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GASB 81: Five Quick Steps to Irrevocable Split-Interest Agreement Success

While GASB has been talking about split-interest agreements for a long time (the proposal first released in June of 2015, with GASB Statement No. 81, Irrevocable Split-Interest Agreements released in March of 2016), time is quickly running out for a well-planned implementation. With the effective date looming on the horizon, (statement effective for periods beginning after December 15, 2016 unless early adopted), now is the time to start gathering needed information to record existing agreements under GASB 81.

We have learned from GASB’s not-for-profit FASB cousins that irrevocable agreements are rarely where they should be: in the hands of financial professionals. Compiling these agreements will require participation from many stakeholders. Your finance team will likely have to provide some education to avoid a great deal of confusion when asking the “do we have any irrevocable split-interest agreements?” question.

So, where do you start?

  1. Have you been tracking this information right along, nicely documented in a folder by your desk? Great! Do a quick check of others in your organization to be sure your file is complete and skip steps 2-5.

  2. Dig into your general ledger. Have you been receiving regular distributions from a trust? Some of these trust agreements pay out on a quarterly or annual basis and your accounting staff should be able to identify these payors. It may require a quick call to the administrator for the trust agreement to be sure the agreement qualifies under GASB 81.

  3. Look to your fundraising professionals. Development departments like to keep track of all types of donations. It helps to quantify their good fundraising work. Be clear about what you need from them. Remember, irrevocable split-interest agreements, often trusts or other legally enforceable agreements, are agreements wherein a donor irrevocably transfers resources to a third party to hold for the benefit of the government and at least one other beneficiary —the “split” in “split-interest agreement”!

  4. Keep talking to your fundraising professionals. Many of the split-interest agreements we find are very old, often created well before your current development software was put into place. Do you have old files that track this kind of information? It may require some digging in the paper files. Remember those?

  5. All hands on deck. While the finance and fundraising teams are scouring their records, look to others in the organization that might have record of these types of agreements. You know who holds the keys to historical knowledge at your organization, so be sure to include them in your search.
Once the finance department has collected all of the agreements, take one more look to be sure they meet the requirements of GASB 81.“Are they really irrevocable? Or do we just hope they are?” Then you can get down to the business of accounting for them. If you have questions about the accounting for these agreements, please contact me. I would love to chat. And that is irrevocable.

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