Faster Than Average Growth of Accountant and Auditor Jobs

Accounting jobs are poised to undergo significant growth in the coming decade. Both large and small businesses depend on accountants and auditors to keep track of expenses and fine-tune budgets. Also, businesses especially turn to these workers to prepare tax returns. What’s more, businesses need accountants to interpret new accounting legislation, which directly arose in response to Enron and other accounting scandals.

Despite their different names, accountants and auditors generally share the same job responsibilities. First of all, they input company expenses and returns on a daily basis. They also examine monthly expense accounts, staying attuned to any operations that are costing the company too much money. Furthermore, during tax season, they fill out state and federal tax returns. They also consult with other managers on company expenses and outline new cost-cutting budget plans.

However, only in small businesses are accounting jobs referred to as simply “accountants” or “auditors.” Larger businesses usually employ various subcategories of auditor and accounting jobs. Firstly, they employ public accountants who work with company databases to audit company expenses. Public accountants also consult with corporate managers on budget plans, and may recommend budget cuts in the form of employee lay-offs. Most public accountants are Certified Public Accountants (CPAs), and a good number of them concentrate on corporate tax returns. If they do specialize in tax accounting, they advise company managers on how certain financial decisions may influence their tax returns. Additional duties of public accountants include developing benefits packages, such as retirement plans and insurance programs. In this case, they may be known as payroll accountants.

Other accountants include management or cost accountants. These accountants present regular financial reports to leading company managers, so these managers can be well-informed before making important decisions. Because these accountants focus on the cost of operations, they advise management on the budget cuts that may best benefit the company without sacrificing the company’s efficacy. As such, they often do performance evaluation on company operations. For instance, an industrial cost manager may observe a company’s manufacturing operations and prepare a report highlighting which operations are wasteful. These accountants usually work side-by-side with project and operations managers for large corporations, keeping these managers informed on their financial situations.

Other types of accounting jobs include federal accounting jobs. These accountants may be Internal Revenue Service (IRS) agents. The federal government also hires accountants to develop budgets for various government departments and agencies. Nevertheless, even local governments employ accountants to create local budgets and manage governmental assets. These accountants, moreover, are fully aware of government regulations concerning accounting. Therefore, they make sure every individual and company within their government’s jurisdiction sends regular tax returns. If they notice any non-participating party, or a party that has provided suspicious financial information, they visit that party’s home or office to do auditing.

The final major type of accountant is an internal-control auditor, also called a forensic accountant. This is the most recent type of accountant because it arose in response to corporate accounting scandals, such as money-laundering operations. Forensic accountants monitor and implement the internal controls of accounting software used by their company. They advise management on financial transactions that may potentially constitute infractions of state and federal accounting laws. Therefore, they are knowledgeable about both accounting software and government regulations.

Besides security, internal-control auditors also perform waste control by “cleaning up” their company’s database system. Like management accountants, they pay close attention to company operations and pinpoint jobs or expenses that are overloading the budget. When reviewing operations, they also monitor compliance with state laws, federal laws, and corporate policies. Because these accountants take on so many different roles, they may also be called information technology auditors or compliance auditors.

All auditor and accountant jobs require deep familiarity with accounting software. This software has now completely replaced ledgers as record-keeping “books.” Accountants are generally most familiar with Microsoft Excel and Intuit QuickBooks. When working with this software, accountants enable internal controls and perform accounting analysis. They refer to this software whenever they prepare reports for management or government authorities.

All profitable accountant jobs require the CPA licensure. This licensure is conferred by each state’s board of accountancy, though the CPA examination itself is uniform and computer-based. This licensure requires a bachelor’s degree in accounting, with each state usually specifying about 150 total semester hours split between accounting and business courses. Some states also require accounting experience, which students can easily fulfill through internships or summer accounting jobs.

Without taking the CPA exam, accountants and auditors will find it hard to advance in their jobs. In fact, any accountant that files a report to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is required to have a CPA. The CPA exam tests knowledge of Generally Accepted Accounting Procedures (GAAP), business administration, tax accounting, federal regulation, accounting analysis, asset management, and so forth. The CPA exam takes a total of 14 hours to complete, with each of its four parts taking 4.5 hours to complete. This exam is so comprehensive that only half of its takers pass it per year. Once they have passed their CPA, accountants are legally bound to renew it at state-mandated internals. Accountants usually renew their CPA by attending professional-association courses.

As long as the economy continues to grow, accountants and auditors will have little trouble locating accounting job listings. In order to stay competitive, they must keep up-to-date on accounting legislation so they can provide sound guidance to the managers that hire them. They may also want to gain a master’s degree in accounting or business administration, and get as much certification as possible from accounting associations. Furthermore, they should hone their internal-controls skills so they can spot potential errors before they inflate into full-blown accounting scandals.

A. Harrison Barnes is the founder and CEO of EmploymentScape, the parent company of more than 90 job-search websites, employment services, recruiting firms and student loan companies. EmploymentScape (originally Juriscape) employs several hundred employees in 14 offices throughout the United States, Asia, and Europe. These companies were literally started from Harrison’s garage several years ago after Harrison quit his job.

Health Savings Accounts – An American Innovation in Health Insurance

INTRODUCTON – The term “health insurance” is commonly used in the United States to describe any program that helps pay for medical expenses, whether through privately purchased insurance, social insurance or a non-insurance social welfare program funded by the government. Synonyms for this usage include “health coverage,” “health care coverage” and “health benefits” and “medical insurance.” In a more technical sense, the term is used to describe any form of insurance that provides protection against injury or illness.

In America, the health insurance industry has changed rapidly during the last few decades. In the 1970’s most people who had health insurance had indemnity insurance. Indemnity insurance is often called fee-forservice. It is the traditional health insurance in which the medical provider (usually a doctor or hospital) is paid a fee for each service provided to the patient covered under the policy. An important category associated with the indemnity plans is that of consumer driven health care (CDHC). Consumer-directed health plans allow individuals and families to have greater control over their health care, including when and how they access care, what types of care they receive and how much they spend on health care services.

These plans are however associated with higher deductibles that the insured have to pay from their pocket before they can claim insurance money. Consumer driven health care plans include Health Reimbursement Plans (HRAs), Flexible Spending Accounts (FSAs), high deductible health plans (HDHps), Archer Medical Savings Accounts (MSAs) and Health Savings Accounts (HSAs). Of these, the Health Savings Accounts are the most recent and they have witnessed rapid growth during the last decade.

WHAT IS A HEALTH SAVINGS ACCOUNT?

A Health Savings Account (HSA) is a tax-advantaged medical savings account available to taxpayers in the United States. The funds contributed to the account are not subject to federal income tax at the time of deposit. These may be used to pay for qualified medical expenses at any time without federal tax liability.

Another feature is that the funds contributed to Health Savings Account roll over and accumulate year over year if not spent. These can be withdrawn by the employees at the time of retirement without any tax liabilities. Withdrawals for qualified expenses and interest earned are also not subject to federal income taxes. According to the U.S. Treasury Office, ‘A Health Savings Account is an alternative to traditional health insurance; it is a savings product that offers a different way for consumers to pay for their health care.

HSA’s enable you to pay for current health expenses and save for future qualified medical and retiree health expenses on a tax-free basis.’ Thus the Health Savings Account is an effort to increase the efficiency of the American health care system and to encourage people to be more responsible and prudent towards their health care needs. It falls in the category of consumer driven health care plans.

Origin of Health Savings Account

The Health Savings Account was established under the Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act passed by the U.S. Congress in June 2003, by the Senate in July 2003 and signed by President Bush on December 8, 2003.

Eligibility –

The following individuals are eligible to open a Health Savings Account –

– Those who are covered by a High Deductible Health Plan (HDHP).
– Those not covered by other health insurance plans.
– Those not enrolled in Medicare4.

Also there are no income limits on who may contribute to an HAS and there is no requirement of having earned income to contribute to an HAS. However HAS’s can’t be set up by those who are dependent on someone else’s tax return. Also HSA’s cannot be set up independently by children.

What is a High Deductible Health plan (HDHP)?

Enrollment in a High Deductible Health Plan (HDHP) is a necessary qualification for anyone wishing to open a Health Savings Account. In fact the HDHPs got a boost by the Medicare Modernization Act which introduced the HSAs. A High Deductible Health Plan is a health insurance plan which has a certain deductible threshold. This limit must be crossed before the insured person can claim insurance money. It does not cover first dollar medical expenses. So an individual has to himself pay the initial expenses that are called out-of-pocket costs.

