Adjusting Accounting Practices in a Time of Uncertainty: Coronavirus Challenges

By | Accounting | No Comments

To say the novel coronavirus or COVID-19 has changed every part of society is an understatement. No area of home or business life remains untouched. This includes the world of accounting, which must adapt and adjust to the many changes that have occurred due to business disruption.

Although the guidelines for financial accounting were established to provide a framework for many situations, nothing could have prepared accountants for what they faced this year. The Paycheck Protection Program and many other adaptions due to the pandemic have raised numerous questions throughout the accounting world.

FASB, AICPA, and other groups have attempted to clarify many of these changes and how to apply them to the fiscal year end. The following provides highlights of the major issues accountants face with reporting this year. Be sure to delve deeply into specific areas of concerns by referring to the specific source documents.

Lease Concessions

FASB answered this question related to lease concessions. The lessor or lessee can elect to apply or not to apply the lease modification guidance in FASB ASC Topic 842, Leases, and Topic 840, Leases, to those contracts. This election is available for pandemic-related concessions that don’t result in a substantial increase in the rights of the lessor or the obligations of the lessee.

When a deferral affects the timing of the lease contract, but the amount is substantially the same, the accountant can choose which method to use. FASB does not favor one or the other. The two methods are:

  • Accounting for the concessions as if no changes to the lease contract were made. In that case, a lessor would increase its lease receivable, and a lessee would increase its accounts payable as receivables/payments accrue. In its income statement, a lessor would continue to recognize income, and a lessee would continue to recognize expense during the deferral period.
  • Accounting for the deferred payments as variable lease payments.

FASB did caution, however, that the same method should be applied to similar situations within the same organization if they arise.

The Paycheck Protection Program

The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), enacted through the Small Business Administration, was intended to help businesses keep people employed during the coronavirus. The loan should be treated as a financial liability. Please refer to Topic 470 for details.

AICPA added further clarification that nongovernment entities should report PPP loans as follows. An entity accounting for the loan would:

  • initially record the cash inflow from the PPP loan as a financial liability and would accrue interest in accordance with the interest method under Subtopic835-30.
  • NOT impute additional interest at a market rate.
  • continue to record the proceeds from the loan as a liability until either (1) the loan is partly or wholly forgiven and the debtor has been legally released or (2) the debtor pays off the loan.
  • reduce the liability by the amount forgiven and record a gain on extinguishment once the loan is partly or wholly forgiven and legal release is received.

For more information pertaining to accounting change and challenges brought about by the coronavirus, please see the special SBA Paycheck Protection Resources for CPAs brought to you by AICPA.

No one could have predicted the challenges and changes brought about by a virus. But, with the usual flexibility that seems to be built into the fabric of the nonprofit world, organizations are rising to the challenges and finding ways to cope. This includes accountants who must ensure that nonprofits comply with the ever-changing regulations, guidelines, and programs available. Hopefully, these resources will help you navigate such changes more easily.

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.

Networking From Home: Here’s How

By | Professional Development | No Comments

COVID 19 has put a damper on many activities nonprofits typically use for fundraising. Among them is networking.

How often have you used networking events in the past to connect with new talent, mentors, and potential employees, not to mention donors and others interested in your work? If you’re like the typical nonprofit owner, the answer is “Frequently!”

Now, however, with so many events canceled and local orders to shelter at home to avoid spreading the virus, networking options are limited. But are they really? Or are we looking at networking the wrong way?

Consider Networking Goals

The goals of networking are to increase your circle of business acquaintances and friends so when opportunities arise, you’ll be able to tap into your network. This includes filling staff positions, adding members to your organization, or finding new resources like a local marketing firm to handle your print ad campaign, and so on.

When you look at the goals of networking, it soon becomes clear that you don’t necessarily need to network in person. It’s easier to strike up a conversation with someone stuck in line with you at the bank but it’s not necessarily the only place where you can strike up conversations.

Online Networking Offers Great Possibilities

Many are finding opportunities to network online. Social networks, of course, are the obvious choice. But networking online isn’t limited to LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook.

Many in-person groups have moved their networking online. Zoom, Go2Meeting, and Facebook Live offers opportunities for people to gather from the safety of their homes. Although not as much fun (and the snacks may not be as good) it’s still a great way to meet new people.

