How Do Profits and Cash Flow Differ?

Business owners sometimes mistakenly equate profits with cash flow. Here’s how this can lead to surprises when managing day-to-day operations — and why many profitable companies experience cash shortages.

Working capital

Profits are closely related to taxable income. Reported at the bottom of your company’s income statement, they’re essentially the result of revenue less the cost of goods sold and other operating expenses incurred in the accounting period.

Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) require companies to “match” costs and expenses to the period in which revenue is recognized. Under accrual-basis accounting, it doesn’t necessarily matter when you receive payments from customers or when you pay expenses.

For example, inventory sitting in a warehouse or retail store can’t be deducted — even though it may have been long paid for (or financed). The expense hits your income statement only when an item is sold or used. Your inventory account contains many cash outflows that are waiting to be expensed.

Other working capital accounts — such as accounts receivable, accrued expenses and trade payables — also represent a difference between the timing of cash flows. As your business grows and prepares for increasing future sales, you invest more in working capital, which temporarily depletes cash.

The reverse also may be true. That is, a mature business may be a “cash cow” that generates ample cash, despite reporting lackluster profits.

Capital expenditures, loan payments and more

Working capital tells only part of the story. Your income statement also includes depreciation and amortization, which are noncash expenses. And it excludes changes in fixed assets, bank financing and owners’ capital accounts, which affect cash that’s on hand.

To illustrate: Suppose your company uses tax depreciation schedules for book purposes. In 2018, you purchased new equipment to take advantage of the expanded Section 179 and bonus depreciation allowances. The entire purchase price of these items was deducted from profits in 2018. However, these purchases were financed with debt. So, actual cash outflows from the investments in 2018 were minimal.

In 2019, your business will make loan payments that will reduce the amount of cash in the company’s checking account. But your profits will be hit with only the interest expense (not the amount of principal that’s being repaid). Plus, there will be no “basis” left in the 2018 purchases to depreciate in 2019. These circumstances will artificially boost profits in 2019, without a proportionate increase in cash.

Look beyond profits

It’s imperative for business owners and management to understand why profits and cash flow may not sync. If your profitable business has insufficient cash on hand to pay employees, suppliers, lenders or even the IRS, contact us to discuss ways to more effectively manage the cash flow cycle.

© 2019

4 Ideas for Fostering a Partnership Between Internal and External Auditors

External audits aren’t required for every business. But whether required or not, they can provide lenders and investors with assurance that your financial statements are free from material misstatement and prepared in accordance with U.S. Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP).

How can you help facilitate efficient, timely audit fieldwork? The keys are frequent communication and coordination between a company’s internal audit department and its external audit firm throughout the year. Here are four ways to foster this partnership.

1. Encourage frequent communication

Scheduling regular meetings between members of the internal and external audit teams sets the stage for a more efficient audit process. You might discuss emerging issues, such as how the company intends to apply a new accounting standard or the status of internal control remediation efforts.

In preparation for an audit, auditors can meet to compare the internal audit department’s workplan to the external auditor’s audit plan. This comparison can help minimize duplication of effort and identify areas where the teams might work together — or at least complement each other’s efforts.

2. Provide access to internal audit reports

The external audit team can’t rely exclusively on the internal audit department’s reports to plan their audit. But sharing in-house findings provides the external audit with a bird’s-eye view of the company’s operations, including high-risk areas that deserve special attention.

Designate an individual on your internal audit team to act as liaison with external auditors. He or she should be charged with sharing reports in a timely manner. This gives external auditors adequate time to review in-house reports and avoids hasty decision making.

3. Help external auditors navigate the organization

During fieldwork, external auditors need access to employees, executives and data dispersed throughout the enterprise. Internal auditors can share key documents compiled during their audit procedures.

Examples include the company’s organization charts, copies of audit reports from previous years, and a schedule of unresolved internal control deficiencies. This information helps educate external auditors and identifies employees to interview during audit inquiries.

4. Conduct joint training sessions

Both internal and external audit teams require continuing professional education (CPE) to maintain their licenses and improve their understanding of issues they might encounter during an audit. For example, training sessions might explain new accounting standards, emerging fraud scams and technology-driven auditing methods.

Joint training sessions help auditors share best practices and forge lasting bonds with members of the other audit team. Plus, it might be more cost-effective for internal and external auditors to share the fixed costs of providing CPE courses.

Win-win situation

These four ideas are just a starting point. Let’s brainstorm additional ways to foster collaboration between your internal audit department and our external auditors. This exercise will allow both teams to improve efficiency and increase the likelihood of producing timely, accurate financial statements.

