Note 1. Summary of Significant Accounting Policies

FY 2007 Financial Report
Bureau of Resource Management
November 2007

Reporting Entity and Basis of Consolidation

The accompanying principal financial statements (statements) present the financial activity for the Department of State. The statements include the accounts of all funds under Department control that have been established and maintained to account for the resources entrusted to Department management, or for which the Department acts as a fiscal agent or custodian.

Basis of Presentation and Accounting

The accompanying statements are prepared as required by the Government Management and Reform Act (GMRA) of 1994 and presented in accordance with form and content requirements contained in Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Circular A-136, Financial Reporting Requirements, as amended.

The statements have been prepared from the Department's books and records, and are in accordance with the Department's accounting policies (the significant policies are summarized below in this Note). The Department's accounting policies follow accounting principles generally accepted in the United States of America (GAAP). GAAP for Federal entities is the hierarchy of accounting principles prescribed in the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants' Statement of Auditing Standards No. 91, Federal GAAP Hierarchy, which is also incorporated in OMB Circular A-136.

Transactions are recorded on both an accrual and budgetary basis. Budgetary accounting facilitates compliance with legal constraints.

Use of Estimates

he preparation of financial statements in conformity with GAAP requires management to make estimates and assumptions, and exercise judgment that affects the reported amounts of assets, liabilities and net position and disclosure of contingent liabilities as the date of the financial statements, and the reported amounts of revenues, financing sources, expenses and obligations incurred during the reporting period. These estimates are based on management's best knowledge of current events, historical experience, actions the Department may take in the future, and on various other assumptions that are believed to be reasonable under the circumstances. Due to the size and complexity of many of the Department's programs, the estimates are subject to a wide range of variables, including assumptions on future economic and financial events. Accordingly, actual results could differ from those estimates.

Revenues and Other Financing Sources

Department operations are financed through appropriations, reimbursement for the provision of goods or services to other Federal agencies, proceeds from the sale of property, certain consular-related and other fees, and donations. In addition, the Department collects passport, visa, and other consular fees that are not retained by the Department but are deposited directly to a Treasury account. The passport and visa fees are reported as earned revenues on the Statement of Net Cost and as a transfer-out of financing sources on the Statement of Changes in Net Position.

Congress annually enacts one-year and multi-year appropriations that provide the Department with the authority to obligate funds within the respective fiscal years for necessary expenses to carry out mandated program activities. In addition, Congress enacts appropriations that are available until expended. All appropriations are subject to OMB apportionment as well as Congressional restrictions. For financial statement purposes, appropriations are recorded as a financing source (i.e., Appropriations Used) and reported on the Statement of Changes in Net Position at the time they are recognized as expenditures. Appropriations expended for capitalized property and equipment are recognized when the asset is purchased.

Work performed for other Federal agencies under reimbursable agreements is financed through the account providing the service and reimbursements are recognized as revenue when earned. Administrative support services at overseas posts are provided to other Federal agencies through the International Cooperative Administrative Support Services (ICASS). ICASS bills for the services it provides to agencies at overseas posts. These billings are recorded as revenue to ICASS and must cover overhead costs, operating expenses, and replacement costs for capital assets needed to carry on the operation. Proceeds from the sale of real property, vehicles, and other personal property are recognized as revenue when the proceeds are credited to the account from which the asset was funded. For non-capitalized property, the full amount realized is recognized as revenue. For capitalized property, revenue or loss is determined by whether the proceeds received were more or less than the net book value of the asset sold. The Department retains proceeds of sale, which are available for purchase of the same or similar category of property.

The Department is authorized to collect and retain certain user fees for machine-readable visas, expedited passport processing, and fingerprint checks on immigrant visa applicants. The Department is also authorized to credit the respective appropriations with (1) fees for the use of Blair House; (2) lease payments and transfers from the International Center Chancery Fees held in Trust to the International Center Project; (3) registration fees for the Office of Defense Trade Controls; (4) reimbursement for international litigation expenses; and (5) reimbursement for training foreign government officials at the Foreign Service Institute.

Generally, donations received in the form of cash or financial instruments are recognized as revenue at their fair value in the period received. Contributions of services are recognized if the services received (a) create or enhance non-financial assets, or (b) require specialized skills that are provided by individuals possessing those skills, which would typically need to be purchased if not donated. Works of art, historical treasures, and similar assets that are added to collections are not recognized at the time of donation. If subsequently sold, proceeds from the sale of these items are recognized in the year of sale.

