Tag Archives for " Financial Statements "

Cash flow statement errors
Dec 31

Three Steps to Correct Cash Flow Statement Errors

By Charles Hall | Accounting

Do you struggle with creating cash flow statements? Would you like to know how to correct cash flow statement errors? Below I explain how. We'll also discuss when you can omit cash flow statements and if it’s desirable or undesirable to do so. 

Cash flows are the lifeblood of any entity. Therefore, we must ensure the correctness of cash flow statements. For many small businesses, the auditor creates and audits this statement. So we need to make sure we do so correctly. 

Correcting Cash Flow Errors

Cash flow statement errors can be challenging, but, in many cases, there is a simple solution.

Example from My Office

This morning a staff member came to my office and said, "Something is out on my cash flow statement, and I don't know how to fix it. It has to do with PPP loan forgiveness of $280,000." (Most people know where the problem is, but they don't know how to correct the outage.)

So I told him what I've said to many over the years. "Imagine there are three physical buckets: operating, investing, financing. Then pretend the transaction in question is the only one of the year." Next, ask, "was cash received, and if yes, how much?" And finally, "in what bucket should I place the cash?" Mentally you are placing physical dollars in the three physical buckets even though cash is received electronically and physically.

Returning to my conversation with my staff member, I asked, "did the business receive any PPP money in the current year?" He said, "no, all came in the prior year." My next question was, "how much cash belongs to any of the three buckets in the current year?" And he said, "none." 

The PPP money was a cash inflow that went into the financing bucket in the prior year. In the current year, there is no cash, only forgiveness. It's a noncash transaction. Now, think about the journal entry to recognize the loan forgiveness: the company debited the loan payable and credited a revenue account. 

So if the company uses the indirect method in its cash flow statement, it begins with net income. We know $280,000 of PPP loan forgiveness is in net income. If we pretend that's the only transaction, then net income is $280,000. And how much cash was received in the current year? Yes, $0. So we know we need to subtract $280,000 from net income to get to $0 cash flows from operations. Just below net income, we'd include a line titled "PPP loan forgiveness," subtracting the PPP amount to arrive at $0. 

There's the answer to this problem, and this example explains how to correct cash flow statement errors. 

Isolate Cash Flow Problem

The mistake most people make in solving cash flow problems is trying to think about several different transactions simultaneously. Try to focus on one transaction at a time.   

The cash flows from investing and financing are usually easy to determine. Why? Because we reflect the actual cash inflows and outflows in those sections of the cash flow statement. Problems commonly arise in the operating area because of the indirect method (starting with net income and backing into cash flow from operations). When they do, see if you can determine the net change in each of the three buckets. You can back into the net change for operations if you know the net cash change and the net changes for investing and financing: subtract the net amounts for investing and financing from the net cash change. Then you can work from there to see why cash flow from operations is out (if that is the troublesome area).

Three Steps to Correct Cash Flow Statement Errors 

From there, use these three steps to correct cash flow statement errors:

  1. Pretend the transaction is the only transaction for the year
  2. Determine how much cash was received for that transaction, if any
  3. Determine whether the amount in question is operating, investing, or financing

Spreadsheet with Balance Sheet Changes

Of course, I also recommend you place the current year balance sheet with comparative prior period numbers in an Excel spreadsheet. That way, you can see the changes in the numbers. Identify the investing and financing changes such as the investment and debt balance sheet lines. The remaining balance sheet changes are operating lines. The cash change on the spreadsheet is your net cash change on the statement. 

Cash Flow Statement Importance

We, as auditors, pay less attention to cash flows than we should. We often focus on revenues, net income, or equity, but not cash flows. Why? I believe it's our training: our trainers tell us revenues, net income, and equity are most important. But if you were buying a business or loaning money to the company, would you pay attention to cash flows? Almost certainly. What if you were valuing the business? Would you pay attention to cash flows? Yes, again.

Cash flows from operations might be the most crucial number in the financial statements since it is the entity's lifeblood. Show me a business that generates no cash flow from operations, and I'll show you a company that will go under (in most cases). 

In evaluating going concern, the company and auditors review cash flows. After all, the going concern assessment is about whether a company can meet its ongoing obligations to pay its future bills. So cash flow information is crucial for companies with continuing losses or deficit equity positions. 

Financial statements sometimes don't contain a cash flow statement. But should they?