© 2019

Time to Celebrate! FASB Expands VIE Exception for Private Companies

The Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) recently gave private companies long-awaited relief from one of the most complicated aspects of financial reporting — consolidation of variable interest entities (VIEs). Here are the details.

Old rules

Accounting Standards Codification (ASC) Topic 810, Consolidation, was designed to prevent companies from hiding liabilities in off-balance sheet vehicles. It requires businesses to report on their balance sheets holdings they have in other entities when they have a controlling financial interest in those entities.

For years, the decision to consolidate was based largely on whether a business had majority voting rights in a related legal entity. In 2003, in the wake of the Enron scandal, the FASB amended the standard to beef up the guidelines on when to consolidate.

New rules

The updated standard introduced the concept of VIEs. Under the VIE guidance, a business has a controlling financial interest when it has:

  • The power to direct the activities that most significantly affect an entity’s economic performance,
  • The right to receive significant benefits from the entity, and
  • The obligation to absorb losses from the entity.

Private companies contend that some of their most common business relationships could be considered VIEs under ASC 810. These relationships are set up for tax or estate planning purposes — not to trick investors or pump up stock prices.

Private company alternative

Private companies told the FASB that the VIE model forced them to consolidate multiple affiliated and subsidiary businesses onto a parent’s balance sheet. This frustrated lenders and creditors, who wanted cleaner balance sheets. In addition, in companies where ownership is shared among close relatives, determining who holds the power may not always be clear.

In 2014, the FASB issued an updated standard that let private companies ignore the VIE guidance for certain leasing transactions. Private companies applauded this update, but problems persisted with the consolidation guidance for transactions that didn’t involve leases.

So this past October, the FASB issued Accounting Standards Update (ASU) No. 2018-17, Consolidation (Topic 810): Targeted Improvements to Related Party Guidance for Variable Interest Entities, which expands the exception to include all private company VIEs. However, a private company that makes use of the latest amendments to Topic 810 must disclose in its financial statements its involvement with, and exposure to, the legal entity under common control.

Right for you?

The amendments in ASU No. 2018-17 are effective for private companies for fiscal years beginning after December 15, 2020, and interim periods within fiscal years beginning after December 15, 2021. Early adoption is permitted. Contact us to determine whether this election makes sense for your business — and, if so, when you should adopt the simplified alternative.

© 2018

Conducting an Effective Post – M&A Audit

So, you’re about to merge with another company. What’s next? The integration process typically starts with audited financial statements that reflect the results and financial position of the combined entity. This exercise requires a close partnership between the external audit team and in-house accounting personnel from both companies. Collaboration is key to a seamless transition.

Prepare the audit team

It’s important to notify your audit team about M&A plans long before a transaction takes place — even if there’s still a chance the deal might fall through. This gives the audit team time to pull specialists together who can help you generate timely, accurate postacquisition financial statements.

For example, you’ll need someone with experience applying the business combination rules under U.S. Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) and tax experts who know the rules for reporting different types of deal structures under today’s federal and state tax rules. Likewise, if you’re acquiring a company that uses different accounting systems, you’ll need someone who’s familiar with the acquired company’s software, especially if it’s no longer supported by the vendor.

Anticipate auditor needs

Even if your team of specialists has been assembled in advance, once you’ve merged, expect audit fieldwork to take more time than usual. The auditors will review documents associated with the merger, such as due diligence workpapers and legal documents governing the purchase. They’ll also ask to review prior financial statements and audit reports for the acquired company.

The audit partner might even ask to review board minutes discussing the acquisition, as well as minutes from meetings conducted by the team responsible for the integration of the newly acquired entity.

Documents don’t tell the full story, however. The audit team will interview key members of your team, such as accounting personnel and members of the due diligence team. To streamline the process, designate an employee to serve as the audit liaison. He or she will be the primary point of contact to gather your auditor’s requests for information and access to company employees and executives.

Contact us

M&As provide opportunities to enhance your company’s value. But it’s hard to gauge the relative success of a transaction without reliable, timely financial statements. Our auditors can help you allocate the purchase price to acquired assets and liabilities and otherwise report combined financial results in accordance with U.S. GAAP.

© 2018

Audit Opinions: How Your Financial Statements Measure Up

Audit opinions differ depending on the information available, financial viability, errors discovered during audit procedures and other limiting factors. The type of opinion your auditor issues tells stakeholders whether you’re in compliance with accounting rules and likely to continue operating as a going concern.

