A new accounting rule for reporting leases goes into effect in 2019 for public companies. Although private companies have been granted a one-year reprieve, no business should wait until the last minute to start the implementation process. Some recently revised guidance is intended to ease implementation. Here’s an overview of what’s changing. Old rules, new rules Under the existing rules, companies must record lease obligations on their balance sheets only if the arrangements are considered financing transactions. Few arrangements get recorded, because accounting rules give companies leeway to arrange the agreements in a way that they can be treated as simple rentals for financial reporting purposes. If an obligation isn’t recorded on a balance sheet, it makes a business look like it is less leveraged than it really is. In 2016, the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) issued a new standard that calls for major changes to current accounting practices...[ Read More ]
  If your not-for-profit relies heavily on a few funding sources — for example, an annual government or foundation grant — what happens if you suddenly lose that support? The risk may be compounded if you generally spend every penny that comes in the door and fail to build adequate reserves. Bottom line: If your nonprofit hopes to serve its community many years into the future, you need to think about financial sustainability now. Information, please No organization can accurately evaluate its sustainability without timely, comprehensive and accurate financial reporting. In addition to providing a current picture of your standing, financial reports should compare actual figures with historical and projected numbers. Some nonprofits use “dashboards” that give real-time financial data, ratios and trends in easily understood graphic form. It’s not enough for the board to review financial statements. Board members must provide true fiscal oversight and not leave major financial...[ Read More ]
Directors and officers (D&O) liability insurance enables board members to make decisions without fear that they’ll be personally responsible for any related litigation costs. Such coverage is common in the business world, but fewer not-for-profits carry it. Nonprofits may assume that their charitable mission and the good intentions of volunteer board members protect them from litigation. These assumptions can be wrong. Asked and answered Here are several FAQs to help you determine whether your board needs D&O insurance: Whom does it cover? A policy can help protect both your organization and its key individuals: directors, officers, employees and even volunteers and committee members. What does it cover? Normally, D&O insurance covers allegations of wrongful acts, errors, misleading statements, neglect or breaches of duty connected with a person’s performance of duties. Examples include: Mismanagement of funds or investments, Employment issues such as harassment and discrimination, Self-dealing, Failure to provide services, and Failure to...[ Read More ]
If you think that, once your not-for-profit receives its official tax-exempt status from the IRS, you don’t have to revisit it again, think again. Whether your organization is a Section 501(c)(3), Sec. 501(c)(7) or other type, be careful. The activities you conduct, the ways you generate revenue and how you use that revenue could potentially threaten your exempt status. It’s worth reviewing the IRS’s exempt-status rules to make sure your organization is operating within them. Hot buttons There are many categories of tax exemption — each with its own rules. But certain hot-button issues apply to most tax-exempt entities. These include: Lobbying. Having a Sec. 501(c)(3) status limits the amount of lobbying a charitable organization can undertake. This doesn’t mean lobbying is totally prohibited. But according to the IRS, your organization shouldn’t devote “a substantial part of its activities” trying to influence legislation. For nonprofits that are exempt under other categories...[ Read More ]
Private companies that follow U.S. Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) must comply with the landmark new revenue recognition standard in 2019. Many private company CFOs and controllers report that they still have significant work to do to meet the demands of the sweeping rules. If you haven’t started the implementation process, it’s time to get the ball rolling. Lessons from public company peers Affected private companies must start following Accounting Standards Update (ASU) No. 2014-09, Revenue from Contracts with Customers (Accounting Standards Codification Topic 606), the first time they issue financial statements in 2019. For private companies with a fiscal year end or issuing quarterly statements under U.S. GAAP, that could be within the next few months. Other private companies have until the end of the year or even early 2020. No matter what, it’s crunch time. Public companies, which had to begin following the standard in 2018, reported that,...[ Read More ]
Churches, synagogues, mosques and other religious congregations aren’t required to file tax returns, so they might not regularly hire independent accountants. But regardless of size, religious organizations often are subject to other requirements, such as paying unrelated business income tax (UBIT) and properly classifying employees. Without the oversight of tax authorities or outside accountants, religious leaders may not be aware of all requirements to which they’re subject. This can leave their organizations vulnerable to fraud and its trustees and employees subject to liabilities. Common vulnerabilities To effectively prevent financial and other critical mistakes, make sure your religious congregation complies with IRS rules and federal and state laws. In particular, pay attention to: Employee classification. Determine which workers in your organization are full-time employees and which are independent contractors. Depending on many factors, such as the amount of control your organization has over them, their responsibilities, and their form of compensation,...[ Read More ]

Evaluating Your Audit Committee

Posted February 22, 2019

Under the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, the audit committee — not management or the full board of directors — is directly responsible for appointing, compensating and overseeing external auditors. Periodically, it’s a good idea to assess the effectiveness of your audit committee by performing a self-evaluation. Here are reasons to conduct a self-evaluation, along with some common techniques. Why? If your company is listed on the New York Stock Exchange, an annual self-evaluation is required. However, the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) recommends that all other companies, including not-for-profit entities and private firms, complete voluntary self-evaluations. The benefits include: • Improving audit committee performance, • Promoting candid discussions, and • Identifying practices and procedures to conduct more effective meetings. In general, a self-evaluation strives to make your audit committee more effective at assessing fraud risks and evaluating internal and independent auditors. How? There’s no universal right way to conduct a...[ Read More ]
The commerciality doctrine was created along with the operational test to address concerns over not-for-profits competing at an unfair tax advantage with for-profit businesses. But even business activities related to your exempt purpose could fall prey to the commerciality doctrine, resulting in the potential loss of your organization’s exempt status. Several factors considered The operational test generally requires that a nonprofit be both organized and operating exclusively to accomplish its exempt purpose. It also requires that no more than an “insubstantial part” of its activities further a nonexempt purpose. Your organization can operate a business as a substantial part of its activities as long as the business furthers your exempt purpose. But under the commerciality doctrine, courts have ruled that some organizations’ otherwise exempt activities are substantially the same as those of commercial entities. They consider several factors when evaluating commerciality, including: • Whether an organization has set prices to...[ Read More ]
The Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) recently gave private companies long-awaited relief from one of the most complicated aspects of financial reporting — consolidation of variable interest entities (VIEs). Here are the details. Old rules Accounting Standards Codification (ASC) Topic 810, Consolidation, was designed to prevent companies from hiding liabilities in off-balance sheet vehicles. It requires businesses to report on their balance sheets holdings they have in other entities when they have a controlling financial interest in those entities. For years, the decision to consolidate was based largely on whether a business had majority voting rights in a related legal entity. In 2003, in the wake of the Enron scandal, the FASB amended the standard to beef up the guidelines on when to consolidate. New rules The updated standard introduced the concept of VIEs. Under the VIE guidance, a business has a controlling financial interest when it has: The power...[ Read More ]
A bad hire can lead to more than just disappointment. Disgruntled employees may draw bad publicity; file complicated, expensive lawsuits; and even disclose or destroy sensitive data. Many employers are adding background checks to their hiring processes for these reasons. If you’re thinking about joining them, here are some dos and don’ts to follow. What you should do First and foremost, create a background check process that complies with federal laws that protect applicants from discrimination. Although several laws may come into play, the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) specifically sets out federal requirements for background checks. Under the FCRA, background checks can seek out information regarding an applicant’s creditworthiness, as well as his or her “character, general reputation, personal characteristics, or mode of living.” The FCRA’s most fundamental requirement is that you inform job applicants, or those to whom you have made contingent job offers (the contingency being the...[ Read More ]