Omitting Cash Flow Statements

It is permissible to omit the cash flow statement in a compilation--and most accountants do. True even for financial statements created under generally accepted accounting principles. (You may not omit the statement from audited or reviewed financial statements if GAAP is in use unless the auditor's report is modified.)

And special purpose financial statements such as tax-basis don't require a cash flow statement even if audited or reviewed. 

But is it wise to omit this statement? Maybe not. All businesses, even small ones, need to know how much cash is coming in or going out by category--not just net income. And I'm sure lenders appreciate cash flow information: that's how businesses pay loans.

Of course, the decision to include or omit the statement (when it's optional) for small businesses is a cost/benefit decision. Creating the cash flow statement requires an increase in the fee for compilations, for example. And the owners may not desire to pay the additional amount. 

Businesses usually don't need cash flow information for interim compilations, such as monthly financial statements. But the company owners or management might find value in annual cash flow statements. 

Cash Flow Information

Use the three steps listed above to hone in on cash flow statement outages. Hopefully, doing so will aid you in making corrections. And consider including cash flow statements in all financial statements, if desired by your client.    

Related party transaction
Dec 22

Related Party Transactions: Fraud

By Charles Hall | Auditing , Financial Statement Fraud , Fraud

Related party transactions can be a means to fraudulent financial reporting. Yet, auditors often don't detect the financial statement manipulation, leading to audit failure. This article explains how to understand and find fraudulent related party transactions. 

Related Party Transaction

What is a related-party transaction?

It’s a transaction between two parties that have a close association. For example, two commonly owned businesses sell services or goods to one another. In another example, a business buys property from a board member or from the owner. 

Normal Related Party Transactions

Related party transactions are typical and often expected. For example, a business might rent real estate from a commonly owned entity. In such an arrangement, the rental rate can be at fair value. So if a company pays for twelve months' rent at a standard rate, everything is fine. No manipulation is occurring. 

Reason for Related Party Fraud

But in some cases, companies use related party transactions to deceive financial statement readers. Why? Because the business is not performing as well as desired, or maybe the company is not in compliance with debt covenants. (Noncompliance can trigger a call for repayment, or the loan can become a current liability based on accounting standards.) 

Fraudulent Increase in Net Income

Imagine this scene. It's December 15th, and management is reviewing its annual financial results. The CEO and CFO receive substantial bonuses if the company's net profit is over $10 million. At present, it looks as if the business is just short, with an expected net income of $9.7 million. They need another $300,000. 

So they develop a related party transaction whereby a commonly owned company pays their business $350,000 for bogus reasons--what auditors call a transaction outside the normal course of business. Since the CEO and CFO also manage the related entity, they control the accounting for both entities.  

Management performs the trick on December 27th, and soon they are toasting drinks in the back room. The bonus enables the CEO to buy his wife a new Tesla and the CFO to take a one-month trip to Europe. And it was so easy. 

In considering related party transactions, know that they are more likely with smaller entities, especially when one person owns several entities. So you'll want to know if associated businesses are making payments or loans to commonly owned companies.

Related Party Audit Procedures

As you begin your audit, request a list of all related-party transactions. Also, pay attention to such activity in the company's minutes. Additionally, electronically search company receipts, payments, and journal entry descriptions using the related party names. Then investigate any abnormal transactions outside the normal course of business, especially if they involve round-dollar amounts (e.g., $350,000). 

In performing your fraud inquires, ask about related party transactions and if any unusual transactions occurred during the year (or after the year-end). And make sure you interview persons responsible for initiating, approving, or recording transactions. In other words, inquire of the CEO and CFO, but also ask questions of others such as the cash receipts or the accounts payable supervisor. The CEO and CFO might hide the bogus transaction, but, hopefully, the cash receipts supervisor will not. 

As you can tell in the above example, you want to be aware of incentives for fraud, such as bonuses or the need to comply with debt covenants. 

Does It Make Sense?

If you see an unusual transaction, request supporting information to determine its legitimacy. I once saw a $5 million transaction at year-end, and when I asked for support, the journal entry said, "for prior services provided." You might receive some mumbo jumbo explanation for such a payment. But know this: vague reasons usually imply fraudulent activity. 

So, see if the economics make sense. Would a company pay that much for the services or products received? If not, you may need to propose an audit entry to correct the misstatement. 