The Department receives most of the funding it needs to support the Repatriation Loan Program through an annual appropriation and permanent, indefinite borrowing authority. The appropriation has two components: (1) a subsidy portion for the present value of long-term cash flow, and (2) estimated expenses to administer the program. Appropriations are recognized as used at the time the loans are obligated and administrative expenses are incurred.

Allocation Transfers

Allocation transfers are legal delegations by one federal agency of its authority to obligate budget authority and outlay funds to another agency. The Department processes allocation transfers with other federal agencies as both a "parent" agency transferring budget authority to a receiving (child) entity and as a receiving (child) agency of budget authority from another transferring (parent) entity. A separate fund account (allocation account) is created in the U.S. Treasury as a subset of the parent fund account for tracking and reporting purposes. Subsequent obligations and outlays incurred by the child agency are charged to this allocation account as they execute the delegated activity on behalf of the parent agency.

Generally, all financial activities related to allocation transfers (i.e., budget authority, obligations, outlays) are reported in the financial statements of the parent agency. An exception to this rule is for transfers from the Executive Office of the President for whom the Department is the receiving agency. Per OMB guidance, State reports all activity relative to these allocation transfers in the Department's financial statements. In addition to these funds the Department receives allocation transfers, as the child, from USAID. The Department allocates funds, as the parent, to Department of Defense, Department of Labor, Treasury, Health and Human Services, PeaceCorp, and the U.S. Agency for International Development.

Fund Balances with Treasury

The Fund Balances with Treasury are available to pay accrued liabilities and finance authorized commitments relative to goods, services, and benefits. The Department does not maintain cash in commercial bank accounts for the funds reported in the Consolidated Balance Sheet, except for the Emergencies in the Diplomatic and Consular Services, Office of Foreign Missions, Foreign Service National Defined Contributions Retirement Fund, and the International Center. Treasury processes domestic receipts and disbursements. The Department operates two Financial Service Centers, which are located in Bangkok, and Charleston, South Carolina, and provide financial support for the Department and other Federal agencies' operations overseas. The U.S. Disbursing Officer at each Center has the delegated authority to disburse funds on behalf of the Treasury.

Accounts and Loans Receivable

Intragovernmental Accounts Receivable are due principally from other Federal agencies for ICASS services, reimbursable agreements, and Working Capital Fund (WCF) services. Accounts and Loans Receivable fr om non-Federal entities are primarily the result of International Boundary and Water Commission (IBWC) receivables for Mexico's share of IBWC activities and Repatriation Loans.

The Department provides Repatriation Loans for destitute American citizens overseas whereby the Department becomes the lender of last resort. These loans provide assistance to pay for return transportation, food and lodging, or medical expenses. The borrower executes a promissory note without collateral. Consequently, the loans are made anticipating a low rate of recovery. Interest, penalties, and administrative fees are assessed if the loan becomes delinquent.

Accounts and Loans Receivable from non-Federal entities are subject to the full debt collection cycle and mechanisms, e.g., salary offset, referral to collection agents, and Treasury offset. In addition, Accounts Receivable from non-Federal entities are assessed interest, penalties and administrative fees if they become delinquent. Interest and penalties are assessed at the Current Value of Funds Rate established by Treasury. Accounts Receivable is reduced to net realizable value by an Allowance for Uncollectable Accounts.

Interest Receivable

Interest earned on investments, but not received as of September 30, is recognized as interest receivable.

Advances and Prepayments

Payments made in advance of the receipt of goods and services are recorded as advances or prepayments, and recognized as expenses when the related goods and services are received. Advances are made principally to Department employees for official travel, miscellaneous prepayments and advances to other entities for future services, and salary advances to Department employees transferring to overseas assignments. Advances and prepayments are reported as Other Assets on the Balance Sheet.

Valuation of Investments

The Department has several accounts that have the authority to invest cash resources (see Note 5 "Investments"). For these accounts, the cash resources not required to meet current expenditures are invested in interest-bearing obligations of the U.S. Government. These investments consist of U.S. Treasury special issues and securities. Special issues are unique public debt obligations for purchase exclusively by the Foreign Service Retirement and Disability Fund and for which interest is computed and paid semi-annually on June 30 and December 31. They are purchased and redeemed at par which is their carrying value on the Consolidated Balance Sheet.