In a number of HDHPs costs of immunization and preventive health care are excluded from the deductible which means that the individual is reimbursed for them. HDHPs can be taken both by individuals (self employed as well as employed) and employers. In 2008, HDHPs are being offered by insurance companies in America with deductibles ranging from a minimum of $1,100 for Self and $2,200 for Self and Family coverage. The maximum amount out-of-pocket limits for HDHPs is $5,600 for self and $11,200 for Self and Family enrollment. These deductible limits are called IRS limits as they are set by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). In HDHPs the relation between the deductibles and the premium paid by the insured is inversely propotional i.e. higher the deductible, lower the premium and vice versa. The major purported advantages of HDHPs are that they will a) lower health care costs by causing patients to be more cost-conscious, and b) make insurance premiums more affordable for the uninsured. The logic is that when the patients are fully covered (i.e. have health plans with low deductibles), they tend to be less health conscious and also less cost conscious when going for treatment.

Opening a Health Savings Account

An individual can sign up for HSAs with banks, credit unions, insurance companies and other approved companies. However not all insurance companies offer HSAqualified health insurance plans so it is important to use an insurance company that offers this type of qualified insurance plan. The employer may also set up a plan for the employees. However, the account is always owned by the individual. Direct online enrollment in HSA-qualified health insurance is available in all states except Hawaii, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington.

Contributions to the Health Savings Account

Contributions to HSAs can be made by an individual who owns the account, by an employer or by any other person. When made by the employer, the contribution is not included in the income of the employee. When made by an employee, it is treated as exempted from federal tax. For 2008, the maximum amount that can be contributed (and deducted) to an HSA from all sources is:
$2,900 (self-only coverage)
$5,800 (family coverage)

These limits are set by the U.S. Congress through statutes and they are indexed annually for inflation. For individuals above 55 years of age, there is a special catch up provision that allows them to deposit additional $800 for 2008 and $900 for 2009. The actual maximum amount an individual can contribute also depends on the number of months he is covered by an HDHP (pro-rated basis) as of the first day of a month. For eg If you have family HDHP coverage from January 1,2008 until June 30, 2008, then cease having HDHP coverage, you are allowed an HSA contribution of 6/12 of $5,800, or $2,900 for 2008. If you have family HDHP coverage from January 1,2008 until June 30, 2008, and have self-only HDHP coverage from July 1, 2008 to December 31, 2008, you are allowed an HSA contribution of 6/12 x $5,800 plus 6/12 of $2,900, or $4,350 for 2008. If an individual opens an HDHP on the first day of a month, then he can contribute to HSA on the first day itself. However, if he/she opens an account on any other day than the first, then he can contribute to the HSA from the next month onwards. Contributions can be made as late as April 15 of the following year. Contributions to the HSA in excess of the contribution limits must be withdrawn by the individual or be subject to an excise tax. The individual must pay income tax on the excess withdrawn amount.

Contributions by the Employer

The employer can make contributions to the employee’s HAS account under a salary reduction plan known as Section 125 plan. It is also called a cafeteria plan. The contributions made under the cafeteria plan are made on a pre-tax basis i.e. they are excluded from the employee’s income. The employer must make the contribution on a comparable basis. Comparable contributions are contributions to all HSAs of an employer which are 1) the same amount or 2) the same percentage of the annual deductible. However, part time employees who work for less than 30 hours a week can be treated separately. The employer can also categorize employees into those who opt for self coverage only and those who opt for a family coverage. The employer can automatically make contributions to the HSAs on the behalf of the employee unless the employee specifically chooses not to have such contributions by the employer.

Withdrawals from the HSAs

The HSA is owned by the employee and he/she can make qualified expenses from it whenever required. He/She also decides how much to contribute to it, how much to withdraw for qualified expenses, which company will hold the account and what type of investments will be made to grow the account. Another feature is that the funds remain in the account and role over from year to year. There are no use it or lose it rules. The HSA participants do not have to obtain advance approval from their HSA trustee or their medical insurer to withdraw funds, and the funds are not subject to income taxation if made for ‘qualified medical expenses’. Qualified medical expenses include costs for services and items covered by the health plan but subject to cost sharing such as a deductible and coinsurance, or co-payments, as well as many other expenses not covered under medical plans, such as dental, vision and chiropractic care; durable medical equipment such as eyeglasses and hearing aids; and transportation expenses related to medical care. Nonprescription, over-the-counter medications are also eligible. However, qualified medical expense must be incurred on or after the HSA was established.

Tax free distributions can be taken from the HSA for the qualified medical expenses of the person covered by the HDHP, the spouse (even if not covered) of the individual and any dependent (even if not covered) of the individual.12 The HSA account can also be used to pay previous year’s qualified expenses subject to the condition that those expenses were incurred after the HSA was set up. The individual must preserve the receipts for expenses met from the HSA as they may be needed to prove that the withdrawals from the HSA were made for qualified medical expenses and not otherwise used. Also the individual may have to produce the receipts before the insurance company to prove that the deductible limit was met. If a withdrawal is made for unqualified medical expenses, then the amount withdrawn is considered taxable (it is added to the individuals income) and is also subject to an additional 10 percent penalty. Normally the money also cannot be used for paying medical insurance premiums. However, in certain circumstances, exceptions are allowed.

These are –

1) to pay for any health plan coverage while receiving federal or state unemployment benefits.
2) COBRA continuation coverage after leaving employment with a company that offers health insurance coverage.
3) Qualified long-term care insurance.
4) Medicare premiums and out-of-pocket expenses, including deductibles, co-pays, and coinsurance for: Part A (hospital and inpatient services), Part B (physician and outpatient services), Part C (Medicare HMO and PPO plans) and Part D (prescription drugs).

However, if an individual dies, becomes disabled or reaches the age of 65, then withdrawals from the Health Savings Account are considered exempted from income tax and additional 10 percent penalty irrespective of the purpose for which those withdrawals are made. There are different methods through which funds can be withdrawn from the HSAs. Some HSAs provide account holders with debit cards, some with cheques and some have options for a reimbursement process similar to medical insurance.

Growth of HSAs

Ever since the Health Savings Accounts came into being in January 2004, there has been a phenomenal growth in their numbers. From around 1 million enrollees in March 2005, the number has grown to 6.1 million enrollees in January 2008.14 This represents an increase of 1.6 million since January 2007, 2.9 million since January 2006 and 5.1 million since March 2005. This growth has been visible across all segments. However, the growth in large groups and small groups has been much higher than in the individual category. According to the projections made by the U.S. Treasury Department, the number of HSA policy holders will increase to 14 million by 2010. These 14 million policies will provide cover to 25 to 30 million U.S. citizens.

In the Individual Market, 1.5 million people were covered by HSA/HDHPs purchased as on January 2008. Based on the number of covered lives, 27 percent of newly purchased individual policies (defined as those purchased during the most recent full month or quarter) were enrolled in HSA/HDHP coverage. In the small group market, enrollment stood at 1.8 million as of January 2008. In this group 31 percent of all new enrollments were in the HSA/HDHP category. The large group category had the largest enrollment with 2.8 million enrollees as of January 2008. In this category, six percent of all new enrollments were in the HSA/HDHP category.

Benefits of HSAs

The proponents of HSAs envisage a number of benefits from them. First and foremost it is believed that as they have a high deductible threshold, the insured will be more health conscious. Also they will be more cost conscious. The high deductibles will encourage people to be more careful about their health and health care expenses and will make them shop for bargains and be more vigilant against excesses in the health care industry. This, it is believed, will reduce the growing cost of health care and increase the efficiency of the health care system in the United States. HSA-eligible plans typically provide enrollee decision support tools that include, to some extent, information on the cost of health care services and the quality of health care providers. Experts suggest that reliable information about the cost of particular health care services and the quality of specific health care providers would help enrollees become more actively engaged in making health care purchasing decisions. These tools may be provided by health insurance carriers to all health insurance plan enrollees, but are likely to be more important to enrollees of HSA-eligible plans who have a greater financial incentive to make informed decisions about the quality and costs of health care providers and services.

It is believed that lower premiums associated with HSAs/HDHPs will enable more people to enroll for medical insurance. This will mean that lower income groups who do not have access to medicare will be able to open HSAs. No doubt higher deductibles are associated with HSA eligible HDHPs, but it is estimated that tax savings under HSAs and lower premiums will make them less expensive than other insurance plans. The funds put in the HSA can be rolled over from year to year. There are no use it or lose it rules. This leads to a growth in savings of the account holder. The funds can be accumulated tax free for future medical expenses if the holder so desires. Also the savings in the HSA can be grown through investments.

The nature of such investments is decided by the insured. The earnings on savings in the HSA are also exempt from income tax. The holder can withdraw his savings in the HSA after turning 65 years old without paying any taxes or penalties. The account holder has complete control over his/her account. He/She is the owner of the account right from its inception. A person can withdraw money as and when required without any gatekeeper. Also the owner decides how much to put in his/her account, how much to spend and how much to save for the future. The HSAs are portable in nature. This means that if the holder changes his/her job, becomes unemployed or moves to another location, he/she can still retain the account.

