Tag Archives | financial statements

Accounting Fraud Prevention Using Quickbooks

See Also:
Accounting Depreciation
Account Reconciliation
Cash Flow Projections
How to Develop a Daily Cash Report
Future of the Accounting Workforce

Accounting Fraud Prevention Using Quickbooks

A small business owner typically cannot afford to hire enough people to have proper separation of duties to gain the internal controls needed to prevent accounting fraud.

Using Internal Controls

Stephen King, CEO of GrowthForce, says that, “Internal controls can help reduce the risk of fraud, make it easier to train and manage staff, and help your company run efficiently by having solid processes and control activities in place.” The place where most companies encounter fraud is in their own company, so it’s critical that every company sets up internal controls and continues to update them as changes occur.


Download eBook The CEO's Guide to Reducing Fraud


Prevent Accounting Fraud

Every business owner can achieve accounting fraud prevention by taking these simple steps:

1. Open the Bank Statement Yourself

Every small business owner should receive the unopened bank statement. Then they should review each check for authorized payee and signature and approve electronic payments. Only after they do the above should they give it to the bookkeeper.

2. Don’t Let Your Bookkeeper Reconcile the Bank Account

The person who pays the bills should never reconcile the bank account. That’s how they cover their tracks. If you don’t have someone else to do it, then this is an easy function to outsource.

3. Close the Prior Accounting Periods

QuickBooks now has a way to lock down the prior periods. Once you produce a financial statement, that period should be “closed”. As a result, this reduces the risk of hiding a fraudulent transaction in a prior year.

4. Attach Scanned Images to Each Accounting Transaction

Most fraud occurs from check tampering. For example, the bookkeeper changes the payee to themselves. Prevent accounting fraud by scanning the bill and linking it to each accounting transaction inside QuickBooks. Thus, this makes it harder to fake a bill.

5. Set Up Username for Each User

QuickBooks now has an audit trail report which can never be turned off; however, if your staff login as “Administrator,” then you have no idea who made what entry. Set up a username for each user that way you can track who did what and when.

6. Restrict User Access

QuickBooks Enterprise Solutions has the ability to restrict access per user per screen. Make sure you have separation of duties between authorization, record keeping, and custodial responsibilities for each accounting transaction.

No system of internal control should be built on trust. The best accounting practice is to separate out the following functions: authorization, record keeping, and custodial responsibility for assets in each accounting transaction.

The CEO's Guide to Reducing Fraud


Originally posted by Jim Wilkinson on July 23, 2013. 

accounting fraud prevention using quickbooks

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You Can’t Afford Not to Spend Money on the Accounting Department

As a former CEO to some CEOs, this Blog is to my counterparts that “don’t know what you don’t know.”  I have seen time and time again closely held businesses that have experienced growth make the same mistakes over and over again. To the CEO that believes bookkeeping is a necessary fixed cost that should be minimized, here is a money making tip. You can’t afford not to spend money on the accounting department if you want to be successful.

The Big Mistake

Your company has grown over the years; you have experienced good times and maybe some bad times. Additionally, you have taken a nice paycheck and sometimes, some nice bonuses.  You got used to a certain life style. And you did all of this with a bookkeeper that does not cost you much.  But your company has grown. Still in the back of your mind, you know something tells you that you are not comfortable with your accounting records. But you elected to keep cost down for the bookkeeper and you do not spend much on accounting.

You Can't Afford Not to Spend Money on the Accounting Department

My Tax CPA Does It All

Maybe until now, some of you have your outside CPA that prepares your tax return also prepare year-end financials. This is not a knock-on tax preparers, but your CPA that prepares your tax return is an expert in one of many fields CPAs work in. For example, I am a CPA, but there is no way I would prepare my own tax return. Tax laws change way too often. I just want to maximize my deductions and pay my fair share of tax, but not more than that. That is why I have my tax CPA prepare the tax return.