Investments by the Department's Gift, Israeli-Arab Scholarship, Eisenhower Exchange Fellowship and Middle-Eastern-Western Dialogue accounts are in U.S. Treasury securities. Interest on these investments I s paid semi-annually at various rates. These investments are reported at acquisition cost, which equals the face value net of unamortized discounts or premiums. Discounts and premiums are amortized over the life of the security using the straight-line method for Gift Funds investments, and effective interest method for the other accounts.


Inventories are reported as Other Assets on the Department's Consolidated Balance Sheet and include inventories held by WCF's Publishing Services, and the Supply Services Center and Stock Account. The WCF inventory consists primarily of paper and ink used for printing and reproduction services (Publishing Services), furniture held for sale to bureaus in the Department (Supply Services Center and Stock Account), and publications held for sale.

The WCF's Publishing Services inventory is valued at the latest acquisition cost. The Supply Services Center and Stock Account inventory is valued monthly using a weighted moving average. The inventory value of the publications held for sale is based on the cost of production. Recorded values are adjusted for the results of periodic physical inventories.

Property and Equipment

Real Property
 Photo showing the front entrance to the Tangeir Old Legation property.
Photo showing the courtyard of the Tangier Old Legation property.

The Tangier Old Legation, the first property that the United States Government acquired for a diplomatic mission, was presented as a gift to the American people by Sultan Moulay Suliman in 1821.

Photo showing a sedan and a security vehicle.

Real property assets primarily consist of facilities used for U.S. diplomatic missions abroad and capital improvements to these facilities, including unimproved land; residential and functional-use buildings such as embassy/consulate office buildings; office annexes and support facilities; and construction-in-progress. Title to these properties is held under various conditions including fee simple, restricted use, crown lease, and deed of use agreement. Some of these properties are considered historical treasures and are considered multi-use heritage assets. These items are reported on the Balance Sheet, in Note 8 (Stewardship PP&E) to the financial statements, and included in the Required Supplementary Information—Heritage Assets.

The Department also owns several domestic real properties, including the National Foreign Affairs Training Center (Arlington, VA); the International Center (Washington, D.C.); the Charleston Financial Services Center (S.C.); the Beltsville Information Management Center (Md.); the Florida Regional Center (Ft. Lauderdale); and consular centers in Charleston (S.C.); Portsmouth (N.H.) and Williamsburg (K.Y.). The International Boundary and Water Commission (IBWC) has buildings and structures related to its boundary preservation, flood control, and sanitation programs.

Buildings and structures are carried at either actual or estimated historical cost. The Department capitalizes all costs for constructing new buildings and building acquisitions regardless of cost, and capitalizes all other improvements greater than $250,000. Costs incurred for constructing new facilities, major rehabilitations, or other improvements in the design or construction stage are recorded as Construction-in-Progress. After these projects are completed, costs are transferred to Buildings and Structures or Leasehold Improvements as appropriate. Depreciation of buildings and other structures is computed on a straightline basis, principally over a 30-year period.

Personal Property

Personal property consists of several asset categories including aircraft, vehicles, security equipment, communication equipment, ADP equipment, reproduction equipment, and software. The Department holds title to these assets, some of which are operated in unusual conditions as described below.

The Department's Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement (INL) uses aircraft to help eradicate and stop the flow of illegal drugs. To accomplish its mission, INL maintains an aircraft fleet that is the third largest federal, nonmilitary fleet. Most of the aircraft are under direct INL airwing management. However, a number of aircraft are managed by host-countries. The Department owns title to the aircraft under these programs and is prohibited from giving title for any aircraft to foreign governments withoutCongressional approval. As such, these host-country managed aircraft are, for the most part, no-cost, long-term leases. INL contracts with firms to provide maintenance support depending on whether the aircraft are INL airwing or host-country managed. INL airwing managed aircraft are maintained to FAA standards that involves routine inspect, replace as necessary activity as well as scheduled maintenance and replacement of certain parts after given hours of use. Host-country managed aircraft are maintained to host country requirements, which are less than FAA standards.

The Department maintains a large vehicle fleet that operates overseas. Many vehicles require armoring for security reasons, and for some locations large utility vehicles are used instead of conventional sedans. In addition, the Department contracts with firms to provide support in strife-torn areas such as Iraq, Afghanistan and Darfur. The contractor support includes the purchase and operation of armored vehicles. Under the terms of the contracts, the Department has title to the contractor-held vehicles.

