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IFAC's IPSASB Launches Project on Long-Term Fiscal Sustainability; Proposes New Requirements for Governments to Report on Social Benefit Programs

Mar 14, 2008 | New York | English

For many governments and public sector entities, social benefit programs - such as social security, the provision of healthcare and unemployment benefits - comprise a highly significant part of their operations. The International Public Sector Accounting Standards Board (IPSASB), an independent standard-setting board within the International Federation of Accountants (IFAC), has launched a project on the long-term fiscal sustainability of these programs. The IPSASB is also seeking comments on proposed new requirements designed to improve consistency and transparency in the reporting of certain government social benefits and has issued a consultation paper on related issues, particularly liability recognition.

Long-Term Fiscal Sustainability Project
The IPSASB has undertaken a project on long-term fiscal sustainability and has released a project brief on which it welcomes comments. In developing its project on social benefits, the IPSASB has concluded that financial statements alone may not provide users with enough information to assess the long-term viability of social benefit programs. It has, therefore, undertaken this new project to develop a framework for reporting on the long-term fiscal sustainability of governmental programs and finances.

"While the IPSASB accepts that there is a level of uncertainty about fiscal sustainability information, we believe that additional information may be necessary for users of financial statements to have a more complete picture about the future viability of government social benefit programs. We have, therefore, decided to initiate an important project on a topic which has assumed increasing global significance in recent years," states Mike Hathorn, Chair of the IPSASB.

Disclosures for Social Benefits
To improve the consistency and transparency of reporting on social benefits by public sector entities, the IPSASB has released exposure draft (ED) 34, Social Benefits: Disclosure of Cash Transfers to Individuals or Households. ED 34 proposes disclosure requirements for amounts to be paid to beneficiaries as part of social programs, as well as information about those programs. ED 34 also includes requirements for determining the amounts to be disclosed. While this is an initial step in developing accounting for social benefits, the IPSASB believes the requirements in ED 34 will provide useful information on social benefit programs for users of public sector financial reports. ED 34 is also intended to bridge the gap between accrual based financial statements and the possibility of long-term fiscal sustainability reporting.

"Accounting for social benefits goes to the heart of government operations, and there is currently no private sector standard addressing it," notes Mr. Hathorn. "ED 34 provides a very small first step on the challenging road to developing a globally accepted approach."

Key Issues in Recognition and Measurement of Social Benefits
The IPSASB is also seeking comments on a consultation paper, entitled Social Benefits: Issues in Recognition and Measurement. The consultation paper sets out the IPSASB's strategy for developing approaches to address the issues involved in accounting for social benefits, including recognition and measurement. These issues include when liabilities for cash transfers and goods and services arise and, if so, whether these liabilities arise at an earlier point for contributory programs than for programs financed primarily through general taxation.

How to Comment
Comments on both ED 34 and the consultation paper are requested by July 15, 2008. Both documents may be viewed by going to Comments may be submitted by email to They can also be faxed to the attention of the IPSASB Technical Director at +1 (416) 977-8585, or mailed to the IPSASB Technical Director at 277 Wellington Street West, 6th Floor, and Toronto, Ontario M5V 3H2, Canada. All comments will be considered a matter of public record and will ultimately be posted on the IFAC website.

About IFAC
IFAC is the global organization for the accountancy profession dedicated to serving the public interest by strengthening the profession and contributing to the development of strong international economies. IFAC is comprised of 157 members and associates in 123 countries, representing more than 2.5 million accountants in public practice, education, government service, industry and commerce. In addition to setting international public sector financial reporting standards through the IPSASB, IFAC, through its independent standard-setting boards, sets ethics, auditing and assurance, and education standards. It also issues guidance to encourage high quality performance by professional accountants in business.