We have several exciting announcements to share with you!
We have an updated website to better serve you. Of particular note is our Client Corner (top right corner of website), allowing you a single place to login to our various tools, including Portal, Share Files, Bill.com and Intacct. We are also now offering online credit card payments through our Client Corner.
As you are likely aware, in response to client demand we will now be delivering tax returns electronically through our secure client portal. We are pleased to offer you this option to access your information anytime through the Client Corner (Portal/Payroll Login section) of our new website. We hope you will appreciate the convenience of this new portal service, which will allow us to better secure your documents (avoiding mailing challenges) and continue our efforts to "go green." In order to utilize the portal, you must be registered; feel free to contact our office for assistance. For instructions on how to utilize the Portal, please visit the Client Corner, Instructions section.
We are also able to accept your documents electronically through our Client Portal or our Share Files program (both located in the Client Corner of the website).
We are excited about these new tools that will allow us to serve you better. Please contact us (email@example.com) with any questions.
As many of you know, some farmer tax returns are technically due by March 1st. However, our Ag Team has several recommendations on the matter - including encouraging you to be late! Who would have thought being late might help you out financially?
Jeff Bowman, Principal, CPA
Ag Team Lead
We recommend our agriculture clients begin organizing their ag return paperwork for the following year once their crop delivery reports come in. By now (January) our almond, walnut and grape clients have a fairly strong understanding of their earnings for the year. If you haven't scheduled your meetings to review projected harvest earnings, now is the time.
Many farming operations require the use of several business entities, such as various land holding entities, farming operators, and land partnerships. We prepare tax returns for these ancillary entities before we file individual returns. This is a standard tax preparation challenge we see each year, and it can be a headache for the farmer. "While some farmer returns are due on March 1, there are several steps that are often required to meet this deadline," says Jeff Bowman, Principal, CPA.
"But what if you're having trouble gathering the records needed?" he asks. "In that case, it may make sense to buy some time and file late - by April 15th instead of March 1st. There could be a bit of an interest cost, but it's typically well worth ensuring a comprehensive review of the related entity tax matters."
Jeff Coleman, Principal, CPA and Ag expert
Regardless of where you and your farming partners are in the year-end reconciliation process, our Ag Team can help you plan the best course of action.
Generally the need for a financial statement audit is dictated through compliance with government or banking regulations. Consequently, a frequently repeated question amongst audit clients is, “How can we maintain or even control the cost of our audit engagement?” An audit opinion is the highest level of assurance we can give as a CPA firm and therefore it is also a time consuming endeavor. If you, as the company being audited, can reduce the time necessary for the audit, it will help to control the audit fees.
We understand the importance of cost control and feel there are a few items that, when well managed, will increase audit efficiencies. Let’s take a brief look at three ways to control and manage audit fees:
Document Internal Accounting Processes in Writing
Auditors use their knowledge of the business, the industry and the environment in which the company operates to identify and assess the risks that could lead to misstated financial statements. Having a good understanding of the company’s internal control environment is key for auditors. If a company has well-documented, effective controls, the auditor may be able to reduce the amount of testing performed in an audit.
Providing clear and concise documentation of your policies and procedures for your auditor is a great way to communicate your company’s internal controls processes. Without such documentation, the auditor will be required to write memos, flowcharts, etc. to document the company’s controls. This can be time consuming and will likely incur audit fees. In contrast, your documentation can set the tone for the entire audit engagement and assist the auditor with gaining the understanding needed to perform the audit.
Provide Supporting Documentation
Auditors use professional judgment when gathering and evaluating evidence provided through supporting documentation. An important element is to provide evidence that clearly supports the financial statement balances. We cannot stress enough how essential it is to reconcile the balance sheet accounts and prepare schedules that support and match the account balances recorded in the financial statements.
A good example of this is providing an accounts receivable aging report matches with accounts receivable shown on the general ledger. These documents work together and serve as support for the amount recorded on the balance sheet for accounts receivable. Another example of this process is to provide documentation of the amounts recorded as prepaid expense that supports and exactly matches the amounts reported in the financial statement accounts.
