You work hard to build your business. Take the time to protect your investment.
When we have discovered – or uncovered – cases of fraud, embezzlement or inaccurate reporting, it is often a surprise to the owner. Fraud prevention, embezzlement detection and accurate financials are all reasons to implement and follow sound internal control practices. It is the age-old adage, “An ounce of prevention….”
The most susceptible areas of risk for small businesses revolve around cash, receipts and disbursements.
Here are a few simple routine procedures that will help:
- Insist on timely reporting. Review financial statements at least quarterly and ask questions about variances from the budget and variances from the previous accounting period.
- Review all your bank statements. Have the statements delivered to someone other than the person responsible for making deposits and/or paying the bills. Watch for unusual items, extraordinary amounts and items paid to individuals. How are deposits made? Do deposits reflect the sales or fee activity?
- Review and monitor all of your credit card statements. Watch for unusual items that don’t relate to your day-to-day operations. Were there any airline or hotel charges? Were those company expenses? Require authorized documentation for all credit card charges.
- Segregate duties. Of course, it is practically impossible if there is only one bookkeeper and if they are only part-time, but separate functions whenever you can and provide oversight.
- Monitor payroll. If you have a payroll service, you should have a good idea of what the periodic cash flow requirement is. If that amount fluctuates, there should be a reasonable explanation. Were there any new employees? Were any bonuses paid? Periodically review the payroll service reports to confirm the number of employees and that their salaries are correct.
- Know your employees. Unfortunately, even trusted friends and family members commit fraud when given the opportunity and/or financial need. One final step in preventing losses of this type is to change things up, request different reports or rotate assigned tasks. Employees tempted to commit fraud will seek predictable patterns. Make it harder by spot-checking and asking questions.
Managers and owners should make a commitment to implement internal controls and follow those controls. Know where the risks are for your particular industry. Create a culture in your workplace that results in accurate and timely financial information.
Certified Public Accountants are dedicated to providing sound accounting advice. Contact your accounting firm if you would like help assessing the risks for your particular business.
Ryan Skuce joined Earney & Company, L.L.P. in 2003, and became a partner in November 2013. He works extensively with physicians, medical practices, and large medical groups. Ryan has experience in accounting and tax services including financial reporting and analysis, technical support, cash flow planning, physician compensation strategies, and medical practice strategic planning. He also has experience in the areas of accounting and tax for a variety of for profit and nonprofit clients. Ryan is currently a member of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) and the North Carolina Association of Certified Public Accountants (NCACPA). Ryan works with his clients on evaluating operational and technical issues. He provides back-office accounting support, and recommends and assists in the implementation of ideas to cut overhead costs and streamline operations. With an in-depth knowledge of existing and proposed tax laws, Ryan often advises companies on tax deferment or savings through proactive structuring of transactions. He also assists his clients with Internal Revenue Service audits. He received his Masters of Science in Accountancy from UNC-Wilmington and resides in Wilmington, where he enjoys playing hockey with a local team.