The basics

To find out what type of audit opinion you’ve received, scan the first page of your financial statements. Known as the “audit opinion letter,” this is where your auditor states whether the financial statements are fairly presented in all material respects, compliant with Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) and free from material misstatement. But the opinion doesn’t constitute an endorsement or evaluation of the company’s financial results.

Most audit opinion letters consist of three paragraphs. The introductory paragraph identifies the company, accounting period and auditor’s responsibilities. The second discusses the scope of work performed. The third paragraph contains the audit opinion.

In general, there are four types of audit opinions, ranked from most to least desirable.

1. Unqualified. A clean “unqualified” opinion is the most common (and desirable). Here the auditor states that the company’s financial condition, position and operations are fairly presented in the financial statements.

2. Qualified. The auditor expresses a qualified opinion if the financial statements appear to contain a small deviation from GAAP, but are otherwise fairly presented. To illustrate: An auditor will “qualify” his or her opinion if a borrower incorrectly estimates warranty expense, but the exception doesn’t affect the rest of the financial statements.

Qualified opinions are also given if the company’s management limits the scope of audit procedures. For example, a qualified opinion may result if you deny the auditor access to a warehouse to observe year-end inventory counts.

3. Adverse. When an auditor issues an adverse opinion, there are material exceptions to GAAP that affect the financial statements as a whole. Here the auditor indicates that the financial statements aren’t presented fairly. Typically, an adverse opinion letter contains a fourth paragraph that outlines these exceptions.

4. Disclaimer. Even more alarming to lenders and investors is a disclaimer opinion. Disclaimers occur when an auditor gives up midaudit. Reasons for disclaimers may include significant scope limitations, material doubt about the company’s going-concern status and uncertainties within the subject company itself. A disclaimer opinion letter briefly outlines the auditor’s reasons for throwing in the towel.

Ready, set, audit

Before fieldwork starts for the audit of your 2018 financial statements, let’s discuss any foreseeable scope limitations and possible deviations from GAAP. Depending on the situation, we may be able to recommend corrective actions and help you proactively communicate with stakeholders about the reasons for a less-than-perfect audit opinion.

© 2018

Cash vs. Accrual Reporting: Which is Right for Your Business?

Small businesses often use the cash-basis method of accounting. As businesses grow, they usually convert to accrual-basis reporting for federal tax purposes and to conform with U.S. Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP).

Starting this tax year, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) has increased the threshold for businesses that qualify for the simpler cash method for federal tax purposes. Here’s how these accounting methods compare and how the TCJA could affect your financial and tax reporting decisions.

Cash method

Companies that use the cash-basis method of accounting recognize revenue as customers pay invoices and expenses as they pay bills. So, cash-basis entities often report large fluctuations in profits from period to period, especially if they’re engaged in long-term projects. This can make it hard to benchmark a company’s performance from year to year — or against other entities that use the accrual method.

Cash-basis entities also tend to postpone revenue recognition and accelerate expense payments at year end. This strategy can temporarily defer the company’s tax liability. But the flipside is that it can make a company appear less profitable to lenders and investors.

Accrual method

The more complex accrual-basis accounting method conforms to the matching principle under GAAP. That is, revenue (and expenses) are “matched” to the periods in which they’re earned (or incurred).

Accrual-basis entities report several asset and liability accounts that are generally absent on a cash-basis balance sheet. Examples include prepaid expenses, accounts receivable, accounts payable, work in progress, accrued expenses and deferred taxes.

TCJA considerations

Under the TCJA, for tax years beginning after 2017, businesses with average annual gross receipts of $25 million or less for the previous three tax years are eligible for the cash method of accounting for federal income tax purposes. Under prior law, the gross-receipts threshold for the cash method was only $5 million.

In addition, for tax years beginning after 2017, the TCJA modifies Section 451 of the Internal Revenue Code so that a business recognizes revenue for tax purposes no later than when it’s recognized for financial reporting purposes. So, if you use the accrual method for financial reporting purposes, you must also use it for federal income tax purposes.

These changes could prompt more companies to opt for the simpler, tax-deferred cash method for both financial reporting and tax purposes. But it’s not right for everyone.

Look before you leap

As your small business grows, you might be tempted to switch to the accrual method of accounting to reduce variability in financial reporting from year to year — and to attract more sophisticated lenders and investors who prefer GAAP financials. But doing so could accelerate your tax obligations. On the other hand, if you’re newly eligible for the cash method for tax purposes, you may want to switch to that method for the simplicity and tax deferral it offers.

If you’re in either situation, contact us to discuss the pros and cons of these two options to ensure you’re using the optimal method based on your circumstances.