Also if the account holder so desires he can transfer his Health Saving Account from one managing agency to another. Thus portability is an advantage of HSAs. Another advantage is that most HSA plans provide first-dollar coverage for preventive care. This is true of virtually all HSA plans offered by large employers and over 95% of the plans offered by small employers. It was also true of over half (59%) of the plans which were purchased by individuals.

All of the plans offering first-dollar preventive care benefits included annual physicals, immunizations, well-baby and wellchild care, mammograms and Pap tests; 90% included prostate cancer screenings and 80% included colon cancer screenings. Some analysts believe that HSAs are more beneficial for the young and healthy as they do not have to pay frequent out of pocket costs. On the other hand, they have to pay lower premiums for HDHPs which help them meet unforeseen contingencies.

Health Savings Accounts are also advantageous for the employers. The benefits of choosing a health Savings Account over a traditional health insurance plan can directly affect the bottom line of an employer’s benefit budget. For instance Health Savings Accounts are dependent on a high deductible insurance policy, which lowers the premiums of the employee’s plan. Also all contributions to the Health Savings Account are pre-tax, thus lowering the gross payroll and reducing the amount of taxes the employer must pay.

Criticism of HSAs

The opponents of Health Savings Accounts contend that they would do more harm than good to America’s health insurance system. Some consumer organizations, such as Consumers Union, and many medical organizations, such as the American Public Health Association, have rejected HSAs because, in their opinion, they benefit only healthy, younger people and make the health care system more expensive for everyone else. According to Stanford economist Victor Fuchs, “The main effect of putting more of it on the consumer is to reduce the social redistributive element of insurance.

Some others believe that HSAs remove healthy people from the insurance pool and it makes premiums rise for everyone left. HSAs encourage people to look out for themselves more and spread the risk around less. Another concern is that the money people save in HSAs will be inadequate. Some people believe that HSAs do not allow for enough savings to cover costs. Even the person who contributes the maximum and never takes any money out would not be able to cover health care costs in retirement if inflation continues in the health care industry.

Opponents of HSAs, also include distinguished figures like state Insurance Commissioner John Garamendi, who called them a “dangerous prescription” that will destabilize the health insurance marketplace and make things even worse for the uninsured. Another criticism is that they benefit the rich more than the poor. Those who earn more will be able to get bigger tax breaks than those who earn less. Critics point out that higher deductibles along with insurance premiums will take away a large share of the earnings of the low income groups. Also lower income groups will not benefit substantially from tax breaks as they are already paying little or no taxes. On the other hand tax breaks on savings in HSAs and on further income from those HSA savings will cost billions of dollars of tax money to the exchequer.

The Treasury Department has estimated HSAs would cost the government $156 billion over a decade. Critics say that this could rise substantially. Several surveys have been conducted regarding the efficacy of the HSAs and some have found that the account holders are not particularly satisfied with the HSA scheme and many are even ignorant about the working of the HSAs. One such survey conducted in 2007 of American employees by the human resources consulting firm Towers Perrin showed satisfaction with account based health plans (ABHPs) was low. People were not happy with them in general compared with people with more traditional health care. Respondants said they were not comfortable with the risk and did not understand how it works.

According to the Commonwealth Fund, early experience with HAS eligible high-deductible health plans reveals low satisfaction, high out of- pocket costs, and cost-related access problems. Another survey conducted with the Employee Benefits Research Institute found that people enrolled in HSA-eligible high-deductible health plans were much less satisfied with many aspects of their health care than adults in more comprehensive plans People in these plans allocate substantial amounts of income to their health care, especially those who have poorer health or lower incomes. The survey also found that adults in high-deductible health plans are far more likely to delay or avoid getting needed care, or to skip medications, because of the cost. Problems are particularly pronounced among those with poorer health or lower incomes.

Political leaders have also been vocal about their criticism of the HSAs. Congressman John Conyers, Jr. issued the following statement criticizing the HSAs “The President’s health care plan is not about covering the uninsured, making health insurance affordable, or even driving down the cost of health care. Its real purpose is to make it easier for businesses to dump their health insurance burden onto workers, give tax breaks to the wealthy, and boost the profits of banks and financial brokers. The health care policies concocted at the behest of special interests do nothing to help the average American. In many cases, they can make health care even more inaccessible.” In fact a report of the U.S. governments Accountability office, published on April 1, 2008 says that the rate of enrollment in the HSAs is greater for higher income individuals than for lower income ones.

A study titled “Health Savings Accounts and High Deductible Health Plans: Are They an Option for Low-Income Families? By Catherine Hoffman and Jennifer Tolbert which was sponsored by the Kaiser Family Foundation reported the following key findings regarding the HSAs:

a) Premiums for HSA-qualified health plans may be lower than for traditional insurance, but these plans shift more of the financial risk to individuals and families through higher deductibles.
b) Premiums and out-of-pocket costs for HSA-qualified health plans would consume a substantial portion of a low-income family’s budget.
c) Most low-income individuals and families do not face high enough tax liability to benefit in a significant way from tax deductions associated with HSAs.
d) People with chronic conditions, disabilities, and others with high cost medical needs may face even greater out-of-pocket costs under HSA-qualified health plans.
e) Cost-sharing reduces the use of health care, especially primary and preventive services, and low-income individuals and those who are sicker are particularly sensitive to cost-sharing increases.
f) Health savings accounts and high deductible plans are unlikely to substantially increase health insurance coverage among the uninsured.

Choosing a Health Plan

Despite the advantages offered by the HSA, it may not be suitable for everyone. While choosing an insurance plan, an individual must consider the following factors:

1. The premiums to be paid.
2. Coverage/benefits available under the scheme.
3. Various exclusions and limitations.
4. Portability.
5. Out-of-pocket costs like coinsurance, co-pays, and deductibles.
6. Access to doctors, hospitals, and other providers.
7. How much and sometimes how one pays for care.
8. Any existing health issue or physical disability.
9. Type of tax savings available.

The plan you choose should according to your requirements and financial ability.

Glossary of Common Accounting Terms

Bling Lingo made simple

Today…again…I was scratching my head over an accounting mess, for which the owner had paid a bookkeeper many dollars over many years. How did it happen? If you don’t know the basics, you are a sitting duck, my friend. You know, accountants do it on purpose. They use weird words to make you think that they are smarter than you are. To keep you in the dark. Or, the less nasty ones just don’t know better.

Good accountants and bookkeepers want you to learn the lingo. They want to help you make the bling, baby! So, read and learn. Keep this glossary handy as you work with your professional money managers. Use it to begin your journey to financial literacy!

Bling Lingo – Glossary of common Accounting Terms…

ACCOUNTING EQUATION: The Balance Sheet is based on the basic accounting equation. That is:

Assets = Equities.

Equity of the company can be held by someone other than the owner. That is called a liability. Because we usually have some liabilities, the accounting equation is usually written…

Assets = Liabilities + Owner’s Equity.

ACCOUNTS: Business activities cause increases and decreases in your assets, liabilities and equity. Your accounting system records these activities in accounts. A number of accounts are needed to summarize the increases and decreases in each asset, liability and owner’s equity account on the Balance Sheet and of each revenue and expense that appears on the Income Statement. You can have a few accounts or hundreds, depending on the kind of detailed information you need to run your business.

ACCOUNTS PAYABLE: Also called A/P. These are bills that your business owes to the government or your suppliers. If you have ‘bought’ it, but haven’t paid for it yet (like when you buy ‘on account’) you create an account payable. These are found in the liability section of the Balance Sheet.

ACCOUNTS RECEIVABLE: Also called A/R. When you sell something to someone, and they don’t pay you that minute, you create an account receivable. This is the amount of money your customers owe you for products and services that they bought from you…but haven’t paid for yet. Accounts receivable are found in the current assets section of the Balance Sheet.

ACCRUAL BASIS ACCOUNTING: With accrual basis accounting, you ‘account for’ expenses and sales at the time the transaction occurs. This is the most accurate way of accounting for your business activities. If you sell something to Mrs. Fernwicky today, you would record the sale as of today, even if she plans on paying you in two months. If you buy some paint today, you account for it today, even if you will pay for it next month when the supply house statement comes. Cash basis accounting records the sale when the cash is received and the expense when the check goes out. Not as accurate a picture of what is happening at you company.

ASSETS: The ‘stuff’ the company owns. Anything of value – cash, accounts receivable, trucks, inventory, land. Current assets are those that could be converted into cash easily. (Officially, within a year’s time.) The most current of current assets is cash, of course. Accounts receivable will be converted to cash as soon as the customer pays, hopefully within a month. So, accounts receivable are current assets. So is inventory.

