November 30, 2021 | BY Joseph Hoffman
An external audit is less stressful and less intrusive if you anticipate your auditor’s document requests. Auditors typically ask clients to provide similar documents year after year. They’ll accept copies or client-prepared schedules for certain items, such as bank reconciliations and fixed asset ledgers. To verify other items, such as leases, invoices and bank statements, they’ll want to see original source documents.
What does change annually is the sample of transactions that auditors randomly select to test your account balances. The element of surprise is important because it keeps bookkeepers honest.
Accounting personnel can also prepare for audit inquiries by comparing last year’s financial statements to the current ones. Auditors generally ask about any line items that have changed materially. A “materiality” rule of thumb for small businesses might be an inquiry about items that change by more than, say, 10% or $10,000.
For example, if advertising fees (or sales commissions) increased by 20% in 2021, it may raise a red flag, especially if it didn’t correlate with an increase in revenue. Be ready to explain why the cost went up and provide invoices (or payroll records) for auditors to review.
In addition, auditors may start asking unexpected questions when a new accounting rule is scheduled to go into effect. For example, private companies and nonprofits must implement new rules for reporting long-term lease contracts starting in 2022. So companies that provide comparative financial statements should start gathering additional information about their leases in 2021 to meet the disclosure requirements for next year.
Minimize audit adjustments
Ideally, management should learn from the adjusting journal entries auditors make at the end of audit fieldwork each year. These adjustments correct for accounting errors, unrealistic estimates and omissions. Often internally prepared financial statements need similar adjustments, year after year, to comply with U.S. Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP).
For example, auditors may need to prompt clients to write off bad debts, evaluate repair and supply accounts for capitalizable items, and record depreciation expense and accruals. Making routine adjustments before the auditor arrives may save time and reduce discrepancies between the preliminary and final financial statements.
You can also reduce audit adjustments by asking your auditor about any major transactions or complicated accounting rules before the start of fieldwork. For instance, you might be uncertain how to account for a recent acquisition or classify a shareholder advance.
An external audit doesn’t have to be time-consuming or disruptive. The key is to prepare, so that audit fieldwork will run smoothly. Contact us to discuss any concerns as you prepare your preliminary year-end statements.
November 22, 2021 | BY Joseph Hoffman
Are you thinking about merging with or acquiring a business? CPA-prepared financial statements can provide valuable insight into historical financial results. But an independent quality of earnings (QOE) report can be another valuable tool in the due diligence process. It looks beyond the quantitative information provided by the seller’s financial statements.
These reports can help buyers who want more detailed information — and help justify a discounted offer price for acquisition targets that face excessive threats and risks. Conversely, when these reports are included in the offer package, it can add credibility to the seller’s historical and prospective financial statements. They may also help justify a premium asking price for businesses that are positioned to leverage emerging opportunities and key strengths.
QOE analyses can be performed on financial statements that have been prepared in-house, as well as those that have been compiled, reviewed or audited by a CPA firm. Rather than focus on historical results and compliance with U.S. Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP), QOE reports focus on how much cash flow the company is likely to generate for investors in the future.
Examples of issues that a QOE report might uncover:
Deficient accounting policies and procedures,
Excessive concentration of revenue with one customer,
Transactions with undisclosed related parties,
Inaccurate period-end adjustments,
Unusual revenue or expense items,
Insufficient loss reserves, and
Overly optimistic prospective financial statements.
A QOE report typically analyzes the individual components of earnings (that is, revenue and expenses) on a month-to-month basis. This helps determine whether earnings are sustainable. It also can identify potential risks and opportunities, both internal and external, that could affect the company’s ability to operate as a going concern.
EBITDA vs. QOE
It’s common in M&A due diligence for buyers to focus on earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) for the trailing 12 months. Though EBITDA is often a good starting point for assessing earnings quality, it may need to be adjusted for such items as nonrecurring items, above- or below-market owners’ compensation, discretionary expenses, and differences in accounting methods used by the company compared to industry peers.
In addition, QOE reports usually entail detailed ratio and trend analysis to identify unusual activity. Additional procedures can help determine whether changes are positive or negative.
For example, an increase in accounts receivable could result from revenue growth (a positive indicator) or a buildup of uncollectible accounts (a negative indicator). If it’s the former, the gross margin on incremental revenue should be analyzed to determine if the new business is profitable — or if the revenue growth results from aggressive price cuts or a temporary change in market conditions.
Fortunately, the scope and format of QOE reports can be customized, because they’re not bound by prescriptive guidance from the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants. Contact us for more information about how you can use an independent QOE report in the M&A process.