But over the course of my career, I have found that most tax CPAs do not have operational expertise. They have not run a manufacturing or service business, nor have they had any P&L responsibility. The Tax CPA is considering accelerated depreciation, maximize expenses, etc. This is quite the opposite from a management set of financial statements. The role of the CPA Tax preparer is totally different from a “operational” CPA, Controller or even CFO.

Minimizing the Back Office For the Wrong Reasons

Most CEOs that I have worked with argue to minimize the cost of the back office. That includes the cost of preparing financial and accounting records. But think about this… The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) does not require public companies to prepare their financial statements according to Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) because they pulled this out of thin air as another way to regulate.  The SEC requires public companies to prepare their accounting records and financial statements based on GAAP because it is the best way to present fairly the results of your financial operations to third parties reading your financial statements.  In other words, It’s the RIGHT way to keep your books!

In some cases where there is significant debt and exposure, some banks also require that the company present your accounting records based on GAAP – regardless of whether it is a Public or Private company.  Some debt situations even require an audit. The banks simply make it one of the covenants related to your debt. When you present your books and records per GAAP, you have accurate financial statements, everyone is assured your accounting is correct.


Click here to download: The Smart Back Office for SMBs


The Importance of Using GAAP

So, if a lot of brain power has been put into coming up with GAAP, and the general consensus is that GAAP is the right way to present your financials and accounting records.  Why would you as CEO not require that your financial statements be presented per GAAP?

I have been an “operational” type CPA for over 27 years now. In addition, I have held the office of CEO twice. I have used my expertise in public company environments and private companies both as an employee and as a consultant in the U.S. and in other countries. I have seen many very successful small, medium and large private companies and they were all keeping their financial records per GAAP. Yet, I have NEVER seen a significant company (not a micro or small business) be successful and properly run without keeping their books and records per GAAP.

So why is it that CEO’s of closely held (private) business still permit their accounting records to be kept some other way?   The answer: they do not want to spend money on a fixed cost such as accounting. But they will spend money on the sales team, hunting leases, extravagant meals or parties.

Not getting the basics down – such as GAAP – leaves money on the table when you are exiting the company. Increase value with our Top 10 Destroyers of Value whitepaper.

You Can't Afford Not to Spend Money on the Accounting Department

You Can’t Afford Not to Spend Money on the Accounting Department

These are real life examples and outcomes of minimizing the cost of your accounting department that I have lived…

The service company incorrectly books gains on U.S. dollar receivables. In conclusion, they had to reverse $8 million from earnings.

I have seen this one several times. The company does not have some large assets on the balance sheet, because their tax preparer said they used accelerated depreciation. As a result, the balance sheet assets are severely understated. Hint: your value is understated. IT’S ABOUT THE MONEY DUDE!

The manufacturing facility does not properly accrue costs. As a result, their margins are way off, and the CEO wondered why they were always short on cash.

The company did not properly reconcile accounts including cash. This led to fraud.

The company did not properly recognize revenue. In conclusion, the company was understating revenue by millions of dollars.

I can go on and on with more real-life examples.

If you do not have your financial statements presented per GAAP, how are they prepared and presented? Do you really know your margins in your P&L. Do you really have all your assets, liabilities and equity presented correctly? Is your P&L, Balance Sheet and Cash Flow statement presented correctly? Guess what? Your ratios that your controller or CFO should be analyzing are not correct.

Leadership Needs to Believe in GAAP

Why do you think Exxon, Walmart and all other public company CEO’s believe in GAAP?  I have also seen many small, medium and large closely held private companies keep their accounting records per GAAP.  These are all successful companies. They know their margins, they know where cash is, they know their ratios and guess what, they know how to forecast!

I have also seen time and time again good companies that have been around a while and have experienced growth, and NOT prepare their financials per GAAP.  And every one of these CEO’s and companies has the exact same issues.

