Proposed Accounting Standards Update—Not-for-Profit Entities (Topic 958): Clarifying the Scope and Accounting Guidance for Contributions Received and Contributions Made


On August 3, 2017, the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) issued a proposed Accounting Standards Update (ASU) intended to clarify and improve the scope and the accounting guidance for contributions received and made, primarily by not-for-profit organizations.

Stakeholders are encouraged to review and provide comments on the proposed ASU by November 1, 2017.

Why Is the FASB Issuing This Proposed ASU?

The FASB is issuing this proposed ASU to improve and clarify existing guidance on revenue recognition of grants and contracts by not-for-profit organizations.

Stakeholders, including those on the Not-for-Profit Advisory Committee and the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants Expert Panels, indicated that there is difficulty and diversity in practice among not-for-profits with:
  1. Characterizing grants and similar contracts with government agencies and others as reciprocal transactions (exchanges) or nonreciprocal transactions (contributions)
  2. Distinguishing between conditional and unconditional contributions.
For example, in some instances, similar grants and contracts are accounted for as nonreciprocal transactions (contributions) by some not-for-profits, and as reciprocal transactions (exchanges) by others.

Although these issues have been a long-standing implementation problem prior to the issuance of the FASB’s new revenue recognition standard, the new guidance has placed renewed focus on the issues because of the elimination of limited exchange guidance and additional disclosure requirements that do not seem relevant to these types of transactions.

Therefore, the accounting may be different depending on the guidance applied. Stakeholders noted that diversity in practice occurs for grants and similar contracts from various types of resource providers, but is most prevalent for government grants and contracts.

What Are the Main Provisions and Why Would They Be an Improvement?

Characterizing grants and similar contracts as reciprocal exchanges or contributions

The amendments in this proposed ASU would provide a more robust framework to determine whether a transaction should be accounted for as a contribution or as an exchange transaction.

To accomplish this, the proposed ASU clarifies how a not-for-profit organization determines whether a resource provider is participating in an exchange transaction.

An organization would evaluate whether the resource provider is receiving value in return for the resources transferred by considering:
  • A resource provider (including a private foundation, a government agency, or other) is not synonymous with the general public. Indirect benefit received by the public as a result of the assets transferred is not equivalent to commensurate value received by the resource provider.
  • Execution of a resource providers’ mission or the positive sentiment from acting as a donor would not constitute commensurate value received by a resource provider for purposes of determining whether a transfer of assets is a contribution or an exchange.
In instances in which the resource provider is not receiving commensurate value for the resources provided, an organization would determine whether a transfer of assets represents a payment from a third-party payer on behalf of an existing exchange transaction between the recipient and an identified customer (for example, Medicare). If so, other guidance (for example, the revenue recognition standard) would apply.

Distinguishing between conditional and unconditional contributions

Stakeholders indicated that additional guidance would help them determine whether a contribution is conditional or unconditional, and better distinguish a donor-imposed condition from a donor-imposed restriction.

The proposed ASU helps preparers evaluate such arrangements, which should result in greater consistency in application of the guidance, and would make the accounting for contributions more operable.

For example, the proposed ASU requires organizations to determine whether a contribution is conditional on the basis of whether an agreement includes:
  • A barrier that must be overcome, and
  • Either a right of return of assets transferred or a right of release of a promisor’s obligation to transfer assets.
  • Indicators would be used to guide the assessment of whether an agreement contains a barrier. The indicators would include:
  • The inclusion of a measurable performance-related barrier or other measurable barrier
  • Whether a stipulation is related to the purpose of the agreement
  • The extent to which a stipulation limits discretion by the recipient
  • The extent to which a stipulation requires an additional action or actions.
If the agreement includes both, the recipient is not entitled to the transferred assets (or a future transfer of assets) until it has overcome the barriers in the agreement.

The improved guidance on distinguishing contributions from exchange transactions could result in more grants and contracts being accounted for as contributions (often conditional contributions) than under current GAAP. For this reason, clarifying the guidance about whether a contribution is conditional or unconditional is important because that affects the timing of contribution revenue (or expense) recognition.

After a contribution has been deemed unconditional, an organization would consider whether the contribution is restricted on the basis of the current definition of a donor-imposed restriction, which includes the consideration about how broad or narrow the purpose of the agreement is and whether the resources can be used only after a specified date.

The guidance would apply to both a recipient of contributions received and a resource provider of contributions made.

Framework for Classifying Transfers of Assets


Who Would Be Affected by the Amendments in This Proposed ASU?

Accounting for contributions is an issue primarily for not-for-profit organizations because contributions are a significant source of revenue. However, the amendments in this proposed ASU would apply to all organizations that receive or make contributions of cash and other assets, including business enterprises. The proposed amendments would not apply to transfers of assets from the government to businesses.

When Would the Amendments in This Proposed ASU Be Effective?

The proposed standard follows the same effective dates as the Revenue Recognition standard.

A public company or a not-for-profit organization that has issued, or is a conduit bond obligor for, securities that are traded, listed, or quoted on an exchange or an over-the-counter market would apply the new standard to annual reporting periods beginning after December 15, 2017, including interim periods within that annual period.

Other organizations would apply the standard to annual reporting periods beginning after December 15, 2018, and interim periods within annual periods beginning after December 15, 2019.

Early adoption of the amendments in this proposed ASU would be permitted irrespective of the early adoption of the amendments in the Revenue Recognition standard.