A new accounting standard goes into effect starting in 2018 for churches, charities and other not-for-profit entities. Here’s a summary of the major changes.

Net asset classifications

The existing rules require nonprofit organizations to classify their net assets as either unrestricted, temporarily restricted or permanently restricted. But under Accounting Standards Update (ASU) No. 2016-14, Not-for Profit Entities (Topic 958): Presentation of Financial Statements of Not-for-Profit Entities, there will be only two classes: net assets with donor restrictions and net assets without donor restrictions.

The simplified approach recognizes changes in the law that now allow organizations to spend from a permanently restricted endowment even if its fair value has fallen below the original endowed gift amount. Such “underwater” endowments will now be classified as net assets with donor restrictions, along with being subject to expanded disclosure requirements. In addition, the new standard eliminates the current “over-time” method for handling the expiration of restrictions on gifts used to purchase or build long-lived assets (such as buildings).

Other major changes

The new standard includes specific requirements to help financial statement users better assess a nonprofit’s operations. Specifically, organizations must provide information about:

Liquidity and availability of resources. This includes qualitative and quantitative information about how they expect to meet cash needs for general expenses within one year of the balance sheet date.

Expenses. The new standard requires entities to report expenses by both function (which is already required) and nature in one location. In addition, it calls for enhanced disclosures regarding specific methods used to allocate costs among program and support functions.

Investment returns. Organizations will be required to net all external and direct internal investment expenses against the investment return presented on the statement of activities. This will facilitate comparisons among different nonprofits, regardless of whether investments are managed externally (for example, by an outside investment manager who charges management fees) or internally (by staff).

Additionally, the new standard allows nonprofits to use either the direct or indirect method to present net cash from operations on the statement of cash flows. The two methods produce the same results, but the direct method tends to be more understandable to financial statement users. To encourage not-for-profits to use the direct method, entities that opt for the direct method will no longer need to reconcile their presentation with the indirect method.

To be continued

ASU 2016-14 is the first major change to the accounting rules for not-for-profits since 1993. However, it’s only phase 1 of a larger project to enhance financial reporting transparency for donors, grantors, creditors and other users of nonprofits’ financial statements. Contact us for help preparing or evaluating an organization’s financial statements under the new standard.

© 2017

Jaime Rorie specializes in financial statement audits and other attestation engagements including compilations and reviews of for-profit, non-profit, and government entities. She also conducts audits of employee benefit plans and provides tax return services for individuals, corporations, and non-profits