November 17, 2021 | BY Alan Botwinick & Ben Spielman
Roth&Co’s latest video series: Real Estate Right Now.
Presented by Alan Botwinick and Ben Spielman, co-chairs of the Roth&Co Real Estate Department, this series covers the latest real estate trends and opportunities and how you can make the most of them. This episode discusses critical valuation metrics used to calculate the potential of an investment property.
Watch our short video:
Investing in real estate can be profitable, rewarding and successful. At the same time, the real estate investment industry is also demanding, competitive and very often, risky. Success requires a combination of knowledge, organization and determination, and while this article may not be able to supply some of those requirements, it will help increase your knowledge about how to initially assess a real estate investment. Here are three useful tools to help calculate the potential of an investment property:
o Gross Rent Multiplier (GRM)
o Price Per Unit (PPU)
o Capitalization Rate (Cap Rate)
Gross Rent Multiplier (GRM)
When an investor considers buying a commercial or rental property, he’ll need to know how long it will take to earn back his investment. The GRM is a simple calculation that tells us how many years of rent it will take to pay off the cost of an investment purchase. The GRM formula compares a property’s fair market value (the price of the property) to its gross rental income.
Gross Rent Multiplier = Purchase Price / Gross Annual Rental Income
The result of the calculation represents how many years it will take for the investor to recoup the money he spent on the purchase of the property. The lower the gross rent multiplier, the sooner the investor can expect to get his money back.
Calculating an investment property’s GRM is not complex and will result in a useful metric, but in practicality, it does not consider operating costs such as the debt service coverage, the property’s maintenance expenses, taxes, local property values and other important factors that strongly impact the profitability of an investment
Experienced investors use the GRM metric to make quick assessments of their opportunities, and to quickly weed through their options. A high GRM may serve as a red flag, directing the investor to look elsewhere and spend more time analyzing more optimal options.
Price Per Unit (PPU)
Another tool in the investment arsenal is the PPU, or Price Per Unit. This calculates just that – the price per door on your investment property. The calculation is simple:
Price Per Unit = Purchase Price / Number of Units
In other words, the PPU is the amount the seller is asking per unit in the building. The PPU can provide a broad view of the market and can give you a good idea of how one property compares to another. The downside of the calculation is that it does not determine the ROI or Return on Investment. PPU does not take any other features of the property into consideration, so its usefulness is limited.
Capitalization Rate (Cap Rate)
The Cap Rate is a realistic tool that considers an investment’s operating expenses and income, and then calculates its potential rate of return (as opposed to the GRM, which looks only at gross income). The higher the Cap Rate, the better it is for the investor. Why is it realistic? Because the Cap Rate estimates how profitable an income property will be, relative to its purchase price, including its operational expenses in the computation.
Capitalization Rate = Net Operating Income / Purchase Price
Like any other calculation, the Cap Rate will only be as accurate as the numbers applied. If a potential investor under- or overestimates the property’s operational costs or other factors, the calculated Cap Rate won’t be accurate.
There is no one-size-fits-all calculation that will direct an investor to real estate heaven. However, utilizing basic tools like the GRM, PPU and Cap Rate will give an investor a broad view of the investment’s potential. Using these tools to jumpstart the due diligence process can help the investor determine whether further research into the investment is warranted and what a property’s potential for profit may be.
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This material has been prepared for informational purposes only, and is not intended to provide, nor should it be relied upon for legal or tax advice. If you have any specific legal or tax questions regarding this content or related issues, please consult with your professional legal or tax advisor.
November 15, 2021 | BY Joseph Hoffman
Auditing standards require external auditors to consider potential fraud risks by watching out for conditions that provide the opportunity to commit fraud. Unfortunately, conditions during the COVID-19 pandemic may have increased your company’s fraud risks. For example, more employees may be working remotely than ever before. And some workers may be experiencing personal financial distress — due to reduced hours, decreased buying power or the loss of a spouse’s income — that could cause them to engage in dishonest behaviors.
Financial statement auditors must maintain professional skepticism regarding the possibility that a material misstatement due to fraud may be present throughout the audit process. Specifically, Statement on Auditing Standards (SAS) No. 99, Consideration of Fraud in a Financial Statement Audit, requires auditors to consider potential fraud risks before and during the information-gathering process. Business owners and managers may find it helpful to understand how this process works — even if their financial statements aren’t audited.