Representation Letter

And, by the way, having the client sign a management representation letter saying the transaction is legitimate does not absolve the auditor. Either the payment is economically supportable, or it is not. 

Fraudulent Decrease in Net Income

Strangely, some companies desire to deflate their earnings. For example, maybe the company has had an unusually good year and wants to defer some net income for the future. So it is possible that related party payments are made to decrease earnings, and then the company might receive the same amount in the future from the related entity.  The result: expenses in the current year and revenue in the subsequent year. Again, we as auditors need to understand the goals and incentives of the company to understand how and why fraud might occur. 

Related Party Disclosures

Even if related party transactions are legitimate, businesses are required to disclose them. The related party disclosure should include the reason the other entity is a related party and the amount of the transactions. 

Financial Statement Fraud

The easiest way to fraudulently report financial activity--at least in my opinion--is to post deceptive journal entries. Those can be created without the use of related parties. For example, an entity might fraudulently debit receivables and credit revenue for $350,000. No revenue is earned but the entry is made anyway. 

The second easiest way—explained in this article—is fraudulent related party transactions. 

Either method can magically create millions in fraudulent revenue. So be on guard as you consider the possibility of transactions outside the normal course of business. 

Make sure you:

  1. Obtain a list of related parties
  2. Review minutes for related party activity
  3. Search records electronically for related party names
  4. Inquire of management and others about related party activity

See AU-C 550 Related Parties for AICPA guidance. 

how to review financial statements
Feb 10

How to Review Financial Statements

By Charles Hall | Accounting and Auditing

Most CPA firms create financial statements for their clients. This blog post tells you how to create and review financial statements efficiently and effectively.

how to review financial statements

Create Financial Statements

First, where possible, electronically link the trial balance to the financial statements. (Linking is often done from the trial balance to Excel. Then the Excel document is embedded into a Word document.) Doing so will expedite the financial statement process and enhance the integrity of the numbers.

Do the following:

  • Prepare the initial draft of the statements
  • Create clear disclosures
  • Complete a current financial statement disclosure checklist 
  • Research any nonstandard opinion or report language (place sample reports from PPC or other sources in the file). Later the partner or manager will compare this supporting document to the opinion or report
  • Research any additional reports (e.g., Yellow Book, Single Audit). Place a copy of such reports in the file. Later the partner or manager will compare the supporting document to the opinion or report. 
  • The staff person should review the audit planning document to see if any new standards are to be incorporated into this to year’s financial statements

Next you’ll need to proof the financial statements.

Proof the Financial Statements

Proof your financial statements. The proofer usually does the following before the partner or managers’ review:

  • Add (foot the numbers for) all statements, notes, schedules
  • Tick and tie numbers such as:
    • Total assets equal total liabilities and equity
    • Ending cash on the cash flow statement agrees with the balance sheet
    • Net income on the income statement agrees with the beginning number of an indirect method cash flow statement
    • Numbers in the notes agree with the financial statements
    • Numbers in the supplementary schedules agree with the financial statements
  • Review financial statements for compliance with firm formatting standard 
  • Read financial statements for appropriate grammar and punctuation (consider using Grammarly)
  • Compare the table of contents to all pages in the report
  • Review page numbers

Partner or Manager Review

Finally, the partner or manager reviews the financial statements. Having the proofer do their part will minimize the review time for this final-stage review.

Here are tips for the final review:

  • Scan the complete set of financials to get a general feel for the composition of the report (e.g., Yellow Book report, supplementary information, the industry, etc.). This is a cursory review taking three or four seconds per page.
  • Read the beginning part of the summary of significant accounting policies taking note of the reporting framework (e.g., GAAP), type of entity (e.g., nonprofit), and whether the statements are consolidated or combined. Doing so early provides context for the remaining review of the financials.
  • Read the opinion or report noting any nonstandard language (e.g., going concern paragraph)
    • Agree named financial statement titles in the opinion or report to the financial statements
    • Agree the dates (e.g., year-end) in the opinion or report to the statements
    • Compare supporting sample report (as provided by your staff member and noted above) to the opinion or report
    • Compare representation letter date to the opinion or review report date
  • Review the balance sheet making mental notes of line items that should have related notes (retain those thoughts for review of the notes)
  • Review the income statement
  • Review the statement of changes in equity (if applicable)
  • Review the cash flow statement
  • Review the notes (making mental notes regarding sensitive or important disclosures so you can later see if the communication with those charged with governance appropriately contains references to these notes)
  • Return to the balance sheet to see if there are additional disclosures needed (since you just read the notes, you will be more aware of omissions — e.g., intangibles are not disclosed)
  • Review supplementary information (and related opinion for this information if applicable)
  • Review other reports such as Yellow Book and Single Audit (the staff member preparing the financial statements should have placed supporting examples in the file; refer to the examples as necessary)
  • If the review is performed with a printed copy of the statements, use yellow highlighter to mark reviewed sections and numbers
  • If you review a paper copy, pencil in corrections and provide corrected pages to the staff member for amendments to be made
  • If the review is performed on the computer, take screenshots of pages needing corrections and provide to the staff member
  • Better yet, review electronically. See my related post Review Financial Statements on Computer Screens