© 2018

Choosing the Right Accounting Method for Tax Purposes

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) liberalized the eligibility rules for using the cash method of accounting, making this method — which is simpler than the accrual method — available to more businesses. Now the IRS has provided procedures a small business taxpayer can use to obtain automatic consent to change its method of accounting under the TCJA. If you have the option to use either accounting method, it pays to consider whether switching methods would be beneficial.

Cash vs. accrual

Generally, cash-basis businesses recognize income when it’s received and deduct expenses when they’re paid. Accrual-basis businesses, on the other hand, recognize income when it’s earned and deduct expenses when they’re incurred, without regard to the timing of cash receipts or payments.

In most cases, a business is permitted to use the cash method of accounting for tax purposes unless it’s:

1. Expressly prohibited from using the cash method, or
2. Expressly required to use the accrual method.

Cash method advantages

The cash method offers several advantages, including:

Simplicity. It’s easier and cheaper to implement and maintain.

Tax-planning flexibility. It offers greater flexibility to control the timing of income and deductible expenses. For example, it allows you to defer income to next year by delaying invoices or to shift deductions into this year by accelerating the payment of expenses. An accrual-basis business doesn’t enjoy this flexibility. For example, to defer income, delaying invoices wouldn’t be enough; the business would have to put off shipping products or performing services.

Cash flow benefits. Because income is taxed in the year it’s received, the cash method does a better job of ensuring that a business has the funds it needs to pay its tax bill.

Accrual method advantages

In some cases, the accrual method may offer tax advantages. For example, accrual-basis businesses may be able to use certain tax-planning strategies that aren’t available to cash-basis businesses, such as deducting year-end bonuses that are paid within the first 2½ months of the following year and deferring income on certain advance payments.

The accrual method also does a better job of matching income and expenses, so it provides a more accurate picture of a business’s financial performance. That’s why it’s required under Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP).

If your business prepares GAAP-compliant financial statements, you can still use the cash method for tax purposes. But weigh the cost of maintaining two sets of books against the potential tax benefits.

Making a change

Keep in mind that cash and accrual are the two primary tax accounting methods, but they’re not the only ones. Some businesses may qualify for a different method, such as a hybrid of the cash and accrual methods.

If your business is eligible for more than one method, we can help you determine whether switching methods would make sense and can execute the change for you if appropriate.

© 2018

Transitioning to Remote Audits


Are you comfortable communicating electronically with your auditors? If so, a logical next step might be to transition from on-site audit procedures to a more “remote” approach. Remote audits can help reduce the time and cost of preparing audited financial statements.

21st century audits

Traditionally, audit fieldwork has involved a team of auditors camping out for weeks (or even months) in one of the conference rooms at the headquarters of the company being audited. Now, thanks to technological advances — including cloud storage, smart devices and secure data-sharing platforms — many audit firms are testing the feasibility of remote auditing as a replacement for sending auditors on-site.

In addition to saving time and audit fees, allowing auditors to work remotely improves the work-life balance for auditors and in-house accounting personnel. Your employees won’t need to stay glued to their desks for the duration of the audit, because they can respond to the auditor’s inquiries and document requests remotely.

Best practices

Changing the format of an audit requires flexibility, including a willingness to embrace the technology needed to facilitate the exchange, review and analysis of relevant documents. You can facilitate the transition process by:

Being responsive to electronic requests. Auditors who are out of sight shouldn’t be out of mind. Answer all remote requests from your auditors in a timely manner. If a key employee will be on vacation or out of the office for an extended period, give the audit team the contact information for the key person’s backup.

Giving employees access to the requisite software. Sharing documents with remote auditors may require you to install specific software on employees’ computers. But your company’s policies may prohibit employees from downloading software without approval from the IT department.

Before remote auditors start “fieldwork,” ask for a list of software and platforms that will be used to interact with in-house personnel. Give the appropriate employees access and authorization to share audit-related data from your company’s systems. Work with IT specialists to address any security concerns they may have with sharing data with the remote auditors.

Tracking audit progress. With less face-to-face time with your auditors, you have fewer opportunities to receive updates on the team’s progress. Ask the engagement partner to explain how they’ll track the performance of their remote auditors, and how they plan to communicate the team’s progress to in-house accounting personnel.

Wave of the future

Like remote working arrangements with employees and contractors, remote audits are a growing trend that could potentially reduce the costs of preparing financial statements. But not every audit firm or business is ready to embrace remote auditing. Contact us to discuss ways to make next year’s audit more efficient and cost-effective.