Fixed assets are those things that you wouldn’t want to convert into cash for operating money. For instance, you don’t want to sell your building to cover the supply house bill. Assets are listed, in order of liquidity (how close it is to cash) on the Balance Sheet.

BALANCE SHEET: The Balance Sheet reflects the financial condition of the company on a specific date. The basic accounting formula is the basis for the Balance Sheet:

Assets = Liabilities + Owner’s Equity

The Balance Sheet doesn’t start over. It is the cumulative score from day one of the business to the time the report is created.

CASH FLOW: The movement and timing of money, in and out of the business. In addition to the Balance Sheet and the Income Statement, you may want to report the flow of cash through your business. Your company could be profitable but ‘cash poor’ and unable to pay your bills. Not good!

A cash flow statement helps keep you aware of how much cash came and went for any period of time. A cash flow projection would be an educated guess at what the cash flow situation will be for the future.

Suppose you want to buy a new truck with cash. But that purchase will empty the bank account and leave you without any cash for payroll! For cash flow reasons, you might choose to buy a truck on payments instead.

CHART OF ACCOUNTS: A complete listing of every account in your accounting system. Every transaction in your business needs to be recorded, so that you can keep track of things. Think of the chart of accounts as the peg board on which you hang the business activities.

CREDIT: A credit is used in Double-Entry accounting to increase a liability or an equity account. A credit will decrease an asset account. For every credit there is a debit. These are the two balancing components of every journal entry. Credits and debits keep the basic accounting equation (Assets = Liabilities + Owner’s Equity) in balance as you record business activities.

DEBIT: A debit is used in Double-Entry accounting to increase an asset account. A debit will decrease a liability or an equity account. For every debit there is a credit.

DIRECT COSTS: Also called cost of goods sold, cost of sales or job site expenses. These are expenses that include labor costs and materials. These expenses can be directly tracked to a specific job. If the job didn’t happen, the direct costs wouldn’t have been incurred. (Compare direct cost with indirect costs to get a better understanding of the term.) Direct costs are found on the Income Statement, right below the income accounts.

Income – Direct Costs = Gross Margin.

DOUBLE-ENTRY ACCOUNTING: An accounting system used to keep track of business activities. Double-Entry accounting maintains the Balance Sheet: Assets = Liabilities + Owner’s Equity. When dollars are recorded in one account, they must be accounted for in another account in such a way that the activity is well documented and the Balance Sheet stays in balance.

You may not need to be an expert in Double-Entry accounting, but the person who is responsible for creating the financial statements better get pretty good at it. If that is you, go back through the book and focus on the ‘gray’ sheets. Study the examples and see how the Double-Entry method acts as a check and balance of your books.

Remember the law of the universe…what goes around, comes around. This is the essence of Double-Entry accounting.

EQUITY: Funds that have been supplied to the company to get the ‘stuff’. Equities show ownership of the assets or claims against the assets. If someone other than the owner has claims on the assets, it is called a liability.

Total Assets – Total Liabilities = Net Equity

This is another way of stating the basic accounting equation that emphasizes how much of the assets you own. Net equity is also called net worth.

EXPENSE: Also called costs. Expenses are decreases in equity. These are dollars paid out to suppliers, vendors, Uncle Sam, employees, charities, etc. Remember to pay bills thankfully, because it takes money to make money. Expenses are listed on the Income Statement. They should be split into two categories, direct costs and indirect costs. The basic equation for the Income Statement is:

Revenues – Expenses = Profit

(You’ll see a profit if there are more revenues than expenses!…or a loss, if expenses are more than revenues.)

Remember, all costs need to be included in your selling price. The customer pays for everything. In exchange, you give the customer your services. What a deal!

FINANCIAL STATEMENTS: refer to the Balance Sheet and the Income Statement. The Balance Sheet is a report that shows the financial condition of the company. The Income Statement (also called the Profit and Loss statement or the ‘P&L’) is the profit performance summary.

Financial Statements can include the supporting documents like cash flow reports, accounts receivable reports, transaction register, etc. Any report that measures the movement of money in your company.

Financial Statements are what the bank wants to see before it loans you money. The IRS insists that you share the score with them, and asks for your Financial Statements every year.

GENERAL LEDGER: Once upon a time, accounting systems were kept in a book that listed the increases and decreases in all the accounts of the company. That book was called the general ledger. Today, you probably have a computerized accounting system. Still, the general ledger is a collection of all Balance Sheet and Income Statement accounts…all the assets, liabilities and equity. It is the report that shows ALL the activity in the company. Often this listing is called a detail trial balance on the report menu of your accounting program. The detail trial balance is my favorite report when I am trying to find a mistake, or make sure that we have entered information in the right accounts.

GROSS PROFIT: This is how much money you have left after you have subtracted the direct costs from the selling price.

Income – Direct Costs = Gross Profit. When this is expressed as a percentage, it is call Gross Margin.

This is a good number to scrutinize each month, and to track in terms of percentage to total sales over the course of time. The higher the better with gross margin! You need to have enough money left at this point to pay all your indirect costs and still end up with a profit.

INCOME STATEMENT: also called the Profit and Loss Statement, or P&L, or Statement of Operations. This is a report that shows the changes in the equity of the company as a result of business operations. It lists the income (or revenues, or sales), subtracts the expenses and shows you the profit J! (Or loss L.) This report covers a period of time and summarizes the money in and the money out.

The Income Statement is like a magnifying glass that shows the detail of activities that cause changes in the equity section of the Balance Sheet.

INDIRECT COST: Also called overhead or operating expenses. These expenses are indirectly related to the services you provide to customers. Indirect costs include office salaries, rent, advertising, telephone, utilities…costs to keep a ‘roof overhead’. Every cost that is not a direct cost is an indirect cost. Indirect costs do not go away when sales drop off.

INVENTORY: Also called stock. These are materials that you purchase with the intent to sell, but you haven’t sold them yet. Inventory is found on the balance sheet under assets. It is considered a current asset because you will convert it into cash as soon as you sell it. Beware of turning cash into inventory. You may run out of cash. Work with your suppliers to keep inventory SMALL.

JOURNAL: This is the diary of your business. It keeps track of business activities chronologically. Each business activity is recorded as a journal entry. The Double-Entry will list the debit account and the credit account for each transaction on the day that it occurred. In your reports menu in your accounting system, the journal entries are listed in the transaction register.

LIABILITIES: Like equities, these are sources of assets – how you got the ‘stuff’. These are claims against assets by someone other than the owner. This is what the company owes! Notes payable, taxes payable and loans are liabilities. Liabilities are categorized as current liabilities (need to pay off within a year’s time, like payroll taxes) or long term liabilities (pay-back time is more than a year, like your building mortgage).

MONEY: Also called moola, scratch, gold, coins, cash, change, chicken feed, green stuff, BLING, etc. Money is the form we use to exchange energy, goods and services for other energy, goods and services. Used to buy things that you need or want. Beats trading for chickens in the global marketplace.

Money in and of itself is neither good or bad. I want you to make lots of it, and do great things with it!

NET INCOME: Also called net profit, net earnings, current earnings or bottom line. (No wonder accounting is confusing – look at all those words that mean the same thing!)

After you have subtracted ALL expenses (including taxes) from revenues, you are left with net income. The word net means basic, fundamental. This is a very important item on the income statement because it tells you how much money is left after business operations. Think of net income like the score of a single basketball game in a series. Net income tells you if you won or lost, and by how much, for a given period of time.

By the way, if net income is a negative number, it’s called a loss. You want to avoid those. The net income is reflected on the Balance Sheet in the equity section, under current earnings (or net profit). Net income results in an increase in owner’s equity. A loss results in a decrease in owner’s equity.

RETAINED EARNINGS: The amount of net income earned and retained by the business. If net income is like the score after a single basketball game, retained earnings is the lifetime statistic. Retained earnings is found in the equity section of the Balance Sheet. It keeps track of how much of the total owner’s equity was earned and retained by the business versus how much capital has been invested from the owners (paid-in capital).

Each month, the net profits are reflected in the Balance Sheet as current earnings. At the end of the year, current earnings are added to the retained earnings account.

Ellen Rohr is the President and Founder of Bare Bones Biz, a business training and consulting company that teaches clients how to turn big ideas into successful businesses. Rohr is the successful author of numerous business basics books, including: Where Did the Money Go? – Accounting Basics for the Business Owner Who Hates Numbers and How Much Should I Charge? – Pricing Basics for Making Money Doing What You Love.

Silent Witness – A Forensic Accountant’s Tale

Forensic accounting is neither glamorous nor nearly suspenseful enough to rate a Friday night TV slot, however it is an exacting science in its own right and is often critical in the litigation process. Few forensic accountants have the spookily perceptive eyes of Silent Witness’ Professor Sam Ryan, however many forensic accountants would joke that their job is, like hers, about counting dead bodies.

