Category

Audit

Internal Controls & Abila MIP Fund Accounting™

By | Accounting, Audit, CPA, Internal Controls, Nonprofit, Uncategorized | No Comments

Internal controls provide safeguards against losses, thefts and mistakes. An old-fashioned way of keeping internal controls may be to have one staff member count out the petty cash box while another watches the process. The watcher in this case is the internal control. An extra set of eyes on the counting process keeps the person holding the cash in hand from making “mistakes”, whether intentional or not, when it’s handed over for counting.

Implementing internal controls can be easy! Our “Internal Controls for Nonprofits: Best Practice Resource Guide” can help your nonprofit establish best practice principles, policies, and procedures.

In larger, automated accounting systems for nonprofits, such as those that run Abila MIP, internal controls are built into the system. By automating many of the financial processes, it becomes more difficult for someone to circumvent the system and steal from your nonprofit.

A publication from the Virginia Society of Certified Public Accountants brings home the point that good internal controls, through the use of Abila MIP fund accounting and processes around them, can help prevent loss and “keep honest people honest.”

Safeguards Against Loss: Simple Internal Controls

The first and best internal control is to avoid handling cash when at all possible. It’s not that cash is bad, it’s just that it can be “lost” more easily than money that is already in the bank account and tallied in Abila MIP fund accounting.

A system of checks and balances keeps careful watch over your finances. A few internal controls to keep losses to a minimum:

  1. Lock checks and cash in a safe or drawer both during business hours and afterwards.
  2. Monitor access to the keys.
  3. Make it a rule that all employees, regardless of their job title or function, must have another employee present when opening the safe or cash drawer, and counting out money.
  4. Don’t let checks and cash pile up in the office. Make a bank deposit when the threshold reaches a certain amount.
  5. Use timecards to monitor hourly workers’ wages.
  6. Have a manager review timecard information regularly to ensure no one is ‘padding’ the hours.
  7. Do not let anyone borrow funds from the organization’s accounts for personal reasons, or use business credit cards for personal reasons.

Acting Swiftly

It is important to have written policies in place regarding fraud and theft so that you can take the appropriate steps to document, correct, and if necessary, terminate employees who circumvent or ignore internal controls. Depending on the circumstances, your organization may also have a zero-tolerance policy for theft, and a written policy regarding grounds for termination should include such information.

Take steps to create policies and internal controls for your staff. Train and teach them their expectations. Set in termination policies in place. Know who is handling your accounts, who has access to cash and checks, and how such resources are handled. Keeping track of your finances using good fund accounting software is a way to detect fraud and act swiftly.

Abila MIP Fund Accounting

Abila MIP Fund Accounting includes fraud protection and analysis within the system, so you can use the data within it to detect patterns of losses, analyze data, and prevent fraud.

Most losses do not occur in isolation. People find that if they can get away with one theft, they return and try again. This leaves a footprint or a recognizable pattern. Data ran from your fund accounting system may be able to display such patterns so that you can take immediate, corrective action.

At Welter Consulting, we want to help our nonprofit customers prevent losses and fraud. By utilizing good nonprofit fund accounting software, such as Abila MIP, you can keep careful track of all of your accounts and detect suspicious activity quickly.  Click to learn more about Abila MIP fund accounting.

Welter Consulting

Welter Consulting bridges people and technology together for effective solutions for nonprofit organizations. We offer software and services that can help you with your accounting needs. Please contact Welter Consulting at 206-605-3113 for more information.

How Important Are Internal Controls for Nonprofits?

By | Accounting, Audit, Nonprofit | No Comments

An office clerk “borrowing” money from the office petty cash is a classic example of why internal controls are necessary. How easy would it be for an office clerk to “borrow” a few dollars for her morning coffee?  What internal controls are in place so that this cannot happen?  One answer to this illustration is is to have someone who does not handle petty cash  conduct random and monthly audits of the petty cash box and keep records of the cash and receipt amounts.  If a large amount of petty cash is kept, it would be an added safeguard to audit petty cash with another person just in case the cash comes up short.

A wise person once said that locks just keep honest people honest. The same is true for internal controls.

publication by the Virginia Society of Certified Public Accountants explains that good internal controls are essential to:

  • Prevent loss through errors, misappropriation of funds, or theft
  • Prevent an “honest” employee from making a mistake that can ruin his or her life
  • Document the responsibility of the board as it safeguards the assets of the NPO
  • Assure that all transactions are properly authorized and recorded

While seemingly time consuming, the simple act of having two people present during the petty cash audit protects both employees and assets – a distinct advantage of using adequate internal controls.

