All Posts by Charles Hall


About the Author

Charles Hall is a practicing CPA and Certified Fraud Examiner. For the last thirty-five years, he has primarily audited governments, nonprofits, and small businesses. He is the author of The Little Book of Local Government Fraud Prevention, The Why and How of Auditing, Audit Risk Assessment Made Easy, and Preparation of Financial Statements & Compilation Engagements. He frequently speaks at continuing education events. Charles consults with other CPA firms, assisting them with auditing and accounting issues.

loan guarantee
Mar 17

Do Loan Guarantees Create Liabilities?

By Charles Hall | Accounting

Can a loan guarantees create liabilities that go on the balance sheet of the guarantor?


loan guarantee

Recording Loan Guarantees

FASB 5 (now ASC 450) has been with us for some time. It states that a company should record a contingent liability if two things occur:

  1. The liability is subject to estimation (you can calculate it)
  2. It is probable that the liability will be paid

ASC 450 addresses these contingent liabilities.

FIN 45 (now ASC 460) was issued in the early 2000s to clarify that some loan guarantees create liabilities–even when there is no loan default. ASC 460 deals with noncontingent liabilities. And it’s the noncontingent piece that confuses everyone (including me). So let’s first take a look at noncontingent liabilities.

Noncontingent Liability

ABC Co. guarantees a $2,000,000 loan of XYZ Co. (an unrelated entity); in exchange, XYZ agrees to pay a fee of $50,000.

Should ABC Co. record a liability for the guarantee? Yes.

What’s the entry?

                                                         Dr.                 Cr.

Accounts Receivable                $50,000

Guarantee Liability                                           $50,000

The standard allows the guarantor to use the guarantee fee as a practical expedient to valuing the loan guarantee.

What if there is no guarantee fee? For instance, let’s say ABC Co. guarantees a loan for Sidewalk Safety Nonprofit, Inc. This guarantee is provided to the nonprofit free of charge. How would ABC Co. record this guarantee?

First ABC Co. would need to determine the value of the guarantee. If Sidewalk Safety’s interest rate is 8% without the guarantee, but now it’s 4%, then you can compute the differential using present value calculations. Let’s say the result is $40,000, what is the entry?

                                                                       Dr.                Cr.

Guarantee Expense (Contribution)      $40,000

Guarantee Liability                                                       $40,000

Guarantee of Related Party Debt

What if the loan guarantee is for an entity owned by the same parties? If the guarantee is on the debt of a related entity under common control, ASC 460-10-25-1 exempts the guarantor from the requirement to record the guarantee liability.

Next, we’ll see how to relieve the guarantee liability.

Guarantee Liability – In Subsequent Periods

After inception, the fair value liability (for both examples above) is taken to income as the guarantor is released from risk; the liability is to be adjusted to fair value at the period end.

ASC 460 does not provide detailed guidance as to how the guarantor’s initial liability should be measured after its initial recognition. Depending on the nature of the guarantee, the guarantor’s release from risk is recognized with an increase to earnings using one of three methods:

  1. Systematic and rational
  2. Deferring until expiration or settlement of the guarantee
  3. Remeasurement at fair value (for guarantees accounted for as derivatives)

You now know how to account for the noncontingent liability, but what if the guaranteed party defaults on the loan. Now the guarantor needs to record the loan as a liability.

Contingent Liability

For example, what if Sidewalk Safety defaults on the loan? Then ABC Co. needs to book a liability for the remaining debt. Sidewalk Safety’s default triggers ASC 450.

This is the contingent piece of the equation (for which no amount is typically recorded at the inception of the guarantee). Upon Sidewalk Safety’s default, the debt amount is subject to estimation and payment is probable. ABC Co. is on the hook for the remaining debt.

supplementary information compilations and preparations
Mar 08

Supplementary Information: SSARS

By Charles Hall | Preparation, Compilation & Review

Are you wondering how to present supplementary information in compilation and preparation engagements? What supplementary information (SI) should be included? How does the accountant define his or her responsibility for SI?

Often accountants, at the request of their clients, add supplementary information to the financial statements. Such information is never required (to be in compliance with a reporting framework) but may be useful.

supplementary information compilations and preparations

You can think of financials with supplementary information in this manner:

Financial statements – Required – The jeep in the picture above

Supplementary Information – Not required – The camper

You’re not going anywhere without a vehicle (it’s required). And your camper (not required) is no good without an automobile to pull it. Kind of a silly analogy, I know, but maybe it will help you remember.

I normally add a divider page between the financial statements and supplementary information (though such as page is not required); the divider page simply says “Supplementary Information” and nothing else.

SSARS 21 defines supplementary information as follows:

Information presented outside the basic financial statements, excluding required supplementary information, that is not considered necessary for the financial statements to be fairly presented in accordance with the applicable financial reporting framework.

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Solo Accountant or Partnership
Mar 07

Solo Accountant or a Partnership: Which is Best?

By Charles Hall | Accounting and Auditing

Solo accountant or partnership. Which is best? Today we tackle this question.

We all live with fear, but accountants have their own variety. I think back on my college years and the wondering about how my life and career would unfold. And I wanted—really wanted—to see the future, but could not. 

At twenty-one, I would have given a prince’s sum for a crystal ball. But even if the seer’s tool existed, I had no money. So I ventured out, hands extended in darkness, hoping things would go well. And why did I desire to know the future? To avoid mistakes. To lessen my fear. But mistakes—not crystal balls—are how you learn.

