governmental accounting definition

This reduces the number of funds presented on the face of the financial statement and directs the focus to the significant funds of the reporting entity. Major fund reporting is applied only to governmental funds (i.e., general, special revenue, debt service, capital project, and permanent funds) and enterprise funds. Internal service funds are excluded from the major fund reporting requirements. Fiduciary fund information is presented by type of fund rather than by major funds. Governmental operations, by nature, are diverse, and there are numerous legal and fiscal constraints under which those operations must be conducted. This makes it impossible to record all governmental financial transactions and balances in a single accounting entity.

Federal government entities usually follow the accounting principles or guidelines developed by Federal Accounting Standards Advisory Board (FASAB). State and local governments may be required to follow the accounting principles and guidelines developed by the governmental accounting definition Governmental Accounting Standards Board (GASB). By segregating resources into multiple funds, a government can more closely monitor resource usage, thereby minimizing the risk of overspending or of spending in areas not authorized by a government budget.

Understanding the Government Accounting Standards Board (GASB)

The accrual basis of accounting is adjusted when dealing with governmental funds. The sum total of these adjustments is referred to as the modified accrual basis. Under the modified basis of accounting, revenue and governmental fund resources (such as the proceeds from a debt issuance) are recognized when they become susceptible to accrual. This means that these items are not only available to finance the expenditures of the period, but are also measurable. The “available” concept means that the revenue and other fund resources are collectible within the current period or sufficiently soon thereafter to be available to pay for the current period’s liabilities. The “measurable” concept allows a government to not know the exact amount of revenue in order to accrue it.

The International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) is the most common set of principles outside the United States. IFRS is used in the European Union, Australia, Canada, Japan, India, and Singapore. These standards may be too complex for their accounting needs, and hiring personnel to create GAAP definition reports can be expensive. As a result, the FASB works with the Private Company Council to update GAAP with private company exceptions and alternatives. The Governmental Accounting Standards Board (GASB) estimates that about half of the states officially require local and county governments to adhere to GAAP. Encumbrances are specific uses for government collected receipts, and they usually occur before the government collects income or tax receipts from citizens.

Key Soft Skills for Government Accountants

Senior positions may require a master’s degree in accounting and further experience. The path to a government accounting career depends on which job area you want to pursue. Typically, accountants must hold certain certifications and/or licenses, depending on the state where they work. Depending on which type of agency they work for, government accountants may perform different job duties. Government finance jobs demand a strong working knowledge of applicable tax codes and policies. Accountants work within those tax codes to ensure both internal and external compliance.

governmental accounting definition

However, about one third of private companies choose to comply with these standards to provide transparency. For example, GAAP stipulates how to file income statements, what financial periods to include, and how to report cash flow. These professionals manage government finances and ensure compliance with financial laws, codes, and regulations.