  • They really don’t know their margins in their P&L
  • Some companies don’t even really know their actual revenue
  • There is always that doubt in the CEO’s mind as to what is really going on in the business
  • The CEO lives a stressful life
  • Every time there is even the slightest decrease in margins, there is even a bigger disproportionate stress on cash
  • If your books are not per GAAP, then most likely they are not on the accrual basis; if that is the case, then you are 60-90 days behind your business
  • Having your books on an accrual basis is just the first step. There are many other accounting rules, procedures and pronouncements to get your books per GAAP. Just because they are on accrual basis, does not mean they are per GAAP. GAAP “rules” actually change frequently

You Can't Afford Not to Spend Money on the Accounting Department

In Summary

In my consulting business, I have seen CEOs that are “smart” as in they know what they don’t know. They bring us in to get the problem fixed. Although it takes time and money, the CEO is fully supportive and we get it done. These are the companies that grow and ultimately have a successful liquidation event. Or they leave a well-run machine to their family or employees.

But it shocks me to continue to see companies as large as $120 million in revenue, with a couple hundred employees that have not professionalized their accounting department. No one knows the true margins. Everyone stresses out about the “accounting records.” There are no correct historical financials, and most certainly, there are no forecasts. Unfortunately, there is no analysis of the business at all. In some high margin “hot” industries, this works for a while. The sins are buried. But millions of dollars are lost without knowing it. But, since ultimately everything ends up in cash, when that “hot” industry has even a slight downturn, the CEO feels the cash crunch.

Whether you are trying to increase the value of your company or positioning it for sale, this issue of unknowingly leaking cash is a destroyer. Learn how to tighten your belts and increase value with our Top 10 Destroyers of Value whitepaper.

Don’t be Cheap

Don’t be cheap. Spend the money (which is usually less than the hunting lease) to get your books and records based on GAAP basis.  Get your priorities straight.  Continue to have a professional accounting department in your business. YES, you will spend more than you are currently spending. But you can’t afford not to spend money on the accounting department!

Consider this… I had one investment banker with a very large firm tell me the difference in a valuation of an acquisition target from a company that has accounting records per GAAP and solid accounting department versus one that does not have a professional accounting department and accounting records not per GAAP is a difference of 20%-30%.  I had another investment banker tell me the difference in valuation is “one turn of EBITDA”. The use of EBITDA and multipliers is often used in valuation.

So if your company generates $2 million EBITDA and the multiple used is a 5, then your value would be $10 million with a professional accounting department and books per GAAP. In comparison, your value is $8 million with an unsophisticated accounting department and accounting records not per GAAP. I don’t think your professional accounting department will ever cost you $2 million per year! But not having it will.

Not having your financial records per GAAP is one of the destroyers of value. If you want to protect the value of your company, download the free Top 10 Destroyers of Value whitepaper to learn how to maximize your value.

You Can't Afford Not to Spend Money on the Accounting Department

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Are you maintaining accurate records?

maintaining accurate records

Have you ever sat down at your desk and seen papers everywhere, little to zero organization, and not been able to tell where your company stood financially right away? It is easy for financial leaders, executives, and other business leaders to get in this messy state. Sure, you may have once had accurate records and known exactly where you were. But maintaining accurate records consistently is a critical piece to positioning your company for sale, getting ready for growth, acquiring capital, etc.

Are you in the process of selling your company? The first thing to do is to identify “destroyers” that can impact your company’s value. Click here to download your free “Top 10 Destroyers of Value“.

First, what is accurate or accuracy? Oxford Dictionaries defines accuracy as “the quality or state of being correct or precise.” If your company’s records are not consistently correct and precise, you may encounter some undesired results.

Are you maintaining accurate records?

A simple way to answer this question is to look at your records. Can you easily pull client reports, tax filings for the past couple of years, or receipts from a specific vendor?  Are you able to find information quickly? How well are you able to manage your business with your current records?

Why Maintain Records

Maintaining accurate records is not just for external entities like the IRS, banks, venture capitalists, etc.; but it is also essential for major management decisions, customer support, and financial growth. It allows every party related to your business to see clearly where the company stands. Banks, attorneys, decision makers, etc. all need to understand how your company is positioned. “These records will help you analyze your business’s profitability, stay out of trouble with tax authorities, maintain positive relationships with clients and vendors, protect your business from lawsuits and win lawsuits if you are harmed” (Investopedia).

maintaining accurate records

No one likes to drive blind, so why would you have disorganized, inaccurate records that blind you from seeing the whole picture when making decisions?

