The Accounting Standards Oversight Council (AcSOC) discussed the activities of the Accounting Standards Board (AcSB) and the activities of the Public Sector Accounting Board (PSAB) and related matters.
At its virtual meeting held on June 11, 2020, AcSOC received presentations on, and discussed the following:
- Chair’s Opening Remarks
- Approval of AcSOC Minutes
- PSAB COVID-19 Activities
- AcSB COVID-19 Activities
- PSAB Chair’s Report
- PSAB’s 2019-2020 Annual Report and 2020-2021 Annual Plan
- AcSB Chair’s Report
- AcSB’s 2019-2020 Annual Report and 2020-2021 Annual Plan
Chair’s Opening Remarks
AcSOC Chair Miville Tremblay welcomed all attendees and gave a special welcome to the Council’s new members, Grant Vingoe and Michelle Doucet. Mr. Tremblay also congratulated Christine Weidman for receiving the L.S. Rosen Outstanding Educator Award granted by the Canadian Academic Accounting Association.
Stephenie Fox, Vice President, Standards, at CPA Canada updated AcSOC on CPA Canada’s most recent cyberattack. She noted that unauthorized third parties gained access to certain contact information held by CPA Canada. The information did not include any credit card information or passwords. Upon discovering the incident, CPA Canada immediately started an investigation, engaged third-party experts, and notified the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre. CPA Canada has employed enhanced monitoring and prevention measures to strengthen its cyber-security program and to reduce the risk of such incident in the future.
Approval of AcSOC Minutes
AcSOC approved the minutes of the meetings held on February 20-21, 2020, and March 26, 2020.
PSAB COVID-19 Activities
PSAB Chair Charles-Antoine St-Jean updated AcSOC on the Board’s response to the challenges presented by the COVID-19 crisis. He noted that all in-person Board meetings are now being held virtually. In many cases, this required rescheduling a single meeting to a series of virtual meetings to provide opportunities for robust discussions. Mr. St-Jean noted that the Board created an ad hoc committee, the Emerging Issues Committee, to advise the Board how COVID-19 affects its activities, including the upcoming Strategic Plan. The Committee will make recommendations at the Board meeting on June 25, 2020, regarding possible delays of effective dates of upcoming standards and the possibility of extending the Board’s Strategic Plan timeline.
Mr. St-Jean informed AcSOC that PSAB is delivering all strategic activities as planned. However, it is postponing certain activities not classified as key files or strategies until the full staff complement is restored. He added that all task force and advisory group meetings have transitioned to a virtual format. Mr. St-Jean noted that one vacant staff position remains open. Due to CPA Canada’s hiring freeze, the position will remain unfulfilled until further notice.
PSAB, in conjunction with CPA Canada, developed a special webinar on applying public sector accounting standards in the context of COVID-19. This webinar, presented in English and French, was published on May 4, 2020, and has been viewed approximately 2,500 times to date. It was presented by stakeholders from various public sector organizations, including Indigenous, municipal, provincial, and federal groups.
On PSAB’s 2020-2021 Annual Plan, Mr. St-Jean informed AcSOC that the Plan was published with a note informing the reader that the Annual Plan was developed before the Board was aware of the uncertainties arising from the global COVID-19 crisis and their effects in Canada. He added that the Board will revisit its 2020-2021 Annual Plan in the coming months and provide an update at the Council meeting on October 29-30, 2020.
Mr. St-Jean responded to a question on the federal government’s injection of millions of dollars into the Canadian economy as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. He said PSAB has not been made aware of any issues arising as a result of COVID-19 that would not be captured by existing public sector accounting standards.
AcSB COVID-19 Activities
AcSB Chair Linda Mezon updated AcSOC on how COVID-19 affected the Board’s stakeholders, its operations, and the staff.
Ms. Mezon informed AcSOC that the AcSB met on April 15, 2020, to discuss the evolving situation related to the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on the AcSB’s operations. The Board decided to defer the effective dates of the domestic standards and amendments effective for the years beginning on or after January 1, 2020, by one year to January 1, 2021. The Board also deferred the effective date for domestic standards and amendments effective for years beginning on or after January 1, 2021, by one year to January 1, 2022. She noted that early adoption of the standards/amendments continues to be permitted.
The AcSB decided to retain the previously extended comment deadline for the Exposure Draft, “Combinations – Initial Measurement and Related Disclosures.” As for its Consultation Paper “Contributions – Revenue Recognition and Related Matters,” the Board issued the document in May 2020 and will extend the comment period to provide stakeholders with more time to respond.