Doubling down on fraud risks
During planning procedures, auditors must conduct brainstorming sessions about fraud risks. In a financial reporting context, auditors are primarily concerned with two types of fraud:
1. Asset misappropriation. Employees may steal tangible assets, such as cash or inventory, for personal use. The risk of theft may be heightened if internal controls have been relaxed during the pandemic. For example, some companies have waived the requirement for two signatures on checks, and others have reduced oversight during physical inventory counts.
2. Financial misstatement. Intentional misstatements, including omissions of amounts or disclosures in financial statements, may be used to deceive people who rely on your company’s financial statements. For example, managers who are unable to meet their financial goals may be tempted to book fictitious revenue to preserve their year-end bonuses. Or a CFO may alter fair value estimates to avoid reporting impairment of goodwill and other intangibles and triggering a loan covenant violation.
Identifying risk factors
Auditors must obtain an understanding of the entity and its environment, including internal controls, in order to identify the risks of material misstatement due to fraud. They must presume that, if given the opportunity, companies will improperly recognize revenue and management will attempt to override internal controls.
Examples of fraud risk factors that auditors consider include:
- Large amounts of cash or other valuable inventory items on hand, without adequate security measures in place,
- Employees with conflicts of interest, such as relationships with other employees and financial interests in vendors or customers,
- Unrealistic goals and performance-based compensation that tempt workers to artificially boost revenue and profits, and
- Weak internal controls.
Auditors also watch for questionable journal entries that dishonest employees could use to hide their impropriety. These entries might, for example, be made to intracompany accounts, on the last day of the accounting period or with limited descriptions. Once fraud risks have been assessed, audit procedures must be planned and performed to obtain reasonable assurance that the financial statements are free from misstatement.
Auditors generally aren’t required to investigate fraud. But they are required to communicate fraud risk findings to the appropriate level of management, who can then take actions to prevent fraud in their organizations. If conditions exist that make it impractical to plan an audit in a way that will adequately address fraud risks, an auditor may even decide to withdraw from the engagement.
Contact us to discuss your concerns about heightened fraud risks during the pandemic and ways we can adapt our audit procedures for emerging or increased fraud risk factors.
November 04, 2021 | BY Joseph Hoffman
Graphs, performance dashboards and other visual aids can help managers, investors and lenders digest complex financial information. Likewise, auditors also use visual aids during a financial statement audit to quickly identify trends and anomalies that warrant attention.
Your auditor uses many tools and techniques to validate the accuracy and integrity of your company’s financial records. Data visualization — using a picture to show a relationship between two accounts or how a metric has changed over time — can help improve the efficiency and effectiveness of your audit.
Microsoft Excel and other dedicated data visualization software solutions can be used to generate various graphs and charts that facilitate audit planning. These tools can also help managers and executives understand the nature of the auditor’s testing and inquiry procedures — and provide insight into potential threats and opportunities.
Here are four examples of how auditors might use visualization to leverage your company’s data:
1. Employee activity in the accounting department. Line graphs and pie charts can help auditors analyze the number, timing and value of journal entries completed by each employee in your accounting department. Such analysis may uncover an unfair allocation of work in the department — or employee involvement in adjusting entries outside of their assigned area of responsibility. Managers can then use these tools to reassign work in the accounting department, pursue a fraud investigation or improve internal controls.
2. Activity in accounts prone to fraud and abuse. Auditors closely monitor certain high-risk accounts for fraud and errors. For example, data visualization can shine a spotlight on the timing and magnitude of refunds and discounts, highlight employees involved in each transaction and potentially uncover anomalies for additional scrutiny.
3. Journal entries prior to the end of the accounting period. Auditors analyze and confirm the timing and magnitude of your journal entries leading up to a month-end or year-end close. Timeline charts and other data visualization tools can help auditors understand trends in your company’s activity during a month, quarter or year.
4. Forecast vs. actual. Line graphs and bar charts can show how your company’s actual performance compares to budgets and forecasts. This can help confirm that you’re on track to meet your goals for the period. Conversely, these tools can also uncover significant deviations that require further analysis to determine whether the cause is internal (for instance, fraud or inefficiency) or external (for instance, cost increases or deteriorating market conditions). In some cases, management will need to revise budgets based on the findings of this analysis — and potentially take corrective measures.
Show and tell
Data visualization allows your data to talk. Auditors use these tools to better understand your operations and guide their risk assessment, inquiries and testing procedures. They also use visual aids to explain complex matters and highlight trends and anomalies to management during the audit process. Some graphs and charts can even be added to financial statement disclosures to communicate more effectively with stakeholders. Contact us for more information about using data visualization in your audit and beyond.