BARS Manual receives regular update for 2018

It’s that time of year again! The updated 2018 version of the Budgeting, Accounting and Reporting System (BARS) Manual will be available on our website in the third week of December. While users may notice several changes in this update, the most significant revision to the 2018 BARS Manual centers on reporting schedules for cities and counties, and specifically Schedule 07 – Cash Disbursements, and Schedule 11 – Cash Activity. A new schedule, Schedule 06 – Summary of Bank Reconciliation, makes an appearance in the 2018 cash-basis manual to accommodate those changes to Schedules 07 and 11.

Cities and counties that report using generally accepted accounting practices (GAAP) will notice Schedules 07 and 11 are no longer part of the annual reporting package, while cash-basis governments will see that these two schedules are now optional. These changes make way for Schedule 06 – Summary of Bank Reconciliation, which shares the same optional status as Schedules 07 and 11. Cash-basis cities and counties will be able to choose to file both Schedules 07 and 11, or the new Schedule 06.

Schedule 06 is a summary-level schedule that aims to capture a city or county’s bank activity and reconciling items as reflected in the government’s financial statements. Some users will immediately notice the schedule has a more familiar format than Schedules 07 and 11, following the same logic and organization as a typical bank reconciliation. The goal is to produce an option for cities and counties to prepare an alternative to the Schedules 07 and 11 while at the same time giving auditors the information needed to perform required audit procedures.

To accommodate the new Schedule 06, the BARS Manual no longer contains an exception for counties to omit special purpose district information on the Statement C-5 (Schedule 01). County annual reports filed in 2018 will require these special-purpose district agency funds, once reported in detail on the Schedule 11, on the Statement C-5 (Schedule 01) in summary.

The update in the chart of accounts, except for traditional clarifications and additional explanation, includes new accounts that were added through the year (such as 3360642 – Marijuana Excise Tax Distribution or 3360425 – Foundational Public Health Services) and which were already communicated to the appropriate governments. The new detailed expenditure accounts in 51530 – Legal Services will be required starting with fiscal year 2018 reports. We added clarification to certain sections of the accounting part of the BARS manual, addressing the use of a governments own debt instruments for investing and clarifying the proper accounting for diverted property taxes. The capital assets accounting section within the GAAP manual now includes a flowchart intended to help governments decide when expenditures related to existing capital assets should be capitalized.

In addition to the reporting changes described in this article, Schedule of Liabilities (09) now includes instructions for reporting loans with forgiveness clauses.

The notes in the cash-basis manual now contain expanded instructions for reporting special items, government combinations, and contingencies and litigations. The notes in the GAAP manual now include disclosure requirements for asset retirement obligations (Governmental Accounting Standards Board (GASB) 83) and additional disclosure for the debt extinguished with the governments’ own resources (GASB 86); however, neither disclosure is required for the 2017 reporting. The deposits and investment note was revised to find a simple and easy way to report these complex issues; the new version does not include any substantive changes.

The list of other significant changes will be available as a part of the update.

Like every year, our staff will be presenting the BARS cash-basis and GAAP classes. The training focuses primarily on the chart of accounts; these classes’ dates and locations will be available on the WFOA website in early January 2018.