Through the years, my career evolved blandly, though with a few jerks and screams (I had a brain tumor; shortly after that, my son has born with cystic fibrosis). But, overall, my work life has unfolded—like most—day by day.

My First Job

In the early days of my first job, I realized how little I knew, though I had a masters degree in accounting. Like a new golfer, I felt—and looked—awkward. My college professors trained me well, but I was still a duffer. I muddled my way through the first year, little realizing how much I was learning—and not understanding my firm was doing me a favor. They were paying me to learn. (You only get this perspective—later—when you are an employer.)

Solo Accountant or Partnership
One year into public accounting, the lights came on.
I finally hit shots like a real accountant. I finally felt normal. I finally moved more naturally. But after three years in my junior role, another firm came calling, asking me to move. They offered more money and more opportunity, so I ventured out.

My Second Job

My second job was more of an apprenticeship. My boss mentored and trained me. He allowed me to assume responsibility. I think you could say this is where I came into my own. But even though I liked my boss, we had disagreements. He promised one thing but delivered another. I found myself doing most of the work with no movement to the promised position. My boss was a good man, but at age 68, it was obvious, he had no desire to retire (though that was the agreement).

So, I left with no job. (I know. Not smart, huh?) This was quite scary, especially when you have two children and a wife at home—in other words, no other income. What did I do? I hung my shingle. 

Solo Accountant

In those years, I had my greatest joys and fears. To go from nothing to something was like climbing a mountain. And I am not the adventuresome type. In the early days, there was no cash flow—and I mean none. I recall, like a scene from a Charles Dickens’ story, nights of soup and bread. And much of the time, I had this deep sense of fear. Nevertheless, I survived and—at times—even thrived.  

The joy of owning my own firm came in the freedom to come and go as I pleased, to do what I wanted—and when I wanted. But freedom comes with baggage. Namely, overhead, unsteady cash flows, and legal exposure. Even so, the freedom to make my own decisions was a breath of fresh air. If I wanted to pursue a new strategy, I did so. If I wanted to leave work early, I left. If I wanted to buy a new computer, I bought it. No committees. No boss. No one was telling me what I could or could not do. It was nice.

But in working alone, I learned a few things about myself. I love freedom, but I hate fear. I also found that I am more productive in a group environment. Why? Accountability. Additionally, I discovered I need more wisdom than I (alone) possess. As much as I hate to admit it (call it pride), I need a group of people. 


So, for most of my career, partnerships have been my work environment of choice. I like steady paychecks. I enjoy having answers to my questions just down the hallway.

The wisdom of partnerships is a beautiful thing. The Bible provides this word: 

Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with any advisors, they succeed. Proverbs 15:22

I can’t count the times I have seen problems surface—seemingly—with no answer, but then, in a partnership meeting, ideas, disagreements, thoughts are tossed around. And in the end, there is an answer. Creative, wise, sound.

Multiple perspectives meld together to provide insight, a wisdom much greater than my own. But submission is necessary to be a part of a partnership. And I think that’s hard for most people, including me. And while I desire to do as I please, the power of the group is real. People working together often achieve what individuals cannot.   

Solo Accountant or Partnership – Which Do You Prefer?

So, which is best? Solo Accountant or partnership?

In the end, the decision to work alone or in a group is a personal decision based on our own bents. Some people work better by themselves and want freedom more than anything. I get that. Others find success in a partnership. So which are you? One who likes to work alone or one who loves a group? What makes you the way you are?

For additional insights, check out my post: What I Wish I had Known About Public Accounting.

Debt issuance cost
Mar 05

Debt Issuance Costs: New Parking Place

By Charles Hall | Accounting

Debt issuance costs have a new parking place. For some time now, such costs were booked as a deferred charge (an asset). Now, these cost will be netted with the related debt

This change is required by Accounting Standards Update No. 2015-03, Interest – Imputation of Interest, Simplifying the Presentation of Debt Issuance Costs (Subtopic 835-30).

If you have not already done so, you need to adopt this standard for years ending December 31, 2016. This is a change in accounting principle.

Debt issuance cost

Accounting for Debt Issuance Costs

ASU 2015-03 (ASC 835-30) states the following (bold emphasis mine):

To simplify the presentation of debt issuance costs, the amendments in this Update require that debt issuance costs related to a recognized debt liability be presented in the balance sheet as a direct deduction from the carrying amount of that debt liability, consistent with debt discounts.

(This article addresses accounting for nongovernmental entities. Debt issuance costs for governments are expensed as incurred.)

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Ten Technology Tips for Accountants
Mar 02

Top 10 Technology Tips for Accountants

By Charles Hall | Technology

Are you looking for technology tips for accountants? Here are ten tips that will make you more productive.

Ten Technology Tips for Accountants

Ten Technology Tips for Accountants

Here are my top ten technology tips in no certain order (with links to prior blog posts).

  1. Use Notability to take notes.
  2. Use Office 365 to jointly create Word or Excel documents with others.
  3. Use Basecamp to manage projects (such as audits).
  4. Use Scanbot as your phone scanner.
  5. Use a Livescribe pen to take notes with audio.
  6. Use Evernote as your personal digital library.
  7. Travel light as a minimalist auditor.
  8. Use your cell phone in creative ways as an accountant.
  9. Use technology to save your life.
  10. Use technology to make your office work life more efficient.

Those are my ideas. What are yours?

Also, here are Eight Ways to Increase Your Efficiency and Productivity as a CPA.