Bad jokes aside, good detective work and accurate analysis are what it’s all about, and attention to detail can obviously make or break a case. Silent Witness turns on expert witness in the courtroom, and the analogy extends to Professor Ryan’s examining decaying bodies whilst forensic accountants examine decaying businesses and finances. But let’s skip the moonlit nights, the owls in the forests and the spooky music and get down to the fundamentals of what is a forensic accountant, when you might need one, and what to look out for in order to put your best case forward.

What is forensic accounting?

Forensic accounting is the use of investigative techniques, accounting skills and business skills to aid in the collection and formation of information to be used as evidence in court cases. As a discipline, it encompasses financial expertise, fraud knowledge, and a strong understanding of business reality and the working of the legal system.

The process includes:

o Reviewing the factual situation.

o Providing assistance in obtaining documentation necessary to support or refute a claim.

o Reviewing the relevant documentation to form an initial assessment of the case and identify areas of loss.

o Providing assistance with examination for discovery, including the formulation of questions to be asked regarding the financial evidence.

o Co-ordination with other experts.

o Reviewing the opposing expert’s damages report and reporting on both the strengths and weaknesses of the positions taken.

o Providing attendance at trial while hearing the testimony of the opposing expert and also providing assistance with the cross-examination.

Forensic accountants become involved in the assessment of economic loss damages in personal injury; assessment of damages in commercial disputes; business valuations for family law and commercial disputes; family law superannuation valuations; professional negligence claims; fraud investigation and fraud risk assessment; and business interruption claims.

When do I need a forensic accountant? As a general rule, you should get a forensic accountant involved whenever there is an issue of value that requires accounting analysis and expertise. A forensic accounting report should bring far more value to the case than its cost.

Unraveling tax planning and corporate structures Tax planning often significantly complicates an understanding of a plaintiff’s affairs. The plaintiff may be saying that he was earning $100,000 per year but his personal tax returns are only showing $20,000 per year. Most people in business will employ a number of tax planning strategies to minimise the incidence of tax. These strategies include use of corporate structures, discretionary trusts and unit trusts, superannuation, salary packaging, fringe benefits such as motor vehicles and car repayments, and splitting of income with other family members. In the assessment of damages and business valuations, it is necessary to look through the corporate entities to determine a plaintiff’s true position. The plaintiff claiming that he is earning $100,000 a year may have a $20,000 salary for himself, $20,000 for his wife, $20,000 in superannuation contributions, $20,000 in fringe benefits such as motor vehicle and personal expenses and $20,000 in profit left in the company.

Independent assessment of the issues People often have poor financial understanding either of their business itself, accounting terminology, or both. Plaintiffs will often say that they are earning, say, $100,000 per year, but they are actually referring to turnover, not profit. They have not considered the expenses incurred in operating that business.

A forensic accountant will independently examine the plaintiff’s losses or claims based on the evidence presented. They will examine the issues based on the available evidence. A forensic accountant’s investigation may include analysis of other companies associated with the plaintiff to ensure the income or expenses have not been diverted to other entities.

How to find a forensic accountant

One of the best ways to find a forensic accountant is to ask around. Ask your colleagues and other solicitors whom they use and why. Ask barristers whom they would recommend.

Forensic accounting requires a different set of skills and knowledge from general accounting. Forensic accountants will have knowledge of the rules of evidence, common law, the relevant legislation, the expert code of conduct and obligations. Forensic accountants will be experienced at giving evidence in court and preparing reports for court.

It is important to establish a relationship with the forensic accountant. An ongoing relationship enables you to ask questions about a matter and get a feeling for the issues and reduces the time required to brief the accountant. The instructions that we receive are often one page, briefly detailing the important facts of the case, contact details for the client and enclosing copies of financial documentation available. Due to our ongoing relationship with the solicitor, we arrange a conference with the client, obtain further financial details and in turn provide our expert report.

Things for lawyers to look out for

In providing critical review and analysis of other accountants’ reports, we have encountered a multitude of problems and errors. We have detailed below some of the most common errors that cause the most pain for lawyers.

Beware of one- to two-page reports

We often encounter the simple one- to two-page report valuing a business or calculating damages. These reports often have little value and can be a hindrance. The characteristics of a typical one-page report are:

o There is often little evidence to support the opinions given.

o There is insufficient detail to explain what tests or investigations have been made.

o They often do not contain the Expert Witness Code of Conduct.

o They often have significant errors in methodology.

o The opinions put forward often crumble under critical investigation and examination.

o Initial opinions and views are often changed following a more detailed examination of the issues.

Beware of complex financial models

Often forensic accountants will develop complex financial models of a business to illustrate the effects of an event of damage (personal injury, breach of contract, fire etc). Upon initial examination, these models will often appear to be well argued and considered. Complex models often have assumptions based on other assumptions and it is often only necessary to attack one or two assumptions based on logic or common sense and the model will show losses rather than profits. The more complex the model, the easier it is to discredit.

In one case, the plaintiff’s accountant developed a complex model showing the expected earnings and actual post damage earnings in a wholesaling company. The company showed a significant decline in turnover and profits in the month, post-accident. The company subsequently recovered from its damage. The plaintiff’s solicitors also allocated considerable resources to the case on the basis of the expected losses as detailed in the accountant’s report. We were able to show that the loss was the result of a loss of a major client that happened pre-damage. The massive losses put forward by the accountant were significantly reduced and the report was discredited.

Complex financial models will often produce results that deliver unexpected large damages claims. In the calculation of damages, there is a simple test that can be applied. Add the loss to post-damage earnings and compare to pre-damage earnings. If there is a significant difference, then the reasons need to be explained. A good, experienced forensic accountant should be able to show a number of different ways to approach a problem. The simplest approach is often the best. A simple approach often examines the real drivers of the business and the principles are more easily understood by all.

Ask where the weaknesses are

Every report will have some weaknesses. The weakness might be minor or significant. Ask the forensic accountant where the weakness is in the report. The accountant should know where the weaknesses are, which assumptions are solid and are supported by evidence and which will be susceptible to critical examination. Examples include basing earnings on one year’s trading or three to four years’ trading. The accountant may reason: “There is an argument that gross profit should be based on the average of the last three years, which would reduce the claim, but the recent changes in the product mix support using the most current data,” or “The evidence supporting this assumption is poor and will be dependent upon the plaintiff’s testimony.”

Get accountants involved early

In many instances we get involved too late. Damages may be assumed to be significant and legal resources are allocated accordingly, only to find that the actual damages are minimal and the opportunity to recover a settlement or verdict in excess of the legal fees is impossible. Getting forensic accountants involved early will also give the accountant the opportunity to request further information and gather evidence such as witness statements and property valuations.

Check for mathematical accuracy

Always ask the accountant if the mathematical accuracy of the report has been checked. A mathematical error can substantially affect the credibility of the report and the plaintiff’s claim. We were asked to assess a personal injury claim for a professional footballer. The accountant’s report for the plaintiff was well argued and the plaintiff’s earnings were supported by leading coaches and agents. Whilst the question of probability is always an issue for professional sports people, the quality of statements and testimony of the coaches and agents may have outweighed any statistical analysis of probability. We carried out a simple check of the mathematics of the report and found that the plaintiff’s gross loss rather than net loss was used to calculate future loss. The claim for future economic loss was halved. A simple independent check of the mathematical accuracy with a calculator by the accountant for the plaintiff would have prevented this error.

Reports should be readable first time

A forensic accountant’s report should be able to be understood and absorbed on the first reading. If you have to read a report three or four times before you can understand what it is trying to say, judges and counsel will have the same problem. A good report will contain an executive summary that introduces all the major issues and states the conclusions so that the reader will understand the direction and focus of the report. A business valuation that explains in the executive summary the total valuation, the basis of valuation used, the main assumptions in that valuation (such as capitalisation rate and future maintainable earnings) and a brief explanation of the important factors behind the assumptions will provide an excellent introduction to the report.

Forensic accountants provide a valuable resource for the solicitor in litigation. The investigative and analytical ability to examine financial and business matters complements the legal skills of solicitors. Maybe one day there will be a gripping, suspenseful TV show about forensic accountants. Maybe not.

Perks of Being an Accountant

Majoring in accounting can open many doors for your future. Students entering the accounting field has grown in the past couple years. So why do people become accountants and why are accountants so successful? Accounting firms are looking for young accounting majors, they are recruiting and offering scholarships and signing bonuses to college graduates. Josee Rose from the Wall Street Journal said that “According to the National Association of Colleges and Employer’s 2008 job-outlook survey, accounting is the No. 1 bachelor’s degree in demand by employers.” Even with the economy in its place right now there is still demand for new accountants.