As for the AcSB’s draft Strategic Plan, the Board agreed that if it were to issue the next draft Strategic Plan in Q2 2020, as initially planned, the Board would be unable to engage with stakeholders extensively for feedback. With that, the Board decided to extend its current Strategic Plan by one year, to 2022, and to defer issuing its draft Strategic Plan. The decision to defer is in response to the developing needs and priorities of its stakeholders during this exceptional time.
The AcSB considered its Due Process related to the decision to defer the effective dates of some of its standards, as well as to the decision to extend the current Strategic Plan by one year to 2022. The Board concluded that it is unnecessary to expose these proposals because they are made to reduce stakeholder pressure as they navigate these challenging and uncertain times. The Board recognized that this is an extra burden on stakeholders in an already challenging environment.
In response to a question, Ms. Mezon replied that the AcSB’s decision was primarily focused on balancing stakeholders’ needs (by permitting early adoption of the standards), being sensitive to the challenging environment in which stakeholders are operating and recognizing that the challenges of operating in the current environment limit the time stakeholders have to consider ongoing projects and implement newly issued standards.
Ms. Mezon informed AcSOC that the AcSB has developed a landing page on its website with resources to help stakeholders address financial reporting challenges during the pandemic. These resources are topic-specific and cover Parts I, II, and III of the Handbook.
An AcSOC member applauded the AcSB’s efforts to offer useful resources to its stakeholders during this unprecedented time.
Ms. Mezon also briefed AcSOC on other global standard setters’ actions and decisions as a result of the pandemic. She noted that on April 17, 2020, the International Accounting Standards Board (IASB) issued an Exposure Draft to provide relief relating to the accounting for rent concessions, extended the comment period deadline for several ongoing consultations, and delayed publishing other planned consultation documents. She added that the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) is also being responsive by issuing guidance to help its stakeholders address financial reporting challenges during this unprecedented time.
She added that the AcSB will likely meet virtually until the end of the calendar year and, like PSAB, the Board will have more frequent meetings to ensure extensive discussions.
Ms. Mezon responded to a question on whether the AcSB’s standards have proven to be fit-for-purpose in light of COVID-19. She said that the Board continues to monitor if the standards are fit-for-purpose, noting that the Board’s priorities will change based on stakeholders’ feedback. The Board will update the Council on this item at future meetings.
PSAB Chair’s Report
Mr. St-Jean commented on recent PSAB activities, including strategies, key files, public interest considerations, and governance and operations matters.
PSAB Key Strategies
At its May 5, 2020, meeting, PSAB voted to adopt Option 2 – adapt International Public Sector Accounting Standards (IPSAS) principles when developing future standards as outlined in the second consultation paper of its International Strategy decision. The Board reviewed all stakeholder and Strategic Advisory Group feedback in making its decision. The decision has been publicly shared on the Board’s website and an In-Brief document explaining the Board’s International Strategy decision was released in early June. Mr. St-Jean added that the Basis for Conclusions will be approved at the Board’s July 2020 meeting and released soon afterwards. A press release is planned for fall 2020.
In response to an AcSOC member’s question about PSAB’s International Strategy, Mr. St-Jean said that in making its decision, the Board had put into place a condition grandfathering all the Board’s current projects. Having said that, the Board is considering the International Public Sector Accounting Standards Board’s (IPSASB) principles in several of its current projects, including Employee Benefits.
Government Not-for-Profit (GNFP) Project
Mr. St-Jean informed AcSOC that a GNFP Advisory Committee was formed to assist with assessing responses and considering options for PSAB’s GNFP Strategy. The Committee held two meetings to deliberate responses received for the first Consultation Paper and identify potential options for a GNFP Strategy. A draft second consultation paper is expected to be presented for the Board’s consideration at its June 25, 2020, meeting and with approval in September 2020. The Board expects to decide on a final GNFP Strategy in mid-2021.
Mr. St-Jean informed AcSOC that PSAB’s Concepts Underlying Financial Performance Task Force will present two exposure drafts (one on the entire conceptual framework and one on the revised reporting model) for review at the Board meeting in late-June 2020. Final approval of both exposure drafts is planned for September, with issue for comments in late fall.
