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GASB report name changed due to offensive acronym

Acronym spelled out in small wooden blocks_1000x480

While those who work in the tax world must be precise, taxes are full of a particular type of shortcut. I'm talking about those sometimes creative, other times eye-roll inducing abbreviations or acronyms for tax terms.

Tax terminology is full of them.

AGI, AMT, EIN, EITC, EFTPS, GAAP, FATCA, IRA, NOL, PTIN, and VAT just to name a few.

Good, bad and ugly acronyms: Tax bills themselves also usually are shortened, with the verbal results sometimes fine and even fun, most times meh and other time invariably ugh.

The historic 1986 tax reform bill got the basic moniker Tax Reform Act.

Its TRA acronym has always evoked, for me, the joy of that accomplishment. Yes, I was on Capitol Hill and working with a Representative who served on the Ways and Means Committee. So I tend to hear Gene Kelly's happy "Tra-la-la (This Time It's Really Love)" when I think of the tax TRA.

The latest COVID relief bill, the American Rescue Plan Act is ARPA, which I put in the middle meh category. Maybe tending toward the latter ugh acronym.

It's called what? Then there are some definite abbreviation uh-ohs, such as EGTRRA, or the Economic Growth and Tax Reconciliation Relief Act of 2001.

EGTRRA was the first of George W. Bush's tax cut bills. And although it's pronounced egg-truh (at least in my Texas drawl), I always hear egg tray.

It was followed two years later by the Jobs and Growth Tax Relief Reconciliation Act, or JGTRRA. Go ahead say that acronym. No wonder W's tax bills were collectively referred to as the Bush tax cuts.

Don't go there: Of course, being innocuous or even awful isn't so bad. But sometimes tax acronyms turn out to be truly terrible.

The Governmental Accounting Standards Board, or GASB (gas-bee), found that out the hard way with a recent exposure draft it released.

GASB originally titled the document the "Comprehensive Annual Financial Report." But when some involved in the formulation of the report pointed out that the title's acronym sounded like an offensive ethnic slur, GASB proposed changing it.

"When you pronounce the acronym, it is a highly offensive racial slur directed toward Black South Africans. As we and our stakeholders are part of a global community, we do not wish to be offensive to anyone, so we have undertaken the project to address this," GASB Chair Joel Black said in a media advisory.

So the final report, if approved, will be called the "Annual Comprehensive Financial Report."

While the financial report's original name and its offensive acronym would be eliminated, no other changes have been proposed to the structure or content of the document.

Acronym advice: Kudos to GASB for listening to those who pointed out the linguistic faux pas. That's why the exposure draft of the Annual Comprehensive Financial Report gets this weekend's Saturday Shout Out.

Of particular note is Appendix B, which discusses factors that the GASB board members considered in determining alternative report names and the possible acronyms fashioned from such names.

It's a good primer for others who are creating policy and law titles that could result in unforeseen acronym interpretations.

And if you have any other comments on the substance of GASB's Annual Comprehensive Financial Report, you can submit them (details on how to do so are in the draft) by July 9.

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Kay Bell

Julian, thanks for the kind words and the great anecdote. I had not heard that, but I would not be at all surprised; OK, a bit surprised it was caught beforehand! I'm going to have to reach out to some of my friends with long-time tax legislative experience and see what they know here. And I didn't include FBAR, which always tends to show up (in my mind, at least) with a U in there. Thanks again. Kay

Julian Block

For years, I've unfailingly enjoyed and been enlighened by your columns. That duly noted, let's pivot to an unmentioned acronym for payroll taxes. Specifically, FUTA, short for federal unemployment tax act.

Perhaps it's an urban legend. Still, I prefer to believe that the legislation was originally titled the federal unemployment compensation act, until the intervention of an alert bureaucrat..

Your thoughts?

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