Internal Controls Defined

The National Council of Nonprofits defines internal controls as financial management practices systematically used to prevent misuse and misappropriation of assets, such as occurs through theft or embezzlement.  Internal controls protect not just assets but reputations as well.   It is critical for nonprofit organizations to maintain the highest integrity and ethical standards  in orderto attract and retain funders.

The objective of internal controls is to put “checks and balances” in place to protect the assets of the organization.

What Can Go Wrong

Any discussion of the most important internal controls for nonprofits Should be prefaced by answering the question,  , “Just consider what can go wrong.”

I scoured the internet to find examples of what can go wrong with weak or non-existent internal controls.  The following stories are true and could happen to you.

Scenario:  Cash – MIA (Missing In Action)

Suppose checks are merely kept in the bottom drawer of a file cabinet.  An enterprising employee might take a few checks from the bottom of the stack, forge a signature, and cash them, stealing thousands of dollars before being caught.

Internal Control Solution:  Secure the checks with keys held by two different financial managers. Ensure that bank reconciliations are performed by staff with no access to deposits or withdrawals.  Bank reconciliation should be prepared on a monthly basis, at minimum.

Scenario:  Employee Alert

A clever payroll employee adds overtime hours to pay himself or herself at time and-a-half.

Internal Control Solution:  Timecards should be signed by managers. A second person compares the payroll totals to signed timecards.

Scenario:  Sad but True Fundraiser Fiasco

During a fundraiser, a volunteer handled all aspects of the cash ticket sales, including depositing funds and reconciling the bank statement.  Occasionally short on cash, she would borrow funds and then pay them back….until she didn’t pay them back.  This well-meaning volunteer “borrowed” around $10,000.  The event intended to be financed by the fundraiser  had to be cancelled.

Internal Control Solution: Anytime cash is involved, the responsibilities should be divided among several people.  At least two people should be present when cash is counted.  Separate people should make the deposits and reconcile bank statements.

Closing Thoughts

Internal controls should be clearly documented in a procedural manual and authorized by the board or governing authority of the organization.  Discovery of theft or embezzlement and the resulting investigation is hard on the organization internally, and the external damage to the organization’s reputation can cause loss of funding.  Additionally, bonding insurance premiums could skyrocket, especially if it could have been prevented by using good internal controls.

Establishing internal controls protects the organization and the board members, officers, and staff.  For more comprehensive reading, Abila has created “Internal Controls for Nonprofits: Best Practice Principles, Policies, and Procedures.”

Welter Consulting

Welter Consulting bridges people and technology together for effective solutions for nonprofit organizations. We offer software and services that can help you with your accounting needs. Please contact Welter Consulting at 206-605-3113 for more information.

CPA Continuing Education – Ideas and Tips for Professional Development

By | Abila, Accounting, Audit, CPA, Grant Management, MIP Fund Accounting, Nonprofit | No Comments

Passing the CPA exam is only the first step in a long series of challenges for CPAs. One ongoing challenge is meeting the required 40 hours annually of professional development.

Large, public accounting firms and big corporations may arrange to send their CPAs for annual professional development workshops and classes to help you meet the 40-hour requirement. CPAs who own their own businesses or who work for smaller companies don’t have that luxury.

It can be difficult to take time away from your own accounting practice to take classes that satisfy your continuing education requirements. Let’s face it; if you can take a week off, you want to go to the beach or the mountains, not to a stuffy meeting room. It can also be expensive to pay for airfare, hotel, and workshop fees.

There are alternatives to the typical round of workshops and conferences offering professional development hours for CPAs. On-demand learning is the latest method of distance learning that offers flexibility with the quality for certification credits.

On-Demand Learning for CPAs

On-demand learning for CPAs consists of online courses, workshops, and seminars. Those that receive CPA credit hours count towards your annual 40-hour certification requirement.

You can find on-demand learning from many providers:

  • Companies offering workshops in conjunction with products or services
  • Consulting firms offering on-demand learning on a variety of accounting topics
  • Professional organizations and groups
  • Local colleges and universities
  • Online learning organizations and companies offering a variety of classes.

In all cases, check to make sure that the workshop you are interested in attending qualifies for CPA certification requirements.