How to Maintain Records

There are several ways to maintain accurate records. These include identifying revenue streams, keeping track of invoices and receipts, preparing financial statements, tracking deductible expenses and preparing tax returns. Although these are not all the important records you should maintain, they are a good starting point.

Identify Revenue Streams

This might seem like the most obvious thing to do. But oftentimes we arrive at a new client to find they are mixing business and nonbusiness receipts as well as taxable/nontaxable sources of income. Separate for-profit and non-profit clients from each other. If you service multiple industries, it might be useful to separate your revenue streams by industry.

You don’t want to avoid looking at your business’s revenue. Where did that revenue come from? Is there an industry or type of business that is more profitable than others? Maintaining accurate records isn’t just for those outside the business, but it also will allow you to understand your entire company’s performance.

If you’re selling your company, buyers want to see each revenue stream clearly. By not having accurate records, you may be looking at destroyers of value. To improve the value of your company, identify and find solutions to those “destroyers” of value. Click here to download your free “Top 10 Destroyers of Value“.

Prepare Financial Statements

To prepare precise financial statements, it is critical that you maintain accurate records. Your income statement and balance sheet act as a window into how your business is performing. If the data isn’t 100% accurate, then any decisions made based on that data will not be the best decisions possible. This is because the information isn’t reliable. This can cause a disaster!

Keep Track of Invoices & Receipts

Because of the importance of tracking profitability, you as the financial leader should have a process to track your income and expenses. As a major tool in managing cash, regularly produce reports of the amount and composition of accounts receivables and accounts payable, what has been collected and paid. Not only will this create a system to time payments and encourage your team to collect, but your bank or creditor will be able to rely on your system. This is essential knowledge for the banks to know if you are in a financial crunch.

Prepare Tax Returns

Taxes are a necessary part of operating a business. When you produce tax returns, precise records are required. You need to report income, expenses, and debt on this document. Thankfully, this is not a major burden on your time as you should already have these three categories accurately measured and tracked as you need them to effectively measure the success of your business.

Track Deductible Expenses

Unless you track your deductible expenses throughout the year, you will most likely forget them when you prepare your tax returns. Be sure to create a file for all deductible expenses.

Tips in Maintaining Accurate Records

There are a couple tips and tricks to maintaining accurate records. Some of these include separating personal and business finances, having client files, storing contracts, and maintaining accounting/tax records.

Separate Personal & Business Finances

One of the top rules in operating your own company is to separate personal and business financials. When companies do not separate business and personal finances, records are muddled and there is no clear method to see what is personal and what is business. By doing this, you may run into tax issues, relationship issues, and inaccurate records.

Have Client Files

Separate each client into their own individual file. This will allow you to easily see when they started doing business with you, what work you’ve done with them, and how your relationship is progressing. In addition, you will be able to save time by picking up just one file for the client. And you will have everything you need to know about them in that folder. Need to have invoices, etc. in another folder? Make copies and put everything related to that specific client in their folder.

Store Contracts

When you get served with a lawsuit, it can be shocking. But the best way to combat the stress is to know exactly where to find everything you need to battle your accuser. Store and make copies of all contracts in one place. Then categorize the contacts by clients, employees, vendors, suppliers, etc.. Organize the contracts in a way that makes sense for your business.

Maintain Accounting & Tax Records

The worst offence in maintaining accurate records is not staying on top of your accounting and tax records. Instead of doing the past three months of accounting in a week, create a system to update, maintain, and produce reports regularly. Submit these report for your financial and executive team to view on a schedule.

One of the main “destroyers of value” is not consistently having accurate records. If you are looking to sell your company or just want to improve its value, download your free guide to avoiding things that take value away from you.

maintaining accurate records

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Common-Sized Financial Statements

As a financial leader, you look at financial statements every single day. But how do you analyze those statements?

