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Not-for-Profits and the New Revenue Recognition Standard
Barbara Miller

In May 2014, the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) issued ASU 2014-09 – Revenue from Contracts with Customers. The Standard was originally effective for annual reporting periods beginning after December 15, 2016 for public entities, and for annual reporting periods beginning after December 15, 2017 for all other entities. However, during August of 2015, the FASB issued ASU 2015-14, which deferred the effective date by one year. Public business entities, certain not-for-profit entities and certain employee benefit plans should apply the guidance in Update 2014-09 to annual reporting periods beginning after December 15, 2017.  All other entities should apply the guidance in Update 2014-09 to annual reporting periods beginning after December 15, 2018.

Is a not-for-profit organization considered a “public entity?” Possibly. 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 is considered a public entity and is therefore required to implement the new standard at the earlier implementation date.

Under the new standard, an entity should recognize revenue to reflect the transfer of goods or services to customers in the amount that represents the consideration to which the entity expects to be entitled for those goods or services. An entity should apply a five-step process to determine when revenue should be recognized:

  1. Identify the contract(s) with a customer.
  2. Identify the performances obligations in the contract.
  3. Determine the transaction price.
  4. Allocate the transaction price to the performance obligations in the contract.
  5. Recognize revenue when (or as) the entity satisfies a performance obligation.

Specific guidance about these steps is outside the scope of this article.

Does the new revenue recognition standard affect not-for-profit organizations? It does, if the not-for-profit receives revenue or support that is considered to be a contract. A contract is defined as an agreement between two or more parties that creates enforceable rights and obligations. Based on this definition, donations and contributions are not within the scope of the new standard.  However, not-for profit organizations have many other types of revenue and support that may qualify as contracts, such as program service revenue, membership dues and tuition, to name a few examples.

Although specific guidance of how this new standard affects certain types of organizations has not yet been finalized, the AICPA is working towards publishing audit guides for various industries to assist in determining when to recognize revenue.

On June 5, 2016, the AICPA’s Financial Reporting Executive Committee (FinREC) published working drafts of interpretive guidance to address specific implementation issues for the FASB’s revenue recognition standard. The implementation issues are the result of work performed by 16 industry task forces assigned by the FinREC with the task of developing guidance for a revenue recognition guide the AICPA plans to publish in January 2017. Included in the 16 task forces is the Not-for-Profit Revenue Recognition Task Force, which has issued three exposure drafts to date: 1) tuition and housing revenue, 2) contributions and 3) bifurcation of transactions between contribution and exchanges components. These exposure drafts are out for comment until September 1, 2016. The FinREC is also working on an exposure draft to provide guidance for revenue recognition related to subscriptions and membership dues, which has not yet been released.

Stay tuned for more details as they become available!

For more information, contact Barb Miller at [email protected], or call her at 312.670.7444. Visit to learn more about our Not-For-Profit Group.

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