Accounting is considered the language of business and accounting shows how businesses are doing and what needs help. There are many different positions that an accountant can hold. They can become a public accountant, who provide auditing, tax, accounting and consulting services to businesses and individuals, public accountants can be in a firm or by working for themselves. Areas in public accounting include auditing which is the most important function of being a CPA, a large percentage of time in firms is spent auditing. Accounting and review services consist of maintaining accounting records to performing compilation. CPA firms do numerous of the taxes for many companies and individual clients. They prepare and review tax returns, tax planning and tax litigation. CPAs also do management services; which consists of consulting or management advisory services. This can include computer systems, management information systems, marketing, executive recruiting, personal financial planning, and budgeting techniques. There are so many jobs within accounting and so many different options for accounting majors.

Accountants can also be private industry accountants. In private accounting you work for one company and learn and work for that company only. They prepare all the financial information and budgets for that company. Accountants can also receive the Certificate in Management Accounting; all though it is not required it is respected and gives you high credentials. There is the Certified Internal Auditor which includes a 14 hour exam. Also you can go into government and non-for-profit accounting; government accountants monitor the appropriation of funds and awarding of contracts to private agencies that must follow governmental regulations.

Accounting can include a regular day at the office or it can be traveling to different companies to audit or even seven day weeks. Duties of an accountant can include, analyzing company budget, expenses and revenue, overseeing bookkeeping and payroll, figuring company benefits, auditing, managing bank accounts and investments, preparing profit and loss statements, compiling and analyzing financial information, explaining billing invoices and accounting policies, and supervising the input and handling of financial data and reports. Since accounting information is very time sensitive it needs to be processed in a timely fashion. Accountants may work by themselves or in groups. Accounting is constantly changing due to technology, recently accounting was all computerized and now is easier to understand and report.

Accounting and Finance professionals are taking a more prominent role in driving the direction of business practices of the companies and facilities they work for. They are increasingly being viewed as business partners. They are needed to analyze the conversions of their company’s technologies, establish practices that will increase cost efficiency and point managers in the direction of making decisions that will enhance profits and reduce losses.

The CPA title is the biggest credential for accounting professionals, having a CPA accreditation is a common prerequisite for positions. Companies are looking for professionals with experience and are familiar with general accounting principles like general ledger, account reconciliation, financial statement preparation and financial analysis. Also having knowledge about new technologies and knowing how to work new programs is the key to getting hired.. Managers are looking everywhere for qualified individuals for the right job. These managers are also trying to find the perfect match for their company and are investing a lot into the hiring process.

Accounting trends have recently changed dramatically with the computerization of accounting techniques. Accountants now need to be able to work with and understand new computer programs and new ways of doing their work within the practices. Firms need accounting professionals who can understand both the financial and information technology aspects of different business improvement initiatives. The new changes have brought more attention to staffing and experience shortages making companies step up their hiring efforts and recruiting the best of the best. More colleges are starting to react to this need for professionals in certain fields like accounting, and are opening more classes to accommodate these students. The market needs are driving the courses on college campuses all over the nation.

Advice For Accounting Students Considering Changing Majors

So you want to be an accountant. Or, perhaps you were told when coming out of high school that accounting is a good, safe field to get into. Maybe you just thought accounting is the way to go if you want to make good money. Or, as most of us can probably attest to, you simply did not know what to major in when embarking on your college education, and accounting just seemed like an easy choice. As you struggle through the onslaught of coursework that includes Cost Accounting, Financial Accounting, Auditing, and the nightmare known as Federal Taxation, it is very easy to find yourself wondering if it is really worth it. Before you go submitting that petition to change your major to the registrar, here are some things to consider when deciding whether or not it really is worth it.

One of the most attractive benefits of the accounting field is that there a tremendous amount of directions you can go. Whether you want to work for a private company in the accounting department, work for a non-profit institution or the government, or maybe even open your own public accounting firm, accounting is one of the few fields that offers such flexibility, and it is more than just filing tax returns.

For starters, management accounting and public accounting are two very different branches of the same field. Public accounting, as most of us are probably familiar, involves the accounting services aimed to generally serve, as the name implies, the public. Preparing and auditing financial statements of clients, who may include large publicly traded companies, which are in turn used by stockholders and investors, again the public, to make investment decisions is a responsibility of the public accountant. Smaller public accounting firms may focus primarily on small business, such as partnerships or sole proprietorships, whereas the renowned Big 4 public accounting firms generally serve the largest publicly traded corporations. Auditing and tax accounting are merely components of public accounting. Management accounting, on the other hand, is an excellent field for people who enjoy the many challenges of problem solving, as management accountants are actively involved in the decision making processes of a firm due to their knowledge of the company’s internal accounting structure. It is necessary to carefully consider managerial accounting information when making decisions involving budgets and capital investments, hence the importance of the management accountant.

If public accounting sounds like something that may be of interest to you upon completion of your degree, then you almost certainly will have to obtain Certified Public Accountant certification by passing the infamous CPA exam. Certified Management Accountant designation also exists for those interested in management accounting which, similar to CPA certification, requires passing a universal exam. So, not only do you have to complete a relentless series of college coursework in accounting, but you must also study for and pass an exam in order to obtain certification, which still begs the question, is all this really worth it?

Now that two examples of differing accounting career paths have been provided, you should consider what being an accountant is really like. Maybe you would enjoy working in an office, as almost all accountants do, or working a typical forty hour work week, which is generally the norm for most accountants. Working long hours can also potentially come with the territory, particularly during tax season, in addition to frequent travel if you are employed by a large firm with many branches in multiple regions. Some accountants, however, may also work from home, so there is even a bit of flexibility when it comes to the work environment of an accounting professional. Perhaps even more favorable for the accounting student is the fact that the demand for competent accounting professionals across the board is projected to grow within the next decade according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, due, in part, to the implementation of stricter accounting standards brought on by the numerous documented cases of fraudulent conduct and unethical accounting practices of companies such as Enron.

If you are still wondering if this is all really worth the hard work, perhaps a brief description of the salaries of accounting professionals may interest you. It is estimated that accountants with a bachelor’s degree can expect to earn an average salary of approximately $40,000, starting out, again according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Salaries can be expected to increase significantly with experience and subsequent professional licenses, such as the CPA or CMA, as well as with graduate degrees. Some of the top accounting professionals earn six figure salaries. It can certainly be said that, while not outlandishly high, accounting salaries are pretty good.

Diffusion and Implementation of Forensic Accounting in Countries of Business Opacity

Introduction

The increasing awareness of financial crimes is growing the demand for forensic accountants to help detect illegal financial activity by companies, individuals, and organized crime rings. No matter how much fraud activities increase, there must always be an anti-fraud scheme to shield against it. To provide availability of balance and protection from illegal business acts is the main reason why Forensic Accounting (FA) exists.

With the pressing need for Forensic Accounting as a tool to fight fraud, this article studies its applicability in countries of opaque business practices, probes the accessible means that would help in introducing it to the culture, and spots the areas where it is radically needed especially in the countries of financial cloudiness and opacity. The results are based on quantitative and qualitative studies in Lebanon for being perceived as an opaque country, sharing the same characteristics that define nations with fraudulent financial behaviour suffering from a high level of financial corruption such as money laundering, lack of transparency or adequate financial disclosures as well as corruption at the level of management, supervisory boards and even governments themselves.

The results of the studies reveal that Forensic Accounting is perceived as a means to overcome fraudulent behaviour. Most of the respondents either agreed or strongly agreed on the need to incorporate it in order to prevent fraud and for detection purposes as a primary need. However, the respondents considered this to be new in Lebanon with a highest percentage of people (56.36%) reporting that it wasn’t used by Lebanese companies due to the lack of awareness, privacy issues, the nature and type of businesses (family businesses and SMEs), lack of guidance concerning the standards (local or international) that should be applied and lack for proper regulations. Yet respondents showed a positive attitude towards the implementation in Lebanon as financially corrupted country. Thus with such an encouraging perception amongst respondents, the issue remains in the introduction and diffusion of Forensic Accounting.

The outcomes of the studies also supported the idea of setting a law that mandates all sectors to submit a Forensic Accounting report. The idea of setting a law that enforces companies to file such a report was embraced by the majority of respondents who also considered that the best means of introducing this system in a country of opaque business country is through the educational curriculum via the graduate programs. DIFA (Diploma in Investigative & Forensic Accounting) as well as the CPA (Certified Public Accountant) were recommended as the certifications that should be granted in the corrupted countries as in the case of Lebanon.

Research Question and Hypotheses

The discussion of the study results are based on the research questions that investigated “To what extent is Forensic Accounting applicable? And how could it be introduced?” In order to answer these questions, there is a need to identify if such a scheme is known at any levels and sectors or if it is used or applied as a procedure by financially corrupted companies or governmental institutions.

