For CFOs and Controllers, the end of the year is typically a hectic and sleepless time. No matter how prepared you are, end-of-year planning inevitably brings surprises and last-minute complications.
To create an accurate, timely and surprise-free planning experience, you need to stay organized throughout the year, by preparing detailed monthly and quarterly financial reporting packages that include reconciliations and detailed back-up schedules. In addition, you should work with your outside accounting firm to create a proactive plan that meets your specific tax and financial reporting deadlines.
The steps below will help you plan your company’s audit and tax preparation activities in advance of the New Year.
Start preparing the necessary year-end reports and analysis. Ask your accountant for a to-do list of documents that he or she needs to get your audit and tax preparation rolling. You can create schedules and make copies of the necessary supporting documentation that you can provide electronically before they start their field work activities.
In addition, for reports that your accountant requests every year, consider creating a process where you update the files on a monthly basis and include them in your internal monthly reporting package. This will help avoid tedious, time-consuming tasks at year end.
Request interim testing. Ask your auditor for interim testing to get a head start on your audit. This isn’t something you fully control, but try to arrange this testing as soon as possible. For example, work with your auditor to test accounts receivable before year-end. Your clients may be unmotivated to provide accounts-receivable confirmations in a timely manner, making advanced planning and communication critical.
Prepare contact lists for the bank, legal and accounts-receivable confirmations. Organize and prepare the necessary information for all of the confirmations that your auditor will prepare. Since the success in getting responses relies on the full cooperation of multiple outside parties, do not wait until the last minute to send this information to your auditor.
Check your general ledger and sub-ledger balances. As elementary as it might sound, be sure to prepare monthly balance sheet account reconciliations. These reconciliations will help you avoid situations where Accounts Receivable, Accounts Payable or other sub-ledger account balances do not tie to the general ledger. In addition, you can provide these schedules to your auditor as support for the account balances that they will review as part of their field work.
Review quarterly tax payments. Your accountant needs to know whether you made quarterly tax payments, when you made them and the amount paid to determine how much you still owe. Schedule a meeting with your tax accountant to review and compare your company’s year to date performance to the information utilized when they prepared your initial tax estimates. This will help to ensure that you are making sufficient, estimated tax payments and avoid large unexpected payments or potential penalties and interest.
Update Depreciation Schedules. Update your fixed asset software or excel spreadsheets with all of your current year purchases and asset disposals. Proactively work with your outside accountant to properly classify the assets and book the depreciation entry as part of the monthly close process.
Unusual or Non-Recurring Transactions. If your company is entering into some type of transaction that is unusual or non-recurring, proactively reach out to your accountant to properly account for the transaction. Ideally, these discussions should occur before you enter into the transaction so that all financial and tax implications are discussed and thought out in advance.
Prepare for 1099 Reporting. As part of your vendor set-up process, you should make it a requirement that you have a completed W9 Form from all of your vendors before any payments are issued. If this is not the case or if you have missing W9’s, be sure to start collecting them well in advance of year-end.
Additionally, if you prepare your own 1099’s be sure to review your accounting system and vendor set-up to ensure that you have all of the 1099 vendors properly identified and your accounting system set-up properly in order to prepare and print the 1099’s. If your outside accounting firm prepares the 1099’s be sure to have all of information available and in a format that they can use in order to prepare the 1099’s.
Thinking of “year-end” as a year-round series of planning activities can alleviate the pressure you feel at the end of the year. Being proactive about year-end planning also reduces the amount of time you spend on your end-of-year audit and tax preparation and allows you to focus on your other daily activities.
As director of CFO Advisory Services as Wiss & Company, Paul Ursich helps meet the audit and tax preparation needs of clients in various fields. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.