The Financial Accounting Foundation has recently launched the updated online Governmental Accounting Research System (GARS), and its new features and resources make it a must-see—as well as a good time to take a tour of some of the helpful free resources from the Government Accounting Standards Board (GASB) and the AICPA.

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Government Accounting Standards Board

The GASB website at https://www.gasb.org is the place to watch for updates on 2023 projects, such as a risk disclosure standard; a nonfinancial assets exposure draft; and an Implementation Guide update covering leases, subscription-based information technology arrangements, and GASB Statement 100, Accounting Changes and Error Corrections. The board expects to conclude its research projects on capital assets and pension accounting standards. It is also studying technology from a variety of perspectives, which is evident from improvements in some of the GASB resources.

GASB Pronouncements are easily accessible from the main GASB website under Standards & Guidance on the main menu tab. The Pronouncements page (https://bit.ly/3UM0ef0) connects to authoritative texts by category: Statements of Governmental Accounting Standards, Concepts Statements, GASB Interpretations, GASB Technical Bulletins, and GASB Implementation Guides. The GASB Statements, and most of the other pronouncements, are available as downloadable full text pdf documents, as well as a handy webpage summary.

GASB.org

https://www.gasb.org/

The new version of the Governmental Accounting Research System (GARS) was released in February 2023 at https://gars.gasb.org, and includes a short introduction video, help topics, and a downloadable seven-page user guide. Researchers no longer need to log in with an account. New tools include updates to intuitive and keyword search features. Users can also search by drilling down through the source documents. Other new resources include a source-tracing tool, a glossary term finder, a “show all on one page” to condense search results, a cut-and-paste function, and multiple printing options. As of this review, GARS has only been updated through 2021, with 2022 still in progress (see below). A browsable pdf of the Codification through June 2022 is linked on the GARS homepage (https://gars.gasb.org/TocLinks).

The GARS collection of resources contains the Codification and the Comprehensive Implementation Guide. A hidden jewel is the inclusion of “Final Pronouncements Not Yet Incorporated into the Content,” under “Other References,” which—although not searchable on the GARS platform—are linked back to the GASB website presentation. The “Original Pronouncements” feature is outstanding, and includes materials from several other organizations such as the AICPA Industry Audit and Accounting Guides (AAG) and Statements of Position (SOP).

The GASB Reference Library (https://www.gasb.org/ referencelibrary) provides access to background information on governmental accounting, such as GASB’s “classic” whitepaper: “Why Governmental Accounting and Financial Reporting Is—and Should Be Different,” a 37-page pdf (https://bit.ly/3op1d93). Of course, The CPA Journal has also published numerous informative articles on government accounting standards, including a contrarian perspective, “Is Government GAAP Necessary?” by Sheila Weinberg (April 2020, https://bit.ly/3KQLfff).

Videos and Podcasts is a good place to look for short videos created by GASB staff on current topics, such as new pronouncements and current activities (https://bit.ly/43HtY0J). They are well done and pack a lot of information into a quick two- to three-minute presentation.

The most current pronouncements were issued in 2022: Statements 99, 100, and 101. GASB Omnibus 2022 (Statement 99, April 2022), covers practice issues and technical inconsistencies identified since the prior omnibus, such as the use of LIBOR as a benchmark interest rate; reporting for derivative instruments; and clarification of recent guidance on leases, public-private and public-public partnerships, and subscription-based information technology arrangements.

GASB Statement 100 is summarized in five videos. GASB Statement No. 100: Accounting Changes and Error Corrections, explains the improved definitions for the categories of errors and changes, such as changes in accounting principles versus changes in accounting estimates, and how they will be reported. GASB Improving the Guidance of Accounting Changes and Error Corrections provides an overview of the more detailed descriptions of the categories and describes the presentation of such changes on the financial statements, as well as specific disclosures. The three-part Accounting Changes and Error Corrections Series provides more detail on the three main areas of guidance: descriptions, display, and disclosures.