The suggested hypotheses are analysed and evaluated according to the findings.

Hypothesis 1: Countries with Opaque Business Practices Need Forensic Accounting as a Tool to Fight Fraud and Corruption.

This study revealed that there is an eagerness to have Forensic Accounting in financially fraudulent countries due to the extensive corruptive acts that are committed and still are without any observation and punishment because the fraudster always gets away with it due to the absence the adequate and proper tool to identify and discover these acts. Hereby the urgent need to introduce it in countries with opaque business practices and to create awareness about this procedure in different fields and sectors mainly in the financial fields and governmental sectors.

This anti-fraud scheme was regarded as an appropriate tool to fight corruption since it has the legal accessibility and techniques needed to reveal fraud. An additional point is the positive perception towards it and the high acceptance to implement it in financially opaque countries, with a lot of encouragement to use it in institutions or companies.

Hypothesis 2: Forensic Accounting is Not a Common Practice at Present.

The findings indicate that Forensic Accounting is known in the countries of business opacity such as Lebanon, by practitioner accountants, educators, and auditing & accounting firms. Despite that the survey and interviews’ results proved that this practice is known, it is not commonly used or practiced by audit firms since it is not frequently requested.

On the educational level, there is no emphasis on the subject in the educational systems. FA is not given as a course or as part of a course in universities’ curriculum. Moreover, there are no certifications specialized in this field such as DIFA, but there are other well-known accounting certifications, such as CPA.

Therefore, what can be concluded is that there are no auditors or accountants, who are expert in this anti-fraud field in the countries where fraudulent business practices prevail. These countries lack the skills that could be acquired from the educational background and from the experience gained from working in this field.

The governmental and legal sectors suffer from a total absence of Forensic Accounting. That being the case, there is no regulation that imposes its use in solving financial issues or in evaluating financial statements, and there is no law that distinguishes the testimony of Forensic accountants from the testimony of any other audit. Forensic accountant in financially corrupted countries has no privilege on the credibility level inside courts, he/she is not used as an expert or reference inside courts.

Hypothesis 3: Different Means to Introduce Forensic Accounting in Countries with Opaque Business Practices

Respondents, as the results show, were very positive regarding introducing Forensic Accounting in countries with opaque business practices and they suggested many ways to be effectively executed in order to provide a good implementation of this new tool.

The suggested means involved many solutions and targeted different sectors. It even targeted the psychological factor, which was developed by cultural and social aspects, and which could play a major role in making the change to fight corruption and fraud in the financially corrupted countries.

Results and Discussion

Main changes should be performed to introduce Forensic Accounting in countries with opaque business practices. These changes must target four basic elements that would contribute in creating a solid ground and positive perception, the strategic plan includes:

I. Cultural & Sociological Changes:

“There Must Be a Change in the Culture of People in the Countries with Opaque Business Practices.”

The results of the conducted in-depth interviews showed that many respondents drew attention about the fact that the mentality of people in the countries with opaque business practices should be changed in order to increase the level of acceptance and consequently increase the commitment in applying Forensic Accounting.

The participants stressed on the importance to modify the culture of financially disrupted countries because they believe that having someone to look into their internal operations is a violation to their privacy. Besides, they don’t trust someone outside the company or institution to come and scrutinize their financials.

Another problem that exists in the mentality of people in the countries with opaque business practices is that the employees, managers or business owners feel unfairly paid and are stolen all the times by the government. For that reason, they believe that they have the right to steal back having the permissible excuse to commit fraud.

These facts that were expressed by the interviewees are also compatible with the findings of previous researches indicating that the cultural and sociological factors provide a solid platform for fraudulent activities, which created an acceptance for the corruptive acts that are considered as norms and justified practices in the societies of financially corrupted countries (Brownsberger, 1983; Adra, 2006; UN, 2001).

II. Changes in Educational Systems:

“Forensic Accounting Should Be Introduced in the Educational Sector.”

Almost all respondents conferred a high degree of importance for introducing Forensic Accounting in the educational sector in financially corrupted countries. Almost all respondents believed that it should be taught in universities as a course or a graduate major or as case studies in an audit related course. Suggestions also included considering it as a specialty in educational institutions that grant CPA or any other certifications related to auditing or accounting.

Respondents and interviewees also suggested introducing Forensic Accounting through workshops and seminars with the assistance of experts and skillful forensic accountants.

They also showed an acceptance for the online educational programs since DIFA is not available in most financially corrupted countries while it is available in USA. Therefore online education could shorten the distance to people who cannot leave work and are interested to be specialized in this field.

The participants also recommended that employees and managers who are responsible for the financials of the company should be educated and submitted to an intensive training to develop their skills to enable them to detect fraudulent activities within the company.

III. Changes in Governmental System:

“Forensic Accounting Should Be Introduced in the Governmental Sector.”

The National Integrity System Study, published by LTA in 2011, shows that corruption governs all sectors and all branches of financially corrupted governments. But in order to expose corruption and fraud there must be a tool or a law that could help to point out where these activities are occurring and a legal path to assure that this tool is effective.

Most of the participants in the study thought that it is important to introduce Forensic Accounting to governmental sector where the latter should give more attention and care about this subject, even though they didn’t give an importance to the governmental role in the introduction process.

They also recommended that the ministry of finance should launch an awareness campaign about the subject through media, road panels, and social media.

More importance is granted to the syndicate of accounting, whereby the participants believe that training sessions, workshops, and seminars should be set in order to train skillful forensic accountants who could practice Forensic Accounting, when it is requested. It is the role of the syndicate to spread awareness since it has the power, the knowledge, and the interest.

IV. Changes in Legal System:

“Forensic Accounting Should Be Introduced in the Legal Sectors.”

Respondents believe that Forensic Accounting should be introduced in the legal systems since the testimony of the forensic accountant is acknowledged in courts in other countries.

LTA (2011) highlighted on the importance to ensure that the current laws are sufficiently robust to prosecute even presidents and ministers when corruptive acts are revealed. There should be a law that acknowledge it is a legislative tool to fight corruption.

The participants also emphasized on the need of having court experts in this domain in the legal system since the fraudster is able to get away with his/her acts due to the difficulty to reveal the manipulation that happened, the associates, or the level of involvement in the fraudulent activities. The interviewees also stressed on the importance of changing the law to ensure a real punishment for the fraudster.

The necessity to track financial information and overcome opaque business practices is becoming a pressing need. Financial crimes are prevailing in different sectors in a single country and are committed by different parties. Another important point demonstrated in this study is that countries of opaque business practices tend to share similar characteristics that make them a magnet for fraudulent activities such as money laundering, tax avoidance/evasion and related corrupt workings are the products of some distant regimes and countries titles as tax havens.

Opaque business countries tend to have secrecy laws, poor regulations, artificial taxes, lack of public accountability and poor corporate governance in countries such as Luxembourg, Austria, Singapore, Switzerland and many others that in return facilitate economic uncertainty, instability, crime, flight of capital and damage to citizen-state contracts all over the world of course not to mention the damaging the social well-fare of the countries. Fraud has its roots in different government and companies mainly in managerial positions such as CEOs.

Conclusion

Financial crimes and fraudulent behavior is not new and citizens, though are aware of the disadvantages of the such practices, are not well informed about the counter measures that might otherwise put an end to these practices. This in turn highlights the importance of forensic accounting as a means to stop fraudulent practices. However, the adoption and implementation is not an easy process that can happen immediately. An understanding of the techniques can assist forensic accountants in identifying fraudulent behavior. It is “the application of accounting knowledge and investigative skills to identify and resolve legal issues. It is the science of using accounting as a tool to identify and develop proof of money flow. These tools and techniques can be invaluable for fraud and forensic accounting investigators” (Houck et al., 2006). Houck (2006) also talked about two major components, “litigation services that recognize the role of an accountant as an expert consultant, and investigative services that use a forensic accountant’s skills and may require possible courtroom testimony.” According to the definition developed by the AICPA’s Forensic and Litigation Services Committee, “forensic accounting may involve the application of special skills in accounting, auditing, finance, quantitative methods, the law, and research. It also requires investigative skills to collect, analyse, and evaluate financial evidence, as well as the ability to interpret and communicate findings.” In other words, it includes the different areas of litigation support, investigation, and dispute resolution and, therefore, is the intersection between accounting, investigation, and the law.

Fraud detection is a methodology and process to resolve the different types of fraud from embezzlement to money laundry, disposition, obtaining evidence, writing report and testifying. Therefore, forensic accountants who can apply such a process professionally and are able to detect, investigate and thus prevent fraud occurrence are needed.

However, the introduction and diffusion process requires work at the macro level via culture and the government and legislations (the primary facilitator) and at the micro level via educational institutions and management. It is the work of the entire community.