In response to a question, Mr. St-Jean said that PSAB intends to approve the Conceptual Framework Exposure Drafts and the GNFP Strategy in September 2020, then issue these documents for comment in December 2020. These two projects are aligned because the Reporting Model has certain proposals that address many of the concerns raised by GNFPs. Allowing stakeholders to digest these documents together will be beneficial to understanding the proposals. The Board also decided to align these projects to use the extensive outreach and communication plans together.
Emerging Issues Committee
Mr. St-Jean noted that the Emerging Issues Committee, chaired by PSAB Vice-Chair Clyde MacLellan, held its first meeting on April 24, 2020. The Committee discussed several issues, including the need for additional non-authoritative guidance to assist stakeholders on COVID-19-related matters, the recommendation to postpone the strategic plan by one year, a delay in the effective dates of standards, etc. The Committee will share its recommendations at the Board meeting on June 25, 2020.
In late 2019, PSAB paused work on its Employment Benefits project to revisit the project plan. The revised project plan considers all areas of the project, provides a clear outline of the work to be done, and the project approach. The project plan includes a discussion of core project principles, business issues to be addressed, project scope and approach, communication strategy, resourcing, and key success factors. The Board will be review and approve a communication plan at its June 2020 meeting.
Public Private Partnerships
Mr. St-Jean reminded AcSOC that the Exposure Draft, “Public Private Partnerships,” was issued in November 2019 and remained open for comment until late February 2020. In total, 37 responses were received, representing the views of 122 respondents. The Board has transitioned its existing Public Private Partnerships Task Force to a Group of Experts panel to facilitate the approval of the final standards by December 2020. An update will be provided by the Taskforce to the Board at its June 26, 2020 meeting.
Financial Instruments/Foreign Exchange
In December 2019, the Canadian Council of Comptrollers submitted a letter to PSAB containing a “hedging” proposal, outlining certain suggested challenges to the financial instruments standard. The Board evaluated these proposals at its March 2020 meeting. Upon review, the Board did not approve the Comptrollers’ proposals because they represented a fundamental departure from existing principles and previous Board decisions; notably, that all derivatives should be held at fair value in the financial statements.
PSAB did, however, recommend that three additional narrow-scope amendments be prepared to address specific issues the Comptrollers raised. These issues included amendments to clarify presentation of the fair value of derivatives, expansion of the federal government scope exemption to allow all public sector entities to recognize foreign exchange gains and losses directly in the statement of operations and reviewing the accounting for rate-setting transactions.
PSAB approved Exposure Draft that proposes to remove the exclusion in the conceptual framework prohibiting recognition of purchased intangibles in financial statements. The exposure draft proposes allowing the recognition of intangibles purchased through an exchange transaction. Created, developed, and inherited intangibles would remain excluded from recognition until the Board addresses these topics in its technical agenda. The exposure draft was published on November 30, 2019, with a comment period deadline of January 31, 2020. The Board received 34 responses. Views were mixed, with most respondents agreeing with the proposals. The Board will consider next steps at its June 2020 meeting.
In response to a question, Mr. St-Jean noted that PSAB received several responses from Indigenous communities, all of which agreed with the Board’s proposals.
Public Interest Considerations
Public Sector Accounting Discussion Group
Due to COVID-19, PSAB decided to postpone the April 24, 2020 Public Sector Accounting Discussion Group’s meeting to July 17, 2020. This meeting will not be livestreamed but it will be recorded and posted for viewing for three months, along with the meeting report.
PSAB’s 2019-2020 Annual Report and 2020-2021 Annual Plan
Tom Linsmeier, Chair of AcSOC’s Performance Review Committee, informed the Council that the Committee met with PSAB in March 2020 to review the Board’s year-end performance. The Committee agreed that the Board had a challenging year, meeting most but not all of its objectives. However, the Committee is reassured that the Board recognizes its structural challenges and is addressing them in a thoughtful and deliberate manner.
AcSOC endorsed the Committee’s conclusion and agreed that PSAB’s 2019-2020 Performance Report provided a basis for the Council to assess the Board’s performance for the year ended March 31, 2020.
AcSB Chair’s Report
AcSB Chair Linda Mezon commented on the AcSB’s recent activities related to its international work, its domestic projects, and its compliance with due process.
The AcSB undertakes various activities to support Canadian preparers and auditors in implementing standards and addressing emerging accounting topics in practice. The Board continues to ask various industry groups, committee volunteers, and other stakeholders about the challenges of implementing new standards, including IFRS 9 Financial Instruments, IFRS 15 Revenue from Contracts with Customers, and IFRS 16 Leases.