Sometimes financial statements can appear to be just a list of numbers that are simply there for record keeping. But the true purpose of keeping and updating financial statements is to have information to make better financial decisions.

Common Size Financial Statements

Financial statements can be made much more useful by transforming the data into common size financial statements percentages or ratios, also known as common-size financial statements. A common-size financial statement is a form of financial statement analysis that shows the actual dollar amounts for a balance sheet or income statement as well as the relative percentages for each one of the dollar amount items.

A line item has little meaning by itself. By drawing comparisons, the value of financial statements is dramatically increased. Common-size creates an easy method to analyze financial statements.

Preparing Common-Sized Financial Statements

To create a common-size financial statement, you must first pull out your income statement and balance sheet.common-size income statement

Drop in your raw data for a period of four years, then express that data as a percentage of sales for the income statement, or as a percentage of total assets for the balance sheet.  Looking at the data relative to volume allows you to see where things might be slipping.  You’re not looking to find 25% swings.  Even a 1% slip for a $50 million company translates to a half-million dollar slide.  That might get someone’s attention!

Many tools utilize common-size financial statements. One of the more useful tools is the Flux Analysis Report. The Flux Analysis Report creates a framework in which you can improve the profitability of your company by identifying negative trends in revenues and expenses, which impact profitability. As the trusted financial leader of your company, utilizing common-size financial statements and tools like the flux analysis report will allow you to provide more useful information to your CEO or organization.

(NOTE: Want more tips on how you can be a trusted advisor? Check out our whitepaper How to be a Wingman!)

Using Common-Sized Financial Statements

The value of common-size financial statements is to draw comparisons. For example, your company may be growing between 1-3% each year for 5 years. But without knowing what your ratios of fixed expenses or debt to equity are, it will be difficult to determine what type of capital you will need to grow. If your debt to equity is 70% to 30%, then your company may be highly-leveraged. In general, common-size is a mechanism that allows you to compare your company to industry standards. Research things considered to be too risky or too conservative.

It’s imperative that you utilize common-size financial statements to hold your company accountable in what it should be doing as it adjusts to changes in sales volume. Analyzing your financial statements using common-size will give you the information to advise your CEO to make intelligent decisions for the organization as well as to track progress.

Horizontal and Vertical Analysis

Common-size financial statements not only allow you to draw comparisons vertically, but horizontally. What does this mean? In a vertical comparison, a company can measure any significant changes in the financials in a quarter or year. Whereas horizontally, a company can measure whether the company is growing and if the company is maintaining the resources needed to supply the growing demand.

Screen Shot 2016-02-10 at 8.49.13 AM

ACME Company grew its net income  from 2.6% in 2005 to 5% in 2006. With this 2.4% increase in net income, one might assume that everything above the line increased by the same percentages. What you won’t see easily looking at the raw numbers is that gross margin actually went down .5% over the period due to increased COGS.  The improvement in net income was due to a decrease in SG&A as a percent of sales, despite an increase in raw SG&A dollars.

In order to make a difference, you have to look at the numbers differently.

(NOTE: Want more tips on how you can be a trusted advisor? Check out our whitepaper How to be a Wingman!)

HOW TO BE A WINGMAN

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3 Questions Your Banker Wants Answered

3 Questions Your Banker Wants AnsweredRecently, I had lunch with our banker.  During the meeting, I asked her what she wanted to accomplish when meeting with her customers.  She said that she wanted to know the 3 questions your banker wants answered…

3 Questions Your Banker Wants Answered

1.  How are you feeling about your business and the local economy?

Have you felt the impact from the changes in the local economy and, if so, were they good or bad?  Has there been any fallout with your customers?  How are your competitors reacting?

2.  What is the outlook for the rest of the year?

Do you see the local economy getting worse, recovering, or staying flat?  What forces or drivers do you see influencing your outlook?  What local indicators are you watching?

3.  What are you doing about it?

What actions have you already taken to address any impact?  Have you identified your next steps?  How will those actions impact the financial statements?

