ABC Solutions

Avoiding Accounts Payable Errors: What to Watch Out for

When you pay a bill in your business, are you 100 percent comfortable that the bill payment is correct and justified? Is there ever a chance that that bill is fake or fraudulent? What about duplicates? With so many fake bills being mailed to businesses these days, it makes sense to think about controls you can put into place to reduce the risk that you might write a check out of your hard-earned profits that should never be written.

Accounts Payable Controls

In the accounting profession, the term “internal controls” refers to processes, procedures, and automations you can put into place to reduce errors. In accounts payable, there is a specific subset of rules and controls you can put into place to reduce risk in this area. Here are just a few ideas.

1. Approvals

All bills should be approved by the appropriate level of staff in your business. Sometimes a bill gets approved that is fake or shouldn’t be approved, especially in areas where the approver doesn’t have technical knowledge of what they are buying. Be sure to read the fine print on the bill and make sure you know what you are paying for.

2. Segregation of duties

The person who pays the bill should be different from the person who submitted the bill. These people should be different from the one who signs the check. This reduces employee fraud.

3. Receipt confirmation

A packing slip or other confirmation of receipt of the goods or services should be matched to the invoice, line item by line item.

4. Math check

A prudent step is to check an invoice’s math, at least for reasonableness.

5. Duplicate payments

If a vendor emails their bill as well as mails a hard copy, controls should be put in place (usually automated) to avoid duplicate payments on the same bill.

6. Reconciliation

If there are a significant number of transactions between you and a vendor, an accounts payable reconciliation should be performed each month via a statement.

7. Missing check numbers

Most systems provide a missing check numbers report that you can use to make sure all checks are accounted for.

8. Bank reconciliation

A bank reconciliation is a sure way to see exactly what checks cleared your bank account.

9. Coding

Coding each transaction to the correct expense account, inventory, asset, or cost of goods sold account is an essential part of the process.

10. Income statement review

Each month, a review of the balances in your expense accounts as well as a disbursements ledger review for reasonableness can provide added peace of mind.

11. Purchase order

Requiring purchase orders is another control you can add to your process. Purchase orders should be matched to packing slips and invoices before payment or approvals are made.

12. In-depth knowledge of your business’s numbers

The more you get to know the numbers in your business, the greater chance you’ll have of accurate accounts payable handling.

And if you’d like to discuss your accounts payable function with us and how it can be improved, we’re happy for you to reach out any time.

Five Key Reports for Your Business

Each month, your accounting system yields actionable information for you to run your business better. Here are some key reports that all business owners should review every month.

Balance Sheet

A quick review of the balance sheet can tell you the balances of your current assets and current liabilities. Current assets should always be larger than current liabilities; if it’s not, you may have liquidity issues.

You can also take a look at these accounts: cash, accounts receivable, and accounts payable. They should look reasonable to you based on your business history.

Accounts Receivable Aging

Your gaining report can alert you to who has not paid their invoice, so that you can take action to collect that money. Any balances over 30 days should trigger a collection process since the older the receivable gets, the less likely it is to collect.

Accounts Payable Aging

Hopefully, this report is clean and you are able to pay all of your bills on time. If you have an unusually large amount in this account, you’ll want to make sure you have the future cash to pay the bills.

Income Statement

The first number most entrepreneurs look at on the income statement is profit. It’s a good idea to review every account balance on this report to see if it is what you expected. Some questions to ask yourself include:

  1. Did I generate the amount of revenue that I expected? If not, should I ramp up marketing for the next few months?
  2. Do all of my expenses look reasonable? Are there any numbers that look too high?
  3. Are my payroll expenses in line with what I was expecting?
  4. Which accounts caused me to generate more or less profit?
  5. What I can I do next month to improve performance and increase profit?

Sales Reports

There are many excellent sales reports to dive deeper into your revenue so you can see what sold and what didn’t. Sales by Item and Sales by Customer are two good options for you to get more detail about your revenue balances. By analyzing your revenue, you can see what promotions worked and how you might take action to increase sales.

These five reports are very basic, but they are also very key to your business. To profit from these reports, it’s up to you to take action in your business to improve your success.

Understanding Cost of Goods Sold

The account on your income statement called Cost of Goods Sold can be confusing to non-accountants. In this article, we’ll attempt to de-mystify it and explain how it works.

Cost of Goods Sold is an account in your Chart of Accounts that is a very special type of expense. It is the amount of direct costs of items that were sold by the company. It is related to inventory, and it helps to see the flow of transactions to understand the big picture.

When you purchase an inventory item for sale, it’s considered an asset (not an expense yet) in your company. When you sell an inventory item, the asset is reduced and the Cost of Goods Sold account is increased, moving the item from an asset to an expense. It’s no longer an asset once it’s sold, and the cost of the item sold reduces your profit and is expensed into the Cost of Goods Sold account.

Some accountants will abbreviate the Cost of Goods Sold account to COGS, and you might hear them call it that.