To get the most from online networking events, be sure to be a friend to others first before asking for something in return. The more you give, the more people will be receptive to requests you make. Look for opportunities to solve problems. If someone mentions they need a good local designer, offer to connect them to a graphic designer you know. It is these actions that lead to a network you can count on when you need something.

Work Your Social Networks

Social networking remains an excellent place to network with others. Not only can you increase your personal connections, you can join groups to meet new people, learn what’s happening in your industry, and share your knowledge.

To network effectively on social media, share information that is useful to your audience. This may include links to articles, tips, and resources. Like in-person networking, online social networking relies upon give and take. It’s not just broadcasting your message out but listening to what others say, responding, and sharing helpful resources and information.

Virtual Coffee, Anyone?

Coffee is like the oil that runs the business engine—it’s ubiquitous. Meeting new contacts for a coffee used to be part of the typical business day. Now, however, with many eschewing in-person visits for virtual visits, you can still “meet for coffee” via video conferencing.

Extend the invitation to others to gather on your favorite video platform, mug in hand, and socialize at a predetermined time.

Keep in Touch With Past Contacts

Lastly, networking isn’t just about meeting new people. It’s also keeping in touch with your network. Take time each week to go through your contacts and reach out to say hello to others. During these times when people can feel isolated, it’s always a pleasant surprise to hear from someone you worked with a long time ago. Reach out, say hello, and see if it sparks conversation.

Online Networking: Here to Stay?

Networking online probably won’t take the place of in-person networking for good but, for now, it’s helping many people connect and share resources, time, and care. Make time this week for online networking. Which one of these techniques will you try?

 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.

3 Tips to Improve Website Security

By | cyber security | No Comments

According to Cyber Observer, 68% of businesses feel their cyber risk is increasing. Worldwide, cybercrime is projected to hit $6 trillion by 2021.

If you think you are immune from cybercrime as a small nonprofit organization, think again. Many criminals target small businesses, especially nonprofit organizations, because they know they lack the staff and the resources to front a defense against cyberattacks.

The old truism that the best defense is a good offense holds true with cybercrime as well as in other arenas. Here is your 3-point plan to stop cyber attackers in their tracks.

  1. Use a trusted hosting provider.

It’s tempting to go with the cheapest web host for a recurring expense such as web hosting. However, cheaper hosting companies may not install the best security. Since many attacks occur at the hosting level, choosing the best company you can find is essential.

How do you pick a good host for your website? Look for a site host with the best storage, bandwidth, support, and backups. Having 24/7 support is also essential. If your site undergoes an attack, knowing that someone is available to help is a huge plus.

  1. Install an SSL certificate.

SSL stands for secure socket layer, and it adds the little “s” at the end of the http:// you see at the start of website addresses. What it actually does is protects any information entered into your website by adding a secure and encrypted connection between your browser and the customer’s connection.

Search engines such as Google look for SSL certificates installed in website code as part of their evaluation criteria to gauge the trustworthiness of websites. Google uses it as part of its search engine ranking criteria. For your donors, members, and customers, the SSL certificate adds one more level of protection for their personally identifiable information and payment information.

  1. Update plugins, patches, and code.

You don’t need an IT degree to update plugins, patches, and software code. Most software providers send notices to users when updates are available. Ignoring these because they’re inconvenient can lead to trouble. Often, software companies develop such patches and updates because they’ve discovered loopholes in their code which hackers exploit. By updating known security issues, you’ve added one more defense to your site.

The same goes for plugins which are used on WordPress based websites. Plugins add a wealth of easy customizations to websites built on the WordPress platform which makes them very popular. The flip side is that with this popularity and increased use, comes more opportunities for hackers to exploit plugins as a means of entry into websites. The purpose of updating plugins is the same as updating other software. It closes any gaps and adds better protection.

Other Ways to Prevent Cyber Crime

There are other steps you can take to prevent cybercrime. Educate your team on how to spot phishing scams. These scams are sent via email and try to trick the target of the scam into revealing login information or personal information that can be resold. Many phishing emails appear to come from known entities (like utility companies or well-known name brands like Amazon, Google, or eBay).

Any emails that come without warning and ask users to log into a site should be scrutinized. If you feel the email may be legitimate, close your browser and open it again to the website you wish to log into. Do not click any links in the email.

Such simple steps can save you a great many headaches later. Cybercrime can be a nightmare for a small business and a nonprofit organization. Personally identifiable information can be resold. Each personal record is worth anywhere between $20 and $25 on the black market. To a customer, donor, or member of your organization, however, their personal information is priceless. The resulting firestorm of bad publicity and potential lawsuits can quickly overwhelm a small nonprofit.