© 2018

Using Analytical Procedures in An Audit Provides Many Benefits

Analytical procedures can make audits more efficient and effective. First, they can help during the planning and review stages of the audit. But analytics can have an even bigger impact when used to supplement substantive testing during fieldwork.

Defining audit analytics

AICPA auditing standards define analytical procedures as “evaluations of financial information through analysis of plausible relationships among both financial and nonfinancial data.” Analytical procedures also investigate “identified fluctuations or relationships that are inconsistent with other relevant information or that differ from expected values by a significant amount.” Examples of analytical tests include trend, ratio and regression analysis.

Using analytical procedures

During fieldwork, auditors can use analytical procedures to obtain evidence, sometimes in combination with other substantive testing procedures, that identifies misstatements in account balances. Analytical procedures are often more efficient than traditional, manual audit testing procedures that typically require the business being audited to produce significant paperwork. Traditional procedures also usually require substantial time to verify account balances and transactions.

Analytical procedures generally follow these five steps:

1. Form an independent expectation about an account balance or financial relationship.
2. Identify differences between expected and reported amounts.
3. Investigate the most probable cause(s) of any discrepancies.
4. Evaluate the likelihood of material misstatement.
5. Determine the nature and extent of any additional auditing procedures needed.

When using analytical procedures, the auditor must establish a threshold that can be accepted without further investigation. This threshold is a matter of professional judgment, but it’s influenced primarily by the concept of materiality and the desired level of assurance.

For differences that are due to misstatement (rather than a plausible explanation), the auditor must decide whether the misstatement is material (individually or in the aggregate). Material misstatements typically require adjustments to the amount reported and may also necessitate additional audit procedures to determine the scope of the misstatement.

Your role in audit analytics

Done right, analytical procedures can help make your audit less time-consuming, less expensive and more effective at detecting errors and omissions. But it’s important to notify your auditor about any major changes to your operations, accounting methods or market conditions that occurred during the current accounting period.

This insight can help auditors develop more reliable expectations for analytical testing and identify plausible explanations for significant changes from the balance reported in prior periods. Moreover, now that you understand the role analytical procedures play in an audit, you can anticipate audit inquiries, prepare explanations and compile supporting documents before fieldwork starts.

© 2018

Auditing Related-Party Transactions

Business owners generally prefer to work with entities they know and trust. But related-party transactions can provide opportunities for individuals to act in a manner that’s inconsistent with the interests of shareholders. That’s why auditors take pains to identify and properly address related-party transactions.

What is a related party?

Accounting Standards Codification (ASC) Topic 850 defines a related-party transaction as one that takes place between:

  • A parent entity and its subsidiaries,
  • Subsidiaries of a common parent,
  • An entity and trusts for the benefit of its employees, such as pension and profit-sharing trusts that are managed by or under the trusteeship of the entity’s management,
  • An entity and its principal owners and managers (or members of their immediate families), and
  • Affiliated entities.

What’s the risk?

Related-party transactions sometimes involve contracts for goods or services that are priced at less (or more) favorable terms than those in similar arm’s length transactions between unrelated third parties. For example, a spinoff business might lease office space from its parent company at below-market rates. Or a closely held manufacturer might pay the owner’s son an above-market salary and various perks that aren’t available to unrelated employees.

How do auditors address these transactions?

Given the potential for double dealing with related parties, auditors spend significant time hunting for undisclosed related-party transactions. Examples of documents and data sources that can help uncover these transactions are:

  • A list of the company’s current related parties and associated transactions,
  • Minutes from board of directors’ meetings, particularly when the board discusses significant business transactions,
  • Disclosures from board members and senior executives regarding their ownership of other entities, participation on additional boards and previous employment history,
  • Bank statements, especially transactions involving intercompany wires, automated clearing house (ACH) transfers, and check payments, and
  • Press releases announcing significant business transactions with related parties.

Audit procedures that target related-party transactions include 1) testing how related-party transactions are identified and coded in the company’s enterprise resource planning (ERP) system, 2) interviewing accounting personnel responsible for reporting related-party transactions in the company’s financial statements, and 3) analyzing presentation of related-party transactions in financial statements.

Accurate, complete reporting of these transactions requires robust internal controls. A company’s vendor approval process should provide guidelines to help accounting personnel determine whether a supplier qualifies as a related party and mark it accordingly in the ERP system. Without the right mechanisms in place, a company may inadvertently omit a disclosure about a related-party transaction.

Get it right

Undisclosed related-party transactions can raise a red flag to lenders and investors — and may even require a business to restate its financial results. Our auditors are committed to finding, disclosing and reporting these transactions in a transparent manner that complies with U.S. Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP). Contact us for help.

© 2018