The GFOA established the Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting Program (COA) in 1945 to encourage and assist state and local governments to go beyond the minimum requirements of generally accepted accounting principles to prepare comprehensive annual financial reports that evidence the spirit of transparency and full disclosure and then to recognize individual governments that succeed in achieving that goal. The goal of the program is not to assess the financial health of participating governments, but rather to ensure that users of their financial statements have the information they need to do so themselves.
Questions about the COA program?
GFOA’s efforts to deal with COVID-19 and to ensure a successful implementation of the AMS have temporarily lengthened the turnaround time for Certificate award decisions. Our current turnaround time is approximately nine months, but we are working hard to reduce that time frame back to the normal time of six months after submission. Thank you for your patience as we resolve this temporary backlog.
Submit an Application
Certificate applications are now processed through GFOA’s Awards Management System (AMS). Governments submit their comprehensive annual financial report and application in the AMS and retrieve their results in the system once the review is completed.
How to Submit Using GFOA’s New Awards Management System
How to Submit Using GFOA's New Awards Management System
Having trouble using the AMS?
Have a question about the AMS?
We recognize that COVID-19 is disrupting normal government operations and may affect members’ ability to submit timely applications for GFOA’s award programs. We will approve extensions of the submission deadlines for those that need more time. For extensions for the COA Program, please follow the instructions for submitting a Certificate Extension Request in GFOA’s Awards Management System.
Request an Extension
How to Submit an Extension Request
Retrieve Your Award Documents
Retrieve Your Award Documents
Reports submitted to the COA program are reviewed by selected members of the GFOA professional staff and the GFOA Special Review Committee (SRC), which comprises individuals with expertise in public sector financial reporting and includes financial statement preparers, independent auditors, academics, and other finance professionals.
Award Criteria - Checklists
Comprehensive General-Purpose Government
Postemployment Benefit Systems and Investment Pools
Note: For school districts and stand-alone business type activities, please also refer to the comprehensive general-purpose government checklist above.
Each comprehensive annual financial report is reviewed using a checklist designed to determine compliance with both generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP) and program policy as established by the GFOA's Special Review Executive Committee and the GFOA Executive Board. Reviews are performed by GFOA staff and members of the GFOA's Special Review Committee, which comprises individuals from government, the public accounting profession, and academe who possess specialized expertise in governmental financial reporting, typically as a result of either preparing or auditing a comprehensive annual financial report that has received the Certificate of Achievement. Reviewers are never selected from the same state as the report being reviewed or from the same firm that performed the independent audit.
A Certificate is awarded only if there is consensus among reviewers that a comprehensive annual financial report substantially complies with both GAAP and program policy. Failure to comply with any checklist item marked by an asterisk (*) is considered, of itself, sufficient evidence to justify a determination that a report has failed to substantially comply with both GAAP and program policy.
In certain limited circumstances (e.g., adoption of a new authoritative standard), a comprehensive annual financial report may receive the award with a "qualification" (disclosed only to the participating government). Such a qualified award puts the government on notice that failure to remedy one or more specified deficiencies in the following year's report would likely result in a denial.