Be Prepared for your Financial Statement Audit
It can be a costly mistake to wait until the audit begins to prepare for the work papers and supporting documents that are requested by your auditor. Having requested work papers and staff ready for the audit when the fieldwork begins will definitely have a positive impact on the management of audit fees. When documents have to be requested repetitively, it slows the audit process and limits the efficiency of the auditor, potentially increasing audit fees. Preparedness includes a dedicated, knowledgeable staff contact that is able to respond to audit questions and requests for additional support information. Again, a prompt response limits follow-up inquiries and activities therefore increasing audit efficiencies.
We are here to help. For additional information regarding audit engagements contact our professional staff at Grimbleby Coleman.
AICPA National Construction Industry Conference
On December 3rd, Adriane Reams, CPA and Javier Padilla, CPA attended the AICPA National Construction Industry Conference in Las Vegas. They gathered the following four tips to help our construction clients. First, utilize a dashboard to calculate key metrics, as key ratios should be considered both before and after tax planning. Second, project managers should be continuously updating projected costs on jobs to keep financial information accurate. Third, establish a technology plan for project management and bookkeeping. Final tip, hold regular job status meetings to keep project managers accountable! Keep an eye out for the Grimbleby Coleman dashboard, which is being developed to our clients track key metrics.
California Almond Board Conference
Principals Jeff Coleman, CPA, Jeff Bowman, CPA and Tax Manager Chad Van Houten attended the California Almond Board Conference in Sacramento December 9-11th. The team learned that conference attendance was up to 2,900 total attendees, an increase of 400 people from 2013, which is a clear indicator that the industry is growing. The drought was a major topic at the conference, both in presentation and casual conversation. Almonds now surpass peanuts as a consumer snack pick, another clear indication of the growing demand and popularity for almonds. "Gaining a better understanding of what our clients are dealing with helps us better serve them," Van Houten expressed.
During an employee benefit plan audit, there are a few common questions you can expect to arise. One of the most common is: how important is it to have board minutes from trustee meetings and what should those meeting minutes contain? Trustees have been charged with the responsibility of administration and management of the plan on behalf of the participants. This can seem especially intimidating when your business core process does not encompass the administration of a retirement plan. But fear not; we are here to help! Below, we address the importance of keeping accurate meeting minutes and what they should encompass.
Why are trustee meeting minutes important?
Meeting minutes provide a formal record documenting the decisions and decision making process made by the board of trustees. Under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), trustees are required to perform certain responsibilities in order to fulfill their roles as plan fiduciaries. Board meeting minutes demonstrate the fulfillment of those ERISA fiduciary responsibilities by providing a written record of the board’s decision making process throughout the year. Minutes can be an invaluable tool when building a defense against a breach of fiduciary duty claim.
An investigation by the Department of Labor (DOL) always begins with a request for copies of the trustee meeting minutes for the period under examination. The ability to produce accurate and concise meeting minutes will communicate how well organized the fiduciary committee is. This sets the tone for the entire DOL investigation.
What should be included in trustee meeting minutes?
Minutes taken during a meeting are much more likely to represent the information presented during the meeting as opposed to preparing meeting minutes several weeks or even months after the meeting has occurred.
The trustee meeting minutes should always begin with documentation and approval of the prior meeting minutes. Additionally, minutes should include the date, time, and place of the meeting and attendees. The documentation should also include any guests in attendance, such as consultants and professionals.
Pertinent plan matters discussed and decisions made regarding plan matters are all included in meeting minutes. The board will want to formally adopt any changes to the plan document governing the plan and include periodic updates as required by the DOL. As the board decides to update or change elements of the plan or plan policies, these decisions are excellent candidates to be included in the board minutes. If there are any supporting documents presented during the meeting it should also accompany the formal record.
In recent years, legislation regarding the assessment of reasonableness of plan fees has been a big topic of discussion. The board’s fiduciary responsibilities require them to choose and monitor the fees from plan service providers. There should be a documented process for comparing and understanding the fees that are paid from the plan. In addition, the documentation is to include how often this comparison is to take place and the decision to hire a service provider based on the information derived from the process.
With a little effort, the production of board minutes has the ability to pay large dividends should the plan fiduciary responsibilities ever come into question. Well documented meeting minutes have the ability to serve the board well when it comes to fiduciary compliance, and working with a qualified CPA can help you avoid the pitfalls.
If any of your questions or concerns are left unaddressed, it would be our pleasure to assist. Contact one of our Employee Benefit Audit Experts at (209)527-4220 or firstname.lastname@example.org.