Last Step

Destroy all drafts. Or at a minimum, don’t leave them in the file. Once the financial statements are complete, there is no reason to retain drafts.

Your Suggestions

What other review procedures do you use?

debt covenant violations
Nov 17

Debt Covenant Violations: How to Report

By Charles Hall | Accounting

How does a debt covenant violation affect the presentation of debt on a balance sheet? If a waiver from the lender is obtained, should the violation be disclosed? In this article, I will tell you how to report debt covenant violations.

debt covenant violations

Lenders commonly include debt covenants in loan agreements. Those covenants might require certain profitability, liquidity, or cash flow ratios. A violation of such requirements can make long-term debt callable. And, by definition, the debt becomes current since it is now due within one year of the balance sheet date. 

If a debt covenant violation occurs, the debt should be classified as current unless the lender provides a waiver for more than one year from the balance sheet date. (See an exception below when there are subsequent measurement dates within one year of the balance sheet date.)

How should debt be classified if a cure occurs prior to the issuance of the financial statements? Debt is shown as noncurrent if the company is able to cure a violation subsequent to the balance sheet date but before the issuance date (or date available for issuance) of the financial statements.

Additionally, some loans provide for a grace period. If the violation is cured during the grace period, the debt will be reported as long-term. Also if the cure has not already occurred but the company demonstrates it is probable that the cure will occur within the grace period, then the debt will be reported as long-term.

Reporting Debt Covenant Violations

When a violation occurs, the main consideration in classifying long-term debt is whether the amount is due or callable within one year of the balance sheet date. If the loan is due or callable within the year after the period-end, the amount generally should be reported as current. If a debt covenant violation is timely cured within a grace period, then the debt is no longer callable and will, therefore, remain long-term. Noncurrent classification is also appropriate if the creditor provides a waiver that extends more than one year beyond the balance sheet date.

Waivers do not, however, guarantee long-term debt classification, particularly if there are other measurement dates within the year after the period-end. 

Subsequent Measurement Dates

470-10-45 of the FASB Codification provides the following guidance:

Some long-term loans require compliance with quarterly or semiannual covenants that must be met on a quarterly or semiannual basis. If a covenant violation occurs that would otherwise give the lender the right to call the debt, a lender may waive its call right arising from the current violation for a period greater than one year while retaining future covenant requirements. Unless facts and circumstances indicate otherwise, the borrower shall classify the obligation as noncurrent, unless both of the following conditions exist:

a. A covenant violation that gives the lender the right to call the debt has occurred at the balance sheet date or would have occurred absent a loan modification.
b. It is probable that the borrower will not be able to cure the default (comply with the covenant) at measurement dates that are within the next 12 months.

If both of these conditions exist, then the debt is shown as current.

Consider a scenario where a company has a covenant violation on December 31, 2019, and it obtains a waiver from the lender that lasts through January 1, 2021. If a September 30, 2020 measurement date is required by the loan agreement and it is probable that the company will not be in compliance, then the loan is classified as current on December 31, 2019, even though the waiver was obtained. Why? The new violation would make the loan callable within one year of the balance sheet date. (The prior waiver was in relation to the December 31, 2019 violation, not a subsequent violation.)

Is Disclosure Required if a Waiver is Obtained?

If a company obtains a waiver for more than one year from the balance sheet date, must the financials disclose this fact (that a waiver was obtained)?