Personal property and equipment with an acquisition cost of $25,000 or more, and a useful life of two or more years, is capitalized at cost. However, there are exceptions to this capitalization policy. All vehicles are capitalized, as well as ADP software costing over $500,000. Except for contractor-held vehicles in Iraq and Afghanistan, depreciation is calculated on a straight-line basis over the asset's estimated life and begins when the property is put into service. Contractor-held vehicles in Iraq and Afghanistan, due to the harsh operating conditions, are depreciated on a double-declining balance basis. The estimated useful lives are as follows:

Estimated Useful Life by Asset Category
Asset Category Estimated Useful Life
INL airwing managed 10 years
Host-country managed 5 years
Department managed 3 to 6 years
Contractor-held in Iraq and Afghanistan 2 1/2 years
Security Equipment 3 to 15 years
Communication Equipment 3 to 20 years
ADP Equipment 3 to 6 years
Reproduction Equipment 3 to 15 years
Software Lesser of estimated useful life or 7 years


Capital Leases

Leases are accounted for as capital leases if they meet one of the following criteria: (1) the lease transfers ownership of the property by the end of the lease term; (2) the lease contains an option to purchase the property at a bargain price; (3) the lease term is equal to or greater than 75% of the estimated useful life of the property; or (4) the present value of the minimum lease payment equals or exceeds 90% of the fair value of the leased property. The initial recording of the lease's value (with a corresponding liability) is the lesser of the net present value of the lease payments or the fair value of the leased property. Capital leases are amortized over the term of the lease.

Works of Art and High Value Furnishings

See Note 8 "Property and Equipment - Stewardship PP&E," on page 66 for the Department's policy for works of art and high value furnishings.


The Department awards educational, cultural exchange, and refugee assistance grants to various individuals, universities, and not-for-profit organizations. Budgetary obligations are recorded when grants are awarded. Grant funds are disbursed in two ways: grantees draw funds commensurate with their immediate cash needs via the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Payments Management System (PMS); or grantees submit invoices. In both cases, the expense is recorded upon disbursement.

Accounts Payable

Accounts payable represent the amounts accrued for contracts for goods and services received but unpaid at the end of the fiscal year and unreimbursed grant expenditures. In addition to accounts payables recorded through the Department's normal business activities, domestic accounts payable also includes an estimate of unbilled payables existing at year end for which payment will be made in the subsequent period based on an average of actual disbursements over a four-year period. The Department also includes an estimate of unbilled overseas accounts payable at year end, based on analysis of past payment trends applied towards current expenses.

Annual, Sick and Other Leave

Annual leave is accrued as it is earned, and the accrual is reduced as leave is taken. Throughout the year the balance in the accrued annual leave liability account is adjusted to reflect current pay rates. The amount of the adjustment is recorded as an expense. Current or prior year appropriations are not available to fund annual leave earned but not taken. Funding occurs in the year the leave is taken and payment is made. Sick leave and other types of non-vested leave are expensed as taken.

Employee Benefit Plans

Retirement Plans: Civil Service employees participate in either the Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS) or the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS). Members of the Foreign Service participate in either the Foreign Service Retirement and Disability System (FSRDS) or the Foreign Service Pension System (FSPS).

Employees covered under CSRS contribute 7% of their salary; the Department contributes 7%. Employees covered under CSRS also contribute 1.45% of their salary to Medicare insurance; the Department makes a matching contribution. On January 1, 1987, FERS went into effect pursuant to Public Law 99-335. Most employees hired after December 31, 1983, are automatically covered by FERS and Social Security. Employees hired prior to January 1, 1984, were allowed to join FERS or remain in CSRS. Employees participating in FERS contribute 0.80% of their salary, with the Department making contributions of 11.20%. FERS employees also contribute 6.20% to Social Security and 1.45% to Medicare insurance. The Department makes matching contributions to both. A primary feature of FERS is that it offers a Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) into which the Department automatically contributes 1% of pay and matches employee contributions up to an additional 4%.

Foreign Service employees hired prior to January 1, 1984, participate in FSRDS with certain exceptions. FSPS was established pursuant to Section 415 of Public Law 99-335, which became effective June 6, 1986. Foreign Service employees hired after December 31, 1983, participate in FSPS with certain exceptions. FSRDS employees contribute 7.25% of their salary; the Department contributes 7.25%. FSPS employees contribute 1.35% of their salary; the Department contributes 20.22%. Both FSRDS and FSPS employees contribute 1.45% of their salary to Medicare; the Department matches their contributions. Similar to FERS, FSPS also offers the TSP described above.

