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Archive for the Accounting Category

Attaching Receipts and Documents to the Transactions in the Accounting System

Consider:

  • the extent to which those records are organized and accessible outside of the accounting system
  • how much is at stake if a deduction is challenged
  • how easy it is to get the organization into an app like Entryless or Expensify or any one of a ton of others in which the spender snaps a photo of a receipt and sends it in for OCR and classification
  • the volume of transactions that could be material that could potentially be challenged, individually or taken as a whole
  • whether anyone is doing quality control on the data entry and needs quick access to the backup for classification
  • the likelihood of the organization to convert to a different accounting system
  • whether the organization has an annual independent audit

Our clients in the $1M-$10M range get us backup documentation for pretty much every transaction. And it comes in handy a LOT.

Why is Segregation of Duties Important in My Accounting Department?


Part 1 of 3
By Bob Swetz
Controller Consultant | Tier One Services, LLC
“Every business needs to be protected in order to survive and thrive.”

What is segregation of duties?
Segregation of duties is the concept of splitting key duties within the same accounting function among multiple personnel. For example, printing, checks and signing checks are in the same accounting function. Ideally, these duties should be performed by separate staff members.

Why is it important?
Allowing the same staff member to perform all or most of the duties in the same function creates an opportunity for that person to cover up improprieties. Let’s take the case referred to above and say that one staff accountant enters vendor bills, writes the checks for those bills, mails them and then to top it off does the bank reconciliation. That staff member could easily write checks to themselves, cash the checks and mark them as cleared in the bank reconciliation without anyone ever knowing about it.
It’s important to remember that controls such as adequate segregation of duties are not intended to point fingers or suggest someone is doing something wrong, they are just good business practice to safeguard the organization’s assets.

I have a small accounting department, so what can I do?
Creating and maintaining adequate segregation of duties is probably the most difficult control challenge a small organization faces. Check out how to face this challenge with a one-person accounting department in Part 2 of my series, How to Segregate Duties with Only One Accountant.

How to Consolidate Financial Statements from Multiple QuickBooks Files

 

Two ways to consolidate are:

EXCEL TRIAL BALANCES

[1] Export all trial balances to Excel, position them on the same tab but each below the previous one, tag add a column to tag each account with the entity name, combine the DR and CR into one DR (CR) column.
[2] Create your financial statements with your desired accounts and headings
[3] On your tab with the trial balances, create a column called Balance Sheet and assign a B/S account from your B/S page by linking to it…for all line items. Add another column for Income Statement Accounts.
Be sure to skip all intercompany accounts.
[4] On your financials, use the SUMIF function to pull from the columns on the T/B tab using your mapping.

Pros: You can easy-to-update, professional-looking consolidated financials.
Con: It takes a while to set up the first time.

 

QUICKBOOKS ENTERPRISE

[1] Make sure the Charts of Accounts are identical across all 3 entities for any accounts that you wish to consolidate. Account number, spelling, parent/sub status.
[2] Also make sure that any intercompany accounts are all on the same line, i.e. if you have an asset in one and a liability in the other, change one of them to an asset before consolidating.
[3] Use the tool in the Reports menu to consolidate.

Pro: Doesn’t take a lot of time.
Cons: You have to set up those intercompany accounts each time so they get zeroed out, and you end up with consolidated financials that are in Excel and are very cheesy-looking.

Cash Crunch! Nonprofit Edition

 

The best paths out of a cash crunch depend on the cause of the problem. Some examples are below; I hope one or more is helpful.

We’re going to skip the obvious “Get more grants! Do more fundraising!”

Cause: Solution

Embezzlement: Plug the leak, make them give it back, get a line of credit if necessary to see you through until you do.

Unreimbursed grant expenses: Speed up your processes so you can invoice faster. Engage in faster communications with grantors so they don’t forget about you. Set up electronic inbound payments for the grant funds.

High monthly burn not covered by grants: Take a look at any expenses that aren’t providing the organization with value and cut them. Start with the largest ones, not your deluxe paper clips.

Typical seasonal flux: Consider a line of credit. This financing tool is what a lot of seasonal organizations use to get them through the predictable, seasonal tough times if they haven’t saved up from the abundant times. And next season when the organization has plenty of cash, squirrel more of it into a savings account and then you’ll be your OWN line of credit!

Disallowed grant expenses: Use technology to collect backup documentation so you can submit all of those documents to grantors. For example, use Expensify or Entryless so authorized employees can snap a photo of their receipts or scan them, and send them ultimately to the accounting system. And review grants/authorizations with everyone empowered to spend so no one spends on something not covered by a grant.

Overspending grants: Quickly realign your authorization policies for spending as well as the clarity of your accounting on a grant-by-grant basis. Even basic accounting systems such as QuickBooks and Xero are able to produce an income statement by grant if you set them up to do so.

Should We Change Our Accounting System?

accounting systems
Regarding the decision to change or not change accounting program, consider the following as part of your guidance system:
[1] how easily can the system (with the right people and processes) give you the insights that you require in order to make decisions WHEN you need those insights?
[2] how easy is it to find qualified accounting professionals at an affordable cost to use the system to the level that you require in order to get those insights? Remember that you might have people now who can do it, but how many more are out there and accessible? People change jobs for one reason or another.
[3] how much time does system troubleshooting take away from value-added time / how much do system issues slow down your ability to get those insights?
[4] how easy is it for independent auditors to access the data as well as any transaction backup (that’s jargon for “documentation”) and workpapers? This can impact audit price and on-time delivery of the audited F/S to the board, as well as whether you have to go on extension for the 990 each year.
[5] to what extent is downtime an issue? what are the risks of losing data or not being able to access it when you need it?
[6] does the system include other capabilities or integrate with non-accounting systems such as donor management?