In establishing banking relationships and making loans, bankers look to the 5 Cs of Credit for guidance.  The most important of those Cs is Character.  Character covers not only your personal character but also your business competence.  It also covers your management team.

When market conditions fluctuate, bankers want to know that you and your team are strong enough to navigate the rough waters until the economy recovers.

The challenge for business leaders is to be optimistic without being naive;  realistic without being pessimistic.

How are your conversations going with your bankerLeave us a comment below.

Now’s the time to really think like a financial leader. Download our three best tools in the company to start speaking the CFO language.

3 Questions Your Banker Wants Answered

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3 Questions Your Banker Wants Answered

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Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP)

Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) Definition

Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) are a set of standards, guidelines, and regulations for financial accounting. Companies should follow GAAP rules when preparing financial statements.

GAAP rules were established to provide consistency in financial reporting and accounting practices. The rules evolve over time. Therefore, they reflect the most relevant and applicable accounting practices.

GAAP Meaning

Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP), in short, means the rules which provide the basis of all accounting decisions for financial institutions, businesses, and organizations. In the U.S., several organizations influence what GAAP rules, including the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB), the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA), the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). U.S. GAAP differs from other international accounting standards, but organizations like FASB and the International Accounting Standards Board (IASB) are working to establish acceptable international accounting standards.

Overall, accountants calculate in two ways: for a financially stable or financially instable company. This is referred to as the Going Concern; unstable companies calculate assets by estimated value of the item when liquidated.

GAAP Standards

Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) uses many standards and protective measures to ensure reliable and useful accounting statements. For example, accounting is done in fiscal periods which may not coincide with actual calendar periods. They instead coincide with the relevant events that happen to the company with respect to accounting standards.

Worst Case Scenario

Many GAAP standards account for the worst-case scenario. When you record past events in their value at the given time, call this the historical monetary unit. Additionally, subtractions from company cash are made when possible whereas additions are made only when the product is sent and cash is received.

Do Not Consider Intangibles

Under GAAP, do not consider intangible values, such as workforce knowledge or brand goodwill, an asset. Do not record these in the balance sheet. Furthermore, always make an effort towards consistency. Expectations like depreciation or inventory are accounted for in the same way across all periods which they occur. You must make any changes to one period, under this concept, to all periods past. Also, make these changes completely clear to the reader of the statement, providing the necessary background to understand the true meaning of the document.

Lastly, the scope of the company comes into play. An example of this would be a laptop computer: the accidental destruction of a single laptop means much more to a small business than a multinational one. The company scope is essential to relevant and readable financials.

GAAP Example

For example, Natalie is the CFO at a large, multinational corporation. Her work, hard and crucial, effects the decisions of the entire company. She must use Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) to reflect company accounts very carefully to ensure the success of her employer.

Natalie begins her process of creating GAAP compliant statements. First, she looks at past records. These provide the crucial understanding of where her company has been. From here she can expand her accounting to meet the current and future needs of the company.

Nataile makes sure to to keep statements consistent. With the recent change in company policy from LIFO to FIFO, she has a lot of work ahead to correct past balances as well as make the change clear in the body text of the document.

When Natalie creates financials she ignores the value of the company name and brand, despite the fact that they sell a product which is in many ways a commodity. Her concern is tangible rather than intangible assets.

Bad News

Finally, the executive salesperson enters her office with the bad news that he has been in a car accident with the company car. The accident destroyed the vehicle beyond repair. Though Natalie is concerned for the health of her co-worker she is not concerned with the value of the vehicle: with a vehicle fleet valued at over $25 million a single car is not the concern of Natalie.

Natalie finally completes her assignment. She has faith in her work due to her training and expertise in her field. She has confidence that she has prepared sound GAAP complaint statements.

If you want to add more value to your organization, then click here to download the Know Your Economics Worksheet.

generally accepted accounting principles (gaap)

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generally accepted accounting principles (gaap)

See Also:
Accrual Based Accounting
Modified Accelerated Cost Recovery System MACRS
10 Q
Asset
History of Accounting
Full Disclosure Principle

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