GASB Statement 101: Compensated Absences covers the unified accounting treatment for vacation leave, sick leave, and paid time off, and reflects a liability for benefits earned by employees. The pronouncement includes an improved model for estimating the amount for compensated absences that will be paid or settled, as well as revising the disclosure requirements.

AICPA Government Accounting Resources

The AICPA presents a nice selection of many freely available governmental accounting materials under the “Government” resource topic at https://www.aicpa-cima.com/topic/government. Pertinent subtopics include GASB accounting requirements, single audits, and state and local government financial statement audits. Free resources include checklists, articles, videos, and portions of otherwise for-purchase AICPA guidebooks.

A good place to start is the “Auditor Checklist: Get Ready to Perform a Single Audit,” a three-page checklist that emphasizes following independence standards, understanding the scope of the single audit, and testing internal controls (https://bit.ly/43LgZen). A brief explanation is provided for each major point and links are included for some of the resources covered in this review. A similar tool is the two-page “Single Audit Tips for Auditors” with an action step approach, as well as links to more AICPA resources (https://bit.ly/3MWODYP).

The AICPA Governmental Audit Quality Center (GAQC) has sponsored two “Lightning Round” webinars thus far in 2023. “GAQC 2023 Single Audit Lightning Round” (January 25, 2023) topics include the OMB Compliance Supplement, testing internal control and compliance, and auditing COVID-19 funding. “2023 Auditing State and Local Governments Lightning Round” (February 15, 2023) covers new GASB standards, new auditing standards, and best practices. The archived videos, along with downloadable slides, are available at https://bit.ly/43MPhy8.

The “GAQC Practice Aid: A Primer on Government Auditing Standards” (May 31, 2022), published by the AICPA GAQC, is a non-authoritative overview of the requirements of Government Auditing Standards, 2018 Edition, also called Generally Accepted Government Auditing Standards (GAGAS) or the Yellow Book (https://bit.ly/3LeddTy). The seven-page booklet uses a Q&A approach to cover topics such as what Government Auditing Standards are and when are they required, when GAAS and GAGAS apply, additional or different requirements of GAGAS, and identification and reporting of findings of deficiencies or noncompliance.

Governmental Illustrative Auditor’s Reports features several sample reports provided by the AICPA (https://bit.ly/3LcARQl) Some examples this author found useful are listed in the Sidebar. The “Government Auditing Standards report illustrations” provides 20 pages (pp. 95–114) from Chapter 13 of the AICPA Government Auditing Standards and Single Audits Guide, specifically the illustrative auditor’s reports under GAGAS. “Single Audit report illustrations” presents an additional 19 pages from Chapter 13 (pp. 385–403) with example reports on compliance with federal programs and internal control over compliance as required under the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations Title 2, Part 200, “Uniform Administrative Requirements, Cost Principles, and Audit Requirements for Federal Awards.” “AICPA State and Local Government Financial Statement Audit Report Illustrations” presents 28 pages from Chapter 17 of the AICPA State and Local Government Auditing Standards and Accounting Guide (pp. 794–835), with illustrative auditor’s reports addressing 18 potential situations.

Government Audit Resources

U.S. Government Accounting Office Yellow Book

https://www.gao.gov/yellowbook

AICPA Government Auditing Standards Report Illustrations

https://www.aicpa-cima.com/resources/download/government-auditing-standards-report-illustrations

AICPA Single Audit Report Illustrations

https://www.aicpa-cima.com/resources/download/single-audit-report-illustrations

AICPA State and Local Government Financial Statement Audit Report Illustrations

https://www.aicpa-cima.com/resources/download/state-and-local-government-financial-statement-audit-report-illustrations

Susan B. Anders, PhD, CPA/CGMA is the Louis J. and Ramona Rodriguez Distinguished Professor of Accounting at Midwestern State University, Wichita Falls, Tex. She is a member of The CPA Journal Editorial Advisory Board.