Timely Financial Reporting/Financial Statements preparation

Timely Financial Reporting/Financial Statements preparation

Financial statements are intended to meet the needs of decision-makers as well as providing useful information to shareholders.  As a result, the timely preparation of these reports is essential. Financial statements must be available in time to inform decision-making. Therefore, it is important that financial reports/financial statements should be published as soon as possible after the end of the reporting period.


However, we should note here that timely financial reporting should not be reduced to a well-managed “busy financial statement drafting season. Rather, ”it requires careful, yearlong planning and monitoring.  Of course, the need for timeliness has to be balanced against the need for reliability, which in addition to timeliness is also an essential characteristic of financial statements.


Requirement of the Companies Act: 

In terms of the Companies Act, Section 30, Companies are required to produce annual financial statements within 6 months of their financial year-end or within any shorter period as may be appropriate to provide the required notice of an annual general meeting in terms of section 61(7). For example, if one’s year-end of Feb 2018, they should have a set of financial statements by end of August 2018.


Recommendations: 

I would like to make the following recommendations about ways to improve the timeliness and reliability of financial reports. These recommendations are based on my personal experiences and cannot be viewed as an exhaustive list.


Do not leave it until the last time: 

It is never a good idea to start the preparation of your financial statements late on in the year. As mentioned in my introduction, the process requires careful yearlong planning and monitoring. Start with clients whose books are updated and are in order on a monthly basis. For me, these are the client I have monthly management meeting with and at each management meeting, we ensure that the accounts for that month are in order. Once we close off the accounts, we do not come back to these to make any changes. You will find that by the year-end, there is little left to do to produce the financial statements because all books are in order. For me, I find that this process ensures the ongoing completeness and accuracy of financial data.


Team collaborations: 

Reid Hoffman once said, “No matter how brilliant your mind or strategy, if you’re playing a solo game, you’ll always lose out to a team.” I cannot stress enough the importance of working as a team and ensuring that the communications among the team are good and maintained. In my firm, as an example, we have three teams that work closely together to produce financial statements; the tax team, the financial statements drafting team and the financial management team. The financial management team is responsible for day-to-day accounting and the production of the Trial balance. The tax team helps with all complex tax matters. The drafting team takes the Trial balances and produces the financial statements.  What makes the teamwork together well is communication, each member communicating whatever changes or processes that take place at any stage of the process. The biggest advantage of all this is that the reliability of the financial statements is greatly improved. The application of tax and financial reporting laws is also improved.


Systems and processes:

I also find that it helps to have proper systems and processes in place for the production of financial statements. Companies should have a financial system that they use to draft financial statements. These should be able to produce financial statements acceptable for submission with SARS and the CIPC. Also, there should be a well-defined process for the production of financial statements. It could be a well-defined checklist, which has all elements that must be checked before a trial balance is imported into the financial statements software. The presence of such a process will also go a long way in producing a reliable set of financial statements.


Closing and financial statement preparation processing: 

The annual closing process. To avoid delays, aim to have your annual close within a month from the end of the financial period. Communicate these deadlines to all people involved in the process so that everyone is aware of the deadlines and the deliverables that each should meet.


Unforeseen circumstances. The financial report preparation process may identify items that could affect the amounts reported in the financial statements, such as legal disputes, contractual obligations e.t.c. In most cases, a reasonable amount of time may be needed to resolve such items. To avoid delays, it may be better to proceed with the issuance of the financial statements based upon reasonable estimates, rather than to delay their issuance.


Planning: 

There is that old saying that says if you fail to plan, you plan to fail. It is important to carefully when for when the production of financial statements should start, and by whom the financial statements should be prepared. As mentioned earlier, do not leave the drafting to the busy drafting periods. After the year ends, aim to have at least one set of financial statements done per week. Start with those where not too much cleaning is required going to those where late adjustments and more cleaning is done. Also, you may want to aim to submit these financial statements by the time the tax season opens in July. So, plan in a way that will make this possible.


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6 Key factors to consider when choosing an accounting software or a business App

6 Key factors to consider when choosing an accounting software or a business App

It goes without saying, there are thousands of software and Business Apps available on the market and on the internet. Additionally, each accounting software may also come with a thousand business apps on their various app marketplace. So, one has to choose carefully before adopting a piece of software. Not everything that looks cool works for every business. Some factors to consider.

 


Does my business need this?

Before adopting a system or business App, one needs to do a needs or systems analysis. This is where critical questions are asked before buying or implementing a system or App. Think about what problem your business is actually trying to solve. Is it an inventory management problem? It is that your business has no way of keeping track of cash in versus cash out, what sort of reports do you expect or actually need to run, what is the volume of data that should be handled by this system, can this system or app handle such volume of data, etc. Once a systems or needs analysis is performed you can then look at other factors.


Can this system or App integrate with our key software? 

Some Apps or systems may look cool and all functions work perfectly fine. However, there may be a problem in integrations with your primary compliance software. Some may require you to run a report then process a manual journal into your primary software because there is no integration with your primary software. This, in turn, may lead to human errors such as incorrect journals being processed or whoever processed them not remembering why they processed such journal in the first place. A system or App that integrates with your primary system and auto-sync would be a preferred choice over one that does not. You do not want to spend a lot of money on a business App or system only to find out that you need to spend more to find another App that will help with the integration. A system or App that integrates with your primary system will have lots of advantages such as improved efficiency as there is a degree of automation in as far as communication between the two is concerned. Also, you will not need to manually and separately update each software as what happens in one will be updated in the other software or App.


How long will it take to set up the system?

Often how long it takes to set up a system or App depends is a function of when in the financial year the implementation is done. It is often easier to implement a system or App at the beginning of a financial year than in the middle of a financial year. Implementation of a new system or App may mean moving data from the old system to the new system. This may time and errors may happen. It is important to do proper research before implementing a system. Even better, seek the help of a system specialist or ask the system vendor to help you with setting up the system.


Is there training required? 

Often businesses make the mistake of implementing a system that no one in their organisations knows anything about. After implementation, the staff is left out to figure out things on their own. This is not the right approach. The correct approach is to provide sufficient training before the system is fully rolled out to all staff members. This is to make sure that your staff knows the system well before they can actually start to use it and to use it to interact with your customers. Where possible, do a parallel run of the new system with the old one so that there is enough time to train staff and to iron out any teething issues with the new system. Also, it is important to establish who in the team will be the new system champion. A system or business App champion will be your go-to person when there are issues with the new system or App. If this is not possible, make sure you have the system or App vendor contact details or help desk at hand for when you need help with the system or App.


Get the basics right: 

You also need to get the basics right. By basics, we are referring to the operational things like who does what and who does what when, who has access to the system, who has admin and basic user rights, are the system or App user rights set up correctly, etc. The last thing you want is having the wrong people having access to information that they should not have access to. This may include such things as, who should see a certain report or certain client information.


Multi-currency: 

Lastly, consider if the new system has a multi-currency functionality. This is critical especially if your business invoices or buys/trades in a variety of currencies. You want your system or App to be able to convert to your base currency without having to do it manually in a spreadsheet or otherwise.


In conclusion: 

Not everything that looks cool works for every business. In order to implement the best and right system/App or tools, you need more than just the standard system specifications. Perform detailed systems/need analysis to determine the needs of your entity and whether the system or App you are considering is the best fit.

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