As a result of the implementation issues stakeholders’ raised, the IFRS Discussion Group discussed three leasing issues at its May 2020 meeting.
On IFRS 17 Insurance Contracts, Ms. Mezon informed AcSOC that the IASB has completed its deliberations of the amendments to IFRS 17 and has voted to defer the effective date of the new standard for annual reporting periods beginning on or after January 1, 2023. The AcSB supports the effective date decision as it helps to meet a common global adoption date. The Board continues to speak with national standard setters and stakeholders on various implementation matters related to this standard. Ms. Mezon added that the Board intends to endorse IFRS 17’s final amendments before the calendar year-end.
In response to stakeholder feedback on the challenges of conducting modification assessments on a high volume of leases due to COVID-19-related rent concessions, the IASB issued its Exposure Draft, “COVID-19 Related Rent Concessions,” in April 2020, with a 14-day comment period. On May 15, 2020, the IASB tentatively decided to amend IFRS 16 to provide lessees with an optional exemption from assessing whether a COVID-19-related rent concession is a lease modification. The AcSB plans to incorporate this amendment into Part I of the CPA Canada Handbook – Accounting on July 1, 2020. The amendments will be effective for annual reporting periods beginning on or after June 1, 2020.
On the Interest Rate Benchmark Reform (IBOR) project, Ms. Mezon reminded AcSOC that, in September 2019, the IASB completed Phase 1 to address the pre-replacement issues of the reform. The objective of Phase 2 of this project is to assist entities in providing useful information to financial statement users when making changes to contractual cash flows or hedging relationships because of the reform. The Board issued its Exposure Draft, Interest Rate Benchmark Reform – Phase 2 in April 2020 with comments due by May 25, 2020.
In response to a question, Ms. Mezon noted that although the AcSB does not report to AcSOC on the existing differences between IFRS Standards and U.S. GAAP, the Board does keep track of this information for its purposes.
In response to another question, Ms. Mezon said that the AcSB encourages its stakeholders to consider both the Canadian Securities Administrators’ (CSA) Proposed National Instrument 52-112, Non-GAAP and Other Financial Measures Disclosure and the IASB’s Primary Financial Statements project together as they are interrelated.
Ms. Mezon informed AcSOC that at its May 13, 2020, meeting, the Board continued to deliberate the feedback received on the Exposure Draft, “Employee Future Benefits – Use of a Funding Valuation.” Although the Exposure Draft proposed an effective date of fiscal years beginning on or after January 1, 2021, the Board decided to postpone the effective date to January 1, 2022 in light of COVID-19.
Compliance with Due Process
AcSOC was advised that there were no reportable departures from due process or “comply or explain” actions, nor were there any unusual events in the application of due process from February 1, 2020, to April 30, 2020.
AcSB’s 2019-2020 Annual Report and 2020-2021 Annual Plan
Mr. Linsmeier informed AcSOC that the Performance Review Committee reviewed the AcSB’s year-end performance at the committee’s April 22, 2020 meeting. The Committee agreed that the Board had a successful year, achieving key goals and most other objectives in its 2019-2020 Annual Plan. The Committee also recognized the Board’s outstanding performance related to its Insurance Contracts project.
AcSOC endorsed the Committee’s conclusion and agreed that the AcSB’s 2019-2020 Performance Report provided a basis for the Council to assess the Board’s performance for the year ended March 31, 2020.
Mr. Linsmeier informed AcSOC that the AcSB’s Annual Plan was prepared prior to the COVID-19 crisis. The Board intends on revisiting its Plan to make any necessary changes in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Accounting Standards Oversight Council (AcSOC) is an independent, volunteer body established by the Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants (CICA)* in 2000. It serves the public interest by overseeing and providing input on the activities of the Accounting Standards Board (AcSB), which sets financial reporting standards for profit-oriented enterprises and not-for-profit organizations, and the Public Sector Accounting Board (PSAB), which sets financial reporting standards for governments and their organizations. AcSOC’s responsibilities include appointing the AcSOC, AcSB and PSAB members. Reporting to the public and made up of representatives that include regulators, investors and other users, preparers, and auditors of financial reports, AcSOC brings a broad perspective to complex issues facing standard setters in both the private and public sectors.
*The CICA, CGA Canada and CMA Canada have since consolidated under the CPA Canada banner as the profession’s national body.