The AICPA answers this question–in Q&A section 3200 (paragraph 17)–with the following:

The authoritative literature applicable to nonpublic entities does not address disclosure of debt covenant violations existing at the balance-sheet date that have been waived by the creditor for a stated period of time. Nevertheless, disclosure of the existing violation(s) and the waiver period should be considered* for reasons of adequate disclosure. If the covenant violation resulted from nonpayment of principal or interest on the debt, inability to maintain required financial ratios or other such financial covenants, that information may be vital to users of the financial statements even though the debt is not callable.

*Emphasis added by CPAHallTalk

Translation: It is wise to disclose the debt covenant violation and the existence of the waiver.

FASB’s Current Work on a New Debt Standard

The FASB has an ongoing project regarding the classification of debt. The FASB issued a revised Exposure Draft on September 12, 2019, Debt (Topic 470): Simplifying the Classification of Debt in a Classified Balance Sheet (Current versus Noncurrent). Comments were due October 28, 2019. It has taken FASB over two years to deliberate this topic. So you call tell the classification decision is not an easy one.

Additional Information About Auditing Debt

See my post regarding the audit of debt.

clear financial statement disclosures
Apr 27

How to Write Clear Financial Statement Disclosures

By Charles Hall | Accounting and Auditing

Creating clear financial statement disclosures is not always easy. Creating (unintentional) confusion? Well, that’s another matter.

clear financial statement disclosures

Clear Financial Statement Disclosures

Let’s pretend that Olympic judges rate your most recent disclosures, flashing scores to a worldwide audience. What do you see? Tens everywhere—or something else?

Balance sheets tend to be clear. Why? The accounting equation. Assets always equal liabilities plus equity. But there is no disclosure equation (darn it), and without such, we flounder in our communication. 

CPAs tend to be linear thinkers. We enjoy Pascal more than Hemingway, numbers more than words, debits and credits more than paragraphs. Our brains are wired that way.

But accounting is more than just numbers. It is the communication of financial statements and disclosures. In the name of clear disclosures, I offer these suggestions.

Consider Your Readers

Who will read the financial statements? Owners, lenders, and possibly vendors. Owners—especially those of smaller businesses—may need simpler language. Some CPAs write notes as if CPAs (alone) will read them. While accounting is technical, we need—as much as possible—to simplify.  

Use Short Paragraphs

Lengthy paragraphs choke the reader. Breaking long paragraphs into shorter ones makes the print accessible. 

Less is more in many instances. When we try to say too much, we sometimes say…too much. Additionally, short sentences are helpful.   

Use Short Sentences

CPAs may have invented the run-on sentence. As I read one of those beauties, I feel as though I can’t breathe. And by the end, I’m gasping. Breaking long sentences into shorter ones makes the reader more comfortable. And she will thank you. 

Use Shorter Words

CPAs don’t receive merit badges for long, complicated words. Our goal is to communicate, not to impress. For example, split is better than bifurcate.  

Attorneys are not our model. I sometimes see notes that are regurgitations of legal agreements, copied word for word—and you can feel the stiltedness. Do your reader a favor and translate the legalese into digestible—and might I say more enjoyable—language. 

Use Tables

Long sentences with several numbers can be confusing. Tables are easier to understand.

Write Your Own Note

Too many CPAs copy disclosures from the Internet without understanding the language. Make sure the language is appropriate for your company.

Put Disclosures in the Right Buckets 

Think of each disclosure header as a bucket. For example, if the notes include a related party note, then that’s where the related party information goes. If the debt note includes a related party disclosure (and this may be necessary), place a reference in the related party note to the debt disclosure. You don’t want your reader to think all of the related party disclosures are in one place (the related party note) when they are not. The same issue arises with subsequent event notes.

Have a Second Person Review the Notes

When writing, we sometimes think we are clear when we are not. Have a second person review the note for proper punctuation, spelling, structure, and clarity. If you don’t have a second person available, perform a cold review the next day—you will almost always see necessary revisions. I find that reading out loud helps me to assess clarity.

I also use Grammarly to edit documents. The software provides grammar feedback as you write. If you don’t have a second person to review your financials, I recommend it.

Use a Current Disclosure Checklist

Vetting your notes with a disclosure checklist may be the most tedious and necessary step. FASB and GASB continue to issue new statements at a rapid rate, so using a checklist is necessary to ensure completeness.   

Winning Gold

I hope these suggestions help you win gold–10s everywhere. I think I hear the national anthem.

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