Foreign Service Nationals (FSNs) and Third Country Nationals (TCNs) at overseas posts who were hired prior to January 1, 1984, are covered under CSRS. FSNs and TCNs hired after that date are covered under a variety of local government plans in compliance with the host country's laws and regulations. In cases where the host country does not mandate plans or the plans are inadequate, employees are covered by a privately managed pension plan that conforms to the prevailing practices of comparable employers.

Health Insurance: Most American employees participate in the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHBP), a voluntary program that provides protection for enrollees and eligible family members in case of illness and/or accident. Under FEHBP, the Department contributes the employer's share of the premium as determined by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM).

Life Insurance: Unless specifically waived, employees are covered by the Federal Employees Group Life Insurance Program (FEGLIP). FEGLIP automatically covers eligible employees for basic life insurance in amounts equivalent to an employee's annual pay, rounded up to the next thousand dollars plus $2,000. The Department pays one-third and employees pay two-thirds of the premium. Enrollees and their family members are eligible for additional insurance coverage but the enrollee is responsible for the cost of the additional coverage.

Other Post Employment Benefits: The Department does not report CSRS, FERS, FEHBP or FEGLIP assets, accumulated plan benefits, or unfunded liabilities applicable to its employees; OPM reports this information. As required by SFFAS No. 5, Accounting for Liabilities of the Federal Government, the Department reports the full cost of employee benefits for the programs that OPM administers. The Department recognizes an expense and imputed financing source for the annualized unfunded portion of CSRS, post-retirement health benefits, and life insurance for employees covered by these programs. The Department recognized $124.4 and $116.6 million in 2007 and 2006, respectively, for unfunded pension and post-retirement benefits. The additional costs are not actually owed or paid to OPM, and thus are not reported on the Balance Sheet as a liability, but instead are reported as an imputed financing source from costs absorbed from others on the Statement of Changes in Net Position.

Future Workers' Compensation Benefits

The Federal Employees' Compensation Act (FECA) provides income and medical cost protection to cover Federal employees injured on the job or who have incurred a work-related occupational disease, and beneficiaries of employees whose death is attributable to job-related injury or occupational disease. The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) administers the FECA program. DOL initially pays valid claims and bills the employing Federal agency. DOL calculates the actuarial liability for future workers' compensation benefits and reports to each agency its share of the liability.

The total actuarial liability for which the Department is responsible totaled $68.1 million and $62.7 million as of September 30, 2007 and September 30, 2006 respectively.

Valuation of FSN Separation Liability

Separation payments are made to eligible FSN employees who voluntarily resign, retire, or lose their jobs due to a reduction in force, and are in countries that require a voluntary separation payment. The amount required to finance the current and future costs of FSN separation pay is determined annually.

Actuarial Present Value of Projected Plan Benefits for the Foreign Service Retirement and Disability Program

See Note 11 "Foreign Service Retirement Actuarial Liability," on pages 69 to 70 for the Department's accounting policy for Foreign Service retirement-related benefits.

Net Position

The Department's net position contains the following components. Amounts attributable to earmarked funds are separately disclosed. See Note 15 "Earmarked Funds" on page 75 for a description of and the Department's accounting policy for earmarked funds.

  1. Unexpended Appropriations — the sum of undelivered orders and unobligated balances. Undelivered orders represent the amount of obligations incurred for goods or services ordered, but not yet received. An unobligated balance is the amount available after deducting cumulative obligations from total budgetary resources. As obligations for goods or services are incurred, the available balance is reduced.

  2. Cumulative Results of Operations — include (1) the accumulated difference between revenues and financing sources less expenses since inception; (2) the Department's investment in capitalized assets financed by appropriation; (3) donations; and (4) unfunded liabilities, whose liquidation may require future Congressional appropriations or other budgetary resources.

Foreign Currency

Accounting records for the Department are maintained in U.S. dollars, while a significant amount of the Department's overseas expenditures are in foreign currencies. For accounting purposes, overseas obligations and disbursements are recorded in U.S. dollars based on the rate of exchange as of the date of the transaction. Foreign currency payments are made by the U.S. Disbursing Office.


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