How Should We Structure Our Profit & Loss Accounts?

Profit and Loss Structure
The Account:Subaccount structure is incredibly powerful because it facilitates both high-level strategic planning and more frequent tactical decision-making.
One issue is how to group accounts. For example, in the construction industry, does it make more sense to have Labor be a parent account and Drywall and other types of labor be subaccounts? Or does it make sense to have Drywall be the parent account and Labor and other drywall expenses be subaccounts?
It depends how you think, how you make decisions
You can have the best of both worlds if you set up your file cleverly.
More about that second point: In general, I believe that it makes more sense to group items differently than the COA o you can have 2 different ways of looking at the data.
In systems like QuickBooks Desktop, QuickBooks Online, and Xero, you can create an account structure for Profit & Loss (a.k.a. Income Statement) one way, and create items mapped to those accounts with the opposite hierarchical structure.
A few pointers:
[1] Anytime you use a parent:substructure, never EVER use the parent. And in the case of items, make the “Description on sales transactions” and the “Description on purchase transactions” to pop up by default as “DO NOT USE; SELECT SUBITEM”
[2] If you’re going to allocate labor to drywall and other services, remember to also allocate payroll taxes, union costs, workers’ comp, and the like. It’s extra work, but this is a policy that can and will impact profitability. See my next point.
[3] One of the great ways to use this information is to roll it up and see the major areas in which a project is most and least profitable and make changes accordingly. The owner could adjust pricing, have better leverage in negotiations, decide where to subcontract and where to have in-house people handle it, even decide to specialize in areas that are most profitable and not deal with other areas but partner up with another company for those…or learn techniques that other companies are doing to be more profitable in certain areas.
[4] it’s still useful to group other items such as meals, permits, & travel. If everything is grouped, then you get extra insights upon rollup.

Support an Auditor in Supporting You

Support an auditor in supporting you
Someone asked recently if it is reasonable for an independent auditor to request year-to-date (YTD) financial statements when putting together a bid for a financial statement audit.
Yes!
YTD financials are incredibly useful in determining scope/price. If there have been any significant changes since last year’s audited financials, they’ll see it. They’ll (hopefully) act accordingly – the fewer the changes, the lower the risk, the more reasonable the price, for example. More changes might be more areas for them to audit, more things for them to propose fixes on, they will need to price accordingly.
Don’t be afraid of a higher price, though. If an auditor is facing a tough situation and they have to continually have to write off too much time each year, they’ll fire the client and you’ll have to start over in your search, and THAT’S so much fun.
Also, if the YTD financials show a serious cash crunch, it could be problematic. Auditors aren’t allowed to be owed any money, so if they’re still owed this year’s audit fees when it’s time for next year’s audit, they won’t be able to do the work.
And if the YTD financials show a serious contraction and they think it’s not in your best interest to pay their fees but need someone who charges a lot less, they won’t waste their time or yours with a proposal.

How should we set – and justify – donation levels?

justify donation levels
Should the dollar amounts be your cost for the service that the donation covers, your cost plus some overhead, or the market value of the service?
I’ve worked with clients in the for-profit world as well as nonprofit, and for this one, I recommend that you take a golden nugget from the for-profit world:
  • There is no “true” value of anything.
  •  The fair market value of any product or service is only determined at the moment after a purchase occurs between a willing buyer and a willing seller.
Nobody cares about how you came up with the number. They care about whether what they receive is fair for what they pay.
What they receive is the satisfaction that one or more people will be helped in a specific way, and your specific story (i.e. “one therapeutic massage”) plants that satisfaction in the mind and heart of the donor.
You’ll simply have to test it and see if people go for it.
Then you’ll know whether it’s fair or not.

Is it worth it to track inventory quantities, not just dollars?

 

How much money do you stand ready to make & keep from this data?
Uses of quantity-specific inventory information include:
* prevention & detection of theft and loss
* guard against being overcharged by the supplier
* highest ROI on giving of samples
* shaping of messaging & promotion strategy to focus on highest-margin products, not just highest or lowest sale price
* cash flow management from clarity on reorder points so disbursements aren’t accelerated, or on the other end of the spectrum, she isn’t left without product when a customer needs it
* prevention of losses when she has too much of a non-selling or slow-moving product and has to let it go at a fire sale
* once her business is large enough such that she has to file on the accrual basis, you can help her to make sure she’s not paying too much in income taxes (or too little and then pay extra for it later with money and time)
* assist in setting sales targets & plans for achieving those targets
Track.
Profit.
Repeat.

How can a startup nonprofit create a budget needed to apply for its first grant?

 

A budget isn’t a guarantee. It’s a plan, a target.
Just because your nonprofit is a startup doesn’t mean you can’t have a budget.
Even for long-running nonprofits, no one can say what the future is. You don’t have to have guaranteed revenues in order to have a budget.
As you learn more about what revenue streams are available to you and what is available for your mission as a result, consider designing a target revenue portfolio.
Consider how some revenue sources come with rules about how to use the money (i.e. grants) and some don’t (individual contributions). Consider that come with easily definable costs (i.e. product sales) and some have costs that are less easily definable (i.e. sponsorships).
Use that information to shape up the expense side of your budget that corresponds to your revenue portfolio.
Then you’ll have your budget.

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