Factors to Consider When Choosing Learning Opportunities

There are several factors to consider when assessing on-demand learning opportunities. These include:

  • Quality: You’re going to spend 40 hours each year participating in workshops and classes. Make sure they are of the highest quality and relevant to your needs. Look for courses that address relevant topics. Instructors should be fellow CPAs or otherwise highly qualified to teach the subject matter. It’s also helpful if instructors are currently working as CPAs. People who are currently working as CPAs and senior accountants can answer questions and offer insights into common workplace scenarios more easily than those with solely academic qualifications.
  • Affordability: One of the best things about on-demand learning is its affordability. Because most on-demand courses can be taken online, you immediately save money on travel expenses. You can also sandwich them into your day, taking them at lunchtime, in the evenings, or on weekends if they are pre-recorded. Most online courses and other on-demand learning opportunities are reasonably priced. Some are even free. A subscription-based continuing education provider can also provide greater savings, with an unlimited number of courses available to you during the subscription period.
  • Speed: Another great benefit of on-demand learning is that it is self-paced. You can take classes as you need them. You don’t have to wait for a specific conference or workshop. Although it’s not smart to leave your continuing education requirements until the last minute, if you do get to the end of the year and find yourself lacking a few course hours, you can usually find an on-demand course to take online that will let you complete your requirement in record time.

Who doesn’t like to save time or money while learning valuable information? On-demand professional development answers the need for CPAs to finish their 40 hours of annual continuing education in a way that fits their needs.

Welter Consulting

Welter Consulting bridges people and technology together for effective solutions for nonprofit organizations. We offer software and services that can help you with your accounting needs. Please contact Welter Consulting at 206-605-3113 for more information.

Are You Ready for the FASB Accounting Standards Update (ASU) No. 2014-09?

By | Abila, Accounting, Audit, CPA, FASB, Nonprofit | No Comments

By now you’ve probably heard of FASB Topic 606. This is an accounting standards update that seeks to provide greater clarity to organizations on how to report revenue. After the initial release of the update, several clarification statements have been issued to help organizations and companies prepare for the new guidelines. As you’re getting ready to implement the new standards (they go into effect for certain not for profits starting December 15, 2017, and for most others December 15, 2018), it’s important to understand both the gist of the update as well as the clarifying statements that have been issued.

What Is FASB Topic 606?

FASB 606 deals with revenue from contracts with customers. FASB Accounting Standards Update No. 2014-09 seeks to streamline statement preparation, as well as provide better disclosure to the public and to others. Clear, transparent reporting is essential for nonprofits; it helps build trust between nonprofits and their constituents. With FASB Topic 606 and Accounting Standards Update No. 2014-09, the revised guidelines are intended to help nonprofits clearly disclose their relationship with their customers and the revenues such relationships and contracts provide.

Another reporting area that FASB No. 2014-09 seeks to improve is the ability for people to compare financial statements. If revenue is reported differently, it makes it harder to compare them across entities. If revenues follow a consistent reporting pattern, they can be compared more easily.

Clarifications on the Original Statement

Accounting professionals charged with the implementation of this revised standard have asked for, and received, clarification on several items. First, intellectual property issues required several clarifying statements. Organizations who license their IP needed information on how to record revenues. A nonprofit health association, for example, who licenses a special ‘badge’ that packaged food companies can put on their products to indicate they meet specific dietary guidelines needs to understand whether they should record revenues at once or over time as they occur.

So far, FASB has issued four clarifications:

  1. ASU No. 2016-08, which addressed principal versus agent considerations.
  2. ASU No. 2016-10 identified performance obligations and licensing
  3. ASU No. 2016-12, clarified a narrow scope improvements and practical expedients directed at items such as the reporting of noncash consideration, contract modification and completed contracts at transition, collectability matters, and similar matters.
  4. ASU No. 2016-20 which correct loan guarantees, contract costs—impairment testing, and provision for losses on construction-type and production-type contracts. Because this area is so complex, interested people should keep up to date with any further changes on 2016-20.

Caution: Implementation Ahead

With all of the clarifications and updates, it’s difficult to say whether or not organizations are truly ready to implement the new rule. Although many indicate that they are, it may be wishful thinking.

A few other cautions have come above. The new rule indicates that transaction prices should be allocated to each performance obligation based on the stand-alone price. Software companies are paying particular note of this requirement since it may accelerate revenue recognition for their products.

Another area where this may impact revenue recognition is on bundled items. Revenue recognition for bundled, package items may now be considered one item instead of many.

Lastly, revenues must be recorded when it appears probable that they can be collected. For nonprofits, this means that they cannot record as donations or revenues money left to them with conditions attached unless it becomes very clear that those conditions will be met.

Confused? Let Welter Consulting Help

If you’re confused about all the FASB changes and the implementation of these new guidelines, Welter Consulting can help. Welter Consulting bridges people and technology together for effective solutions for nonprofit organizations. We offer software and services that can help you with your accounting needs. Please contact Welter Consulting at 206-605-3113 for more information.