FASB Issues Accounting Standard to Improve Disclosures About Pension And Other Postretirement Benefit Plans

The Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) has issued FASB Statement No. 132 (revised 2003), Employers’ Disclosures about Pensions and Other Postretirement Benefits, that improves financial statement disclosures for defined benefit plans. The project was initiated by the FASB earlier this year in response to concerns raised by investors and other users of financial statements about the need for greater transparency of pension information. The change replaces existing FASB disclosure requirements for pensions.

In an effort to provide the public with better and more complete information, the standard requires that companies provide more details about their plan assets, benefit obligations, cash flows, benefit costs and other relevant information. "These disclosures will provide investors with greater visibility into plan assets and a clearer picture of cash requirements for benefit payments and contributions to fund pension and other postretirement benefit plans," said FASB Project Manager Peter Proestakes.

For the first time, companies are required to provide financial statement users with a breakdown of plan assets by category, such as equity, debt and real estate. A description of investment policies and strategies and target allocation percentages, or target ranges, for these asset categories also are required in financial statements.

Cash flows will include projections of future benefit payments and an estimate of contributions to be made in the next year to fund pension and other postretirement benefit plans.

In addition to expanded annual disclosures, the FASB is improving the information available to investors in interim financial statements. Companies are required to report the various elements of pension and other postretirement benefit costs on a quarterly basis.

The guidance is effective for fiscal years ending after December 15, 2003, and for quarters beginning after December 15, 2003. The document may be accessed from the FASB’s website at http://www.fasb.org

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