estimated. For financial reporting purposes, a plan of involuntary termination is defined as a plan that (a) identifies, at a minimum, the number of employees to be terminated, the job classifications or functions that will be affected and their locations, and when the terminations are expected to occur and (b) establishes the terms of the termination benefits in sufficient detail to enable employees to determine the type and amount of benefits they will receive if they are involuntarily terminated. If a plan of involuntary termination requires that employees render future service in order to receive benefits, the employer should recognize a liability and expense for the portion of involuntary termination benefits that will be provided after completion of future service ratably over the employees’ future service period, beginning when the plan otherwise meets the recognition criteria discussed above.

In financial statements prepared on the modified accrual basis of accounting, liabilities and expenditures for termination benefits should be recognized to the extent the liabilities are normally expected to be liquidated with expendable available financial resources.

Measurement Requirements

Healthcare-related termination benefits that are provided as the result of a large-scale, age-related program (for example, an early-retirement incentive program that affects a significant portion of employees) should be measured at their discounted present values based on projected total claims costs (or age-adjusted premiums approximating claims costs) for terminated employees, with consideration given to the expected future healthcare cost trend rate. Employers that provide healthcare-related termination benefits that are not part of a large-scale, age-related termination program are permitted, but not required, to measure the cost of termination benefits based on projected claims costs for terminated employees. That is, in this circumstance, the cost of termination benefits may be based on unadjusted premiums.

The cost of non-healthcare-related termination benefits for which the benefit terms establish an obligation to pay specific amounts on fixed or determinable dates should be measured at the discounted present value of expected future benefit payments (including an assumption regarding changes in future cost levels during the periods covered by the employer’s commitment to provide the benefits). If, however, the benefit terms do not establish an obligation to pay specific amounts on fixed or determinable dates, the cost of non-healthcare-related benefits should be calculated as either (a) the discounted present value of expected future benefit payments or (b) the undiscounted total of estimated future benefit payments at current cost levels.

Termination Benefits That Affect an Employer’s Defined Benefit Pension or OPEB Obligations

As an exception to the general recognition and measurement requirements discussed above, the effects of a termination benefit on an employer’s obligations for defined benefit pension or other postemployment benefits should be accounted for and reported under the requirements of Statement No. 27, Accounting for Pensions by State and Local Governmental Employers, or Statement No. 45, Accounting and Financial Reporting by Employers for Postemployment Benefits Other Than Pensions, as applicable.

Disclosure Requirements

This Statement requires employers to disclose a description of the termination benefit arrangement, the cost of the termination benefits (required in the period in which the employer becomes obligated if that information is not otherwise identifiable from information displayed on the face of the financial statements), and significant methods and assumptions used to determine termination benefit liabilities.

Effective Date

The requirements of this Statement are effective in two parts. For termination benefits provided through an existing defined benefit OPEB plan, the provisions of this Statement should be implemented simultaneously with the requirements of Statement 45. For all other termination benefits, this Statement is effective for financial statements for periods beginning after June 15, 2005. Earlier application is encouraged.

In the initial year of implementation, the requirements of this Statement should be applied to any previous commitments of termination benefits that remain unpaid at the effective date of the Statement. The cumulative effect of applying this Statement should be reported as a restatement of beginning net assets (or equity or fund balance, as appropriate). Financial statements for prior periods are not required to be restated.

How the Changes in This Statement Will Improve Financial Reporting

This Statement supersedes accounting guidance in National Council on Governmental Accounting (NCGA) Interpretation 8, Certain Pension Matters, as amended, which addresses one form of voluntary termination benefits—special termination benefits, or those offered for a “short period of time.” It improves financial reporting by (a) adopting for all voluntary termination benefits recognition requirements similar to those in NCGA Interpretation 8, (b) establishing guidance applicable to involuntary termination benefits that requires governments, in financial statements prepared on the accrual basis of accounting, to account for the effects of termination benefits in the period in which the employer becomes obligated to provide benefits to terminated employees, and (c) elaborating on measurement issues associated with all forms of termination benefits. As a result of governments’ being recognized to account for similar termination benefits in the same manner, application of this Statement will enhance the comparability of financial statements.

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, utilities, hospitals and other healthcare providers, and colleges and universities. Paragraph 6 discusses the applicability of this Statement.