Fundamentals of Governmental Accounting and Reporting Courses

government accounting definition

Consistent with the AC-model, the adoption of GASB 34 required state and local governments to account for and report on their activities at a government-wide level, using the accrual basis of accounting. The overarching goal of the changes was to increase the relevance and understandability of the information presented in the CAFR to the intended users of the reports (Stalebrink 2019). However, in contrast to most other countries that adopted the use of the AC-model for its governments, the USA adopted a model that combined the two models. This dual approach was adopted on grounds that it would better serve the diverse information needs of the intended users of the reports. The resulting dual model includes a model centered on providing information about current financial resources at the fund level and a model centered on providing information about economic resources at an entity wide level. Like FCRA accounting, fair-value accounting is a form of accrual accounting, but it uses market prices to measure the costs of loans and loan guarantees.

The basis of accounting determines when the economic consequences of transactions and financial events should be entered into financial statements. The GASB Statement 63 provides guidance on the timing of recording a certain financial event. Governmental accounting refers to the process of recording and the management of all financial transactions incurred by a government entity. In large infrastructure projects, government accounting can help monitor project progress by tracking expenditures and ensuring they align with the project’s budget.


Accounting and financial reporting are important for government entities and agencies, but for different reasons than for commercial business enterprises. The users of a government’s financial reports are the elected representatives, oversight governing bodies, and creditors. Adherence to these standards ensures consistency, transparency, and accountability in financial reporting. They help streamline government accounting definition government financial practices, making financial reports easily understandable to stakeholders and the public. In corporate accounting, external auditors usually perform auditing, while in government accounting, a mix of internal and external auditing is often implemented. This multi-layered auditing enhances accountability and transparency, ensuring public funds are managed appropriately.

government accounting definition

Funds are used by governments because they need to maintain very tight control over their resources, and funds are designed to monitor resource inflows and outflows, with particular attention to the remaining amount of funds available. 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. Given the unique needs of governments, a different set of accounting standards have been developed for these organizations. The primary organization that is responsible for creating and updating these standards is the Governmental Accounting Standards Board (GASB). Gross debt is debt held by the public plus intragovernmental debt, which is the amount that the government owes to its own accounts, primarily the trust funds for Social Security, Medicare, military retirement, and civil service retirement.

. . . Cash Accounting, Accrual Accounting, and Fair-Value Accounting?

It should also be noted that the US federal government is subject to yet another set of GAAPs, developed and issued by the Federal Accounting Standards Advisory Board (FASAB). The scope of this chapter is limited to providing an overview of state and local governmental accounting in the USA. Governmental accounting maintains tight control over resources, while also compartmentalizing activities into different funds in order to clarify how resources are being directed at various programs. This approach to accounting is used by all types of government entities, including federal, state, county, municipal, and special-purpose entities.

  • Intragovernmental debt is not a meaningful benchmark for future costs of benefits because it represents the cumulative total of the difference between a program’s past collections and expenditures.
  • Intricate knowledge of governmental financial reports will help you parse out the specificities needed to recognize the reporting structure, format and requirements used by governments.
  • It occurred at the turn of the twentieth century and was driven by the development of large-scale international capital markets.
  • Almost all defense spending is discretionary, and about 15 percent of pandemic-related spending was classified as discretionary.

Credits in appropriation accounts that are unused may be redistributed to other agencies or used for other purposes. In accounting, it refers to a breakdown of how a firm’s profits are divided up, or for the government, an account that shows the funds a government department has been credited with. A company or a government appropriates funds in order to delegate cash for the necessities of its business operations. But governments don’t provide – or use – basic financial information that every business is required to maintain. This leads to inefficiency and bad decision-making and piles up problems for the future.

What is Governmental Accounting Standards Board (GASB)?

Both are shown in the budget as offsets to spending (that is, as negative budget authority and outlays). Revenues, offsetting collections, and offsetting receipts are funds received by the federal government for various purposes and activities. Those funds are designated in the budget either as governmental receipts (revenues) or as reductions in spending (offsetting collections and offsetting receipts). The implications of those designations for legislative and budget processes differ. Appropriation acts make funding available to federal programs and activities by providing budget authority to federal agencies, usually by specifying an amount of money for a given fiscal year. In the absence of an authorization act, an appropriation act—by providing funding—can also authorize agencies to operate a program or to undertake an activity.

government accounting definition

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