In the case of wholesale and retail businesses, the cost of goods sold is the amount that was paid for the inventory items to be sold. In the case of a manufacturer, the costs can include the cost of raw materials, labor to produce the item, and sometimes additional allocations of other related costs. Construction businesses may have a Cost of Construction account or Contract Costs instead of COGS. Service businesses will typically not have a balance in the Cost of Goods Sold account. If they do have direct costs, the costs are often coded to a Supplies account under expenses.

At any point in time, the cost of items you purchase are in two different accounts:

    1. The unsold items are reflected in the asset account, Inventory, on your Balance Sheet report.
    2. The sold items are reflected in the Cost of Goods Sold account, on your Income Statement report.

It’s important that the Cost of Goods Sold balance is accurate, because there are many good things you can learn from it when you compare it with inventory. You can learn how fast your inventory is selling, and you can determine your gross profit margin.

If your inventory purchases have not been coded correctly, you can take inventory and arrive at the correct cost of unsold items. If your physical inventory does not match your books, your accountant can make a correcting entry between Cost of Goods Sold and the Inventory account so that both of them are accurate.

If you have further questions about the Cost of Goods Sold account, feel free to reach out any time.

How AI Is Changing Accounting

Artificial intelligence (AI) has arrived in the accounting profession in a big way. The good news is it’s streamlining accounting tasks, finding patterns in data you can take action on, and generally making things better. Here are just a few places we’re seeing AI and machine learning impact accounting.

Transaction Coding

Most systems have incorporated some form of machine learning into transaction coding. When bank feeds are imported, each transaction needs to be coded to add the account code in the chart of accounts.  Class, tracking codes, and other custom data may need to be added as well. Rules can be set so that the accounting application can pre-code the transactions; in this case the accountant simply approves or corrects the entry.

Invoice Fetching

It starts with a picture of a receipt. Invoice fetching applications can turn pixels into data using sophisticated OCR (optical character recognition). The data is then turned into a business transaction that can be imported into an accounting system.

Auditing

The books of many government agencies, nonprofits, and large businesses need to be audited on a regular basis. Auditing is an expensive process. Smart programs can review a company’s data and assess where the risks and anomalies are so that the audit program can be modified to focus on the more important parts. This reduces risk and cost for everyone involved. 

Accounts Payable

Artificial intelligence can help to speed up the matching of purchase orders, packing slips, and invoices so that accounts payable tasks are streamlined.  It can also automate approvals and look for duplicate invoices to avoid overpayments. 

Accounting Tasks That Are Clerical

Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is a platform that allows users to create automation without involving the IT department. Think Excel macros or Zapier on steroids. Any workflow with a mind-numbing set of clerical steps is a candidate for RPA. 

AI allows accountants to spend less time on routine tasks and more time on higher-level analysis work. As AI becomes more affordable for small businesses, everyone will benefit from this long-term trend.

Buying a Car or Truck for Your Business?

When you purchase a new vehicle, you get the fun of riding around in a new car with the new car smell! Our job has just begun – to get your new asset recorded properly on your books. We thought it’d be fun to give you a behind-the-scenes sneak peek at our part. 

Sales Contract

The first thing we’ll ask you for is the sales contract.  It will give us the payment price of your car, and we’ll use that number to record your new asset on your balance sheet.  If you paid cash with no trade-in, the journal entry we’ll make is:

Debit: 2019 Toyota RAV4

$25,500

Credit: Cash

$25,500

Then we’ll decide on a depreciation method and book depreciation monthly or at year-end.

Debit: Depreciation Expense

$5,100

Credit: Accumulated Depreciation

$5,100

Trade-in

If you traded in a vehicle that is on your books, we’ll need to make an adjustment to your books. Effectively, your old car will be eliminated from your balance sheet. If this asset had a book value and it was not fully depreciated, the net value would be compared to the trade-in value and a gain or loss on the asset sale would be recorded on your income statement. 

Let’s say the balance sheet value of the three-year-old car you traded in was $10,000 and you got $8,000 on the trade-in. Here’s what we would record:

Debit: 2019 Toyota RAV4

$25,500

Debit: Accumulated Depreciation

$15,000

Debit: Loss on Sale of 2016 Car

$ 2,000

Credit: Old 2016 Toyota RAV4

$25,000

Credit: Cash

$17,500 ($25,500 – $8,000 trade-in)

We’d also start the depreciation for the new car.

New Car Loan 

Most often, a new car purchase will be financed, so we have a new liability to record too.  We’ll need to get a copy of the loan documents from you and an amortization schedule of the payments. Let’s say you made a ten percent down payment with no trade-in.  Here’s how that would look:

Debit: 2019 Toyota RAV4

$25,500

Credit: Cash

$2,550

Credit: Toyota Loan

$22,950

Then, each time you make a monthly payment, the amount will need to be split between principal and interest and those amounts will need to change each month.

Debit: Interest Expense

$390

Debit: Toyota Loan

$60

Credit: Cash

$450

We left out a few trade secrets just to keep it intriguing. There are a lot of other numbers on a car purchase: taxes, licenses, warranties, add-ons, fees, and more. Some of these can be directly expensed, while others need to be included in the value of the asset. So if you’re happy that we’ll take care of this for you, we’re happy to do so. 

Let us know if you purchase an asset this summer so we can get it booked right for you.