Now is the time to prevent cybercrime from harming your organization. What steps will you take to prevent it?

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.

 

 

Know Your Scammers – Cyber Fraud Signs

By | cyber security, Fraud | No Comments

Many of us grew up with Saturday morning children’s cartoons. Is it me, or did every cartoon villain look the same? They always tiptoed towards their intended target and hoisted big empty sacks over their shoulders (the better to cart away their loot!). Everything about them screamed VILLAIN in all-caps. 

Well, of course, it was easy to identify the bad guys in those old cartoons. After all, they were created for children’s entertainment, and kids like things simple. But don’t we all? We all long for it to be easy to identify the “bad guys” out there, and that includes cyber crooks as well as the classic cartoon crooks.

As organizations struggled to cope with the many changes initiated by the coronavirus pandemic, cyber crooks were already on the hunt for their next victim. Many found easy targets among the small businesses, including nonprofits, in turmoil. Without the routine of daily interactionism among employees, easy access to communications to reach fellow workers to ask questions, and looser security among IT networks to enable workers to work from home, cyber crooks didn’t need to tiptoe around in the dark. They acted boldly, and many succumbed to their lures.

Don’t be caught by cyber crooks this year. Know the signs of cyber fraud and protect your nonprofit from the current scams as well as general scams aimed at stealing your data.

Email Fraud – CDC Fake Emails

It was inevitable that criminals found a way to exploit people’s trust in the CDC. One common cyber fraud scam sent emails purporting to be the CDC to organization owners with a link in the email text encouraging them to click for more information.

Savvy recipients spotted several issues with the “CDC” emails that can help you recognize and avoid such phishing emails in the future.

  • Recipients hadn’t contacted the CDC and wondered how the CDC obtained their email addresses.
  • Sharp-eyed people recognized that when they held their mouse over the CDC link, it pointed to another website. 
  • The wording, spelling, and grammar weren’t quite right in the email. It was as if someone had run the text through Google’s translate feature. (Perhaps they had)
  • The email requested personal information to respond, including the recipient’s email address and corporate login information. The CDC wouldn’t ask for that information.

These are all signs of a typical phishing email. Other signs include a generic salutation, fuzzy logos (because they are cut and pasted from the web), or fonts that look odd compared to actual communication from the company, firm, or government agency.

When in doubt, never click a link. Instead, log into a fresh browser screen and visit the site on your own. If there is no message pertaining to the topic of the email, it’s likely it was a phishing scheme.

Specific Nonprofit Risks

As a nonprofit organization, you’re probably soliciting donations online right now to make up for lost revenues from cancelled in-person events.

However, constituents are bombarded right now with both legitimate and not-so-legitimate requests for funds from charities and fraudsters pretending to be charities.

How can you help them distinguish between actual charitable solicitations and fraudulent ones?

  • Remind constituents that they can always visit your website and donate on their own—they do not need to do so through the link in your email (a cyber crook would never say this).
  • Through your website, continually offer updated information on funding campaigns, progress towards goals, and financial information.
  • Remain transparent with all financial dealings.

The key to helping constituents feel comfortable enough to give online is to maintain clear and honest communications about your nonprofit’s finances. Now is the time to offer great transparency into your organization’s finances and to reassure donors at every step of the way that their money is being put towards the work of the organization.

Mitigating Cyber Security Threats with the Right Technology

Awareness and training go a long way to reduce the risk of cyber fraud, especially phishing schemes like the first one we described. Nonprofits can also reduce their risk by maintaining dedicated VPN lines, special inbound connections with encryption that keep their servers secure.

Overworked IT departments, older software, and similar factors can make your nonprofit vulnerable. Close these gaps now before it’s too late. In 2019, data breaches exposed over 4 billion records, and the companies in the thick of such data breaches found themselves embroiled in months of clean-up work. Not all of these companies were big corporations, either. Small businesses and nonprofits are especially vulnerable because cybercriminals know they don’t have a big team of IT professionals on call to handle cybersecurity.

Take time now to update your systems, review cybersecurity procedures, and work with a company such as Welter Consulting to prevent cyber fraud. Criminals don’t tiptoe through backyards carrying big sacks like in the cartoons. They sneak in through emails, attack vulnerable software, and look for small businesses unable to fight back. The time to shore up your defenses is now.

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.