At first, the culture must be altered to create a higher level of awareness regarding Forensic Accounting. As the results of the quantitative research proved, people might be aware of it however they are unaware of the different practices, the required diplomas, or even the characteristics that make a person an eligible forensic accountant. The qualitative research also assures the results of the quantitative one regarding, but not limited to the need of having a law that requires companies to submit a Forensic Accounting report. Thus the need to change culture implies acquiring new knowledge, hence a change in values, norms, and practices. This concept implies that if a change is made in cultures of financially corrupted and opaque business practices, it will result in changes in the people’s practices, norms, and values, hence their behaviors; at the end, it will create an awareness and knowledge about fraud and how to fight it and the tools that could be used to inhibit it.

Governments should also strictly organize and control financial practices and set a law that mandates the submission of an FA report. It is worth mentioning, that according to the results of both quantitative and qualitative research, interviewees tend to view governments as the sector with the highest percentage of fraud. Educational institutions can have a great impact in the adoption and implementation process.

Interviewees viewed forensic accounting education as being relevant and beneficial to accounting students, the business community, the accounting profession, and accounting programs. It is not only restricted to university programs, there is also a specialized certificate that is concerned in this field, which is the Diploma in Investigative & Forensic Accounting (DIFA) program. DIFA is designed to provide a broad range of knowledge and skills to carry out financial investigations. Employee and management fraud, theft, embezzlement, and other financial crimes are increasing, therefore accounting and auditing personnel must have training and skills to recognize those crimes. In addition, high-visibility corporate scandals, such as Enron and WorldCom, demonstrate the need to better prepare entry-level accounting graduates and practicing CPAs in the areas of fraud prevention, deterrence, detection, investigation, and remediation (Houck et al., 2006).

Managements should also apply their own internal controls and to have a well-implemented corporate governance to control the falsified reporting. This, in addition to the mentioned law that requires the submission of a report to the government will definitely put an end to any fraud committed. For instance, terrorists of the September 11 attacks used the international banking system to fund their activities, transfer money, and hide their finances (Houck et al., 2006). This highlights the need to for investigators to understand how financial information can provide clues as to future threats. Due to these fraudulent practices, public awareness of fraud and forensic accounting came to highlight the need for financial professionals demonstrating the necessary training and skills to sense and act at any important evidence generated from financial information.

The following summarizes the results of the surveys done revealing the age group of the Lebanese respondents, their work experience, educational background, whether or not they heard about it and whether they consider it as vital in Lebanon being a country of business opacity. Also summarized is what respondents consider as the best way to introduce and implement Forensic Accounting in Lebanon.

Most respondents were Lebanese, aged between 18 and 30 years old, held a Master degree and worked in Finance with 6 years of experience and more. Most respondents also heard and read about forensic accounting but didn’t know if Lebanese companies use it, however, agreed on the importance of using it in Lebanon benefiting all the work fields, especially financial institutions. They also agreed about its positive advantages in providing better future, positive impact on business, and safer business.

Moreover, most respondents supported the idea of having a law that requires all sectors to submit an FA report. It’s important to mention that 75% of the respondents who didn’t encourage this action worked in the field of finance.

Furthermore, educational programs were considered as the best way to introduce Forensic Accounting (few have given a role to governmental efforts) believing in its ability to maintain its integrity, but not in all sectors. Respondents also agreed on the importance of the DIFA certification and that DIFA diploma should be included in Lebanese universities’ programs. Finally, most respondents thought the best means to acquire FA is to outsource audit firms that perform such services.

Introducing Diploma of Investigative and Forensic Accounting: A Case Study in Lebanon

DIFA, Diploma of Investigative and Forensic Accounting, is gaining acceptance due to its importance in facing corruptive business practices and financial theft. However, the absence of Forensic Accounting (FA) is still noticed in countries of opaque business practices. Furthermore, only few universities across the world are introducing DIFA, thus a major work has to be done to shed the light on the importance of the diploma in the first place and then offer it as an official diploma with courses relating to FA whether in universities or financial institutions.

The major concern lies in the fact that Forensic Accounting is neither provided in universities as a diploma, nor at financial institutions to detect fraud and make legal court reports. In many universities of Canada and the United States, the DIFA, is being included in the curriculum in order to recruit new students and provide skills set for career advancement through development of a specialized niche. One of the objectives of the Alliance for Excellence in Investigative and Forensic Accounting (Alliance), established by the Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants (CICA), is to develop and manage a specialist certification program. This diploma is designed as a comprehensive program for someone who wishes to practice in this area. CPA, CFA, CIA are examples of certificates granted in Lebanon, however, no diploma is available related to Forensic Accounting. Therefore, it could be a diploma given in educational institutions that grant CPA or any other certification related to auditing or accounting.

Furthermore, the importance of adopting FA in the universities’ accounting curriculum is highlighted especially that its demand for it is increasing gradually. Such adoption has a huge potential to enhance students’ skills and competencies and could be used as a veritable resource from which fraud could be mitigated. Fresh graduates can as well attain the DIFA program that provides a broad range of knowledge and skills to carry out financial investigations. This range includes accounting, audit, income tax knowledge, fraud knowledge, knowledge of law and rules of evidence, an investigative mentality and critical skepticism, understanding of psychology and motivation, and strong communication skills (Stott, 2005).

The program focuses on knowledge and skills that can be best taught and examined in person: such as handling a face-to-face meeting with a client, interviewing skills, and testifying in court as an expert witness. DIFA supports accountants with the knowledge and skills needed to bridge the gap between existing quantification models and principles and different litigation contexts (Stott, 2005).

Based on descriptive statistics of survey results conducted in Lebanon, being a country of opaque business practices, to identify the certificates that a forensic accountant must possess showed that:

59.09% of the respondents thought that a forensic accountant should have a DIFA;
31.82% proposed that CPA is the needed certificate (Certified Public Accountant);
20.91% thought that CFA is the appropriate one (Chartered Financial Analyst);
10.00% mentioned other types of certification.
2.12% of the respondents didn’t find it necessary to have any certification to become a forensic accountant.

Furthermore, the relation between occupation and the respondents’ opinion about the types of certifications that a forensic accountant must possess was also studied. The following breakdown shows the percentages of respondents who proposed that DIFA is the important certification based on job occupation.

69.10% of the respondents working in banking or insurance
51.60% of the respondents working in finance
72.70% of the respondents working in education
80% of the respondents working in management

However, most of the respondents in the accounting field thought that CPA is the type of certification that should be possessed by the forensic accountant with a 77.10%. People working in accounting usually tend to pursue a CPA degree for the help it provides in this domain.

In addition to the above, the relation between experience and the respondents’ opinion about the types of certification that a forensic accountant must possess was also studied. The results, based on those who choose DIFA as the needed certificate, were as follows:

most respondents with more than two years’ experience thought that DIFA is the needed certification to practice FA
51.90% of respondents with 2 years’ experience and less thought that DIFA is the needed certification to practice FA;
68.80% between 2 and 6 years of experience thought that DIFA is the needed certification to practice FA;
55.40% of those with less than 2 years or no experience at all thought that CPA is the type of certification that should be possessed by the forensic accountant.

Moreover, the surveys conducted answered the question whether the respondents approve that the DIFA should be included in the Lebanese university programs. It demonstrates that:

97.88% of the respondents accepted having a DIFA in the universities;
2.12% of them didn’t accept having a DIFA in the universities;

This is especially important since most of the Lebanese people are in the stage of pursuing their educational degrees of which the highest percentage is studying finance.

Supporting the results of the surveys, interviews were also conducted to know about the type of certificates that a FA must hold. Most respondents approved that there should be a certification granted to a forensic accountant. This can be illustrated by what the accounting manager at “Malia Group Multinational Company” (with 5 years of experience) stated by saying: “It should be taught in universities and the business owners should request in their vacancies for an accountant with a certain certifications such as DIFA”

The interviewees’ answers stressed that it should be introduced in all universities and educational institutions leading to a certificate (DIFA), and candidates should have knowledge and a degree in accounting and auditing. As one interviewee, a partner at Bureau d’Analyse et de Revision Comptable (BARC) for auditing and taxation (with 33-36 years of experience) puts it: “It is a way to prevent corruption this is why I specify that it should be taught in universities because I strongly agree that it is implemented”. Relating interviewees’ recommendations to include FA in university programs, the head of audit department at “professional auditors” (11 years of experience) states: “FA is important for cheating methods, it can be introduced in universities”.

Interviewees gave different responses and suggestions about what is needed to perform Forensic Accounting. One interviewee coded that: “There are specific teaching programs such as CPA and there are special programs for certified financial forensic and DIFA”(Partner of an audit and taxation firm “Bureau d’Analyse et de Revision Comptable with 33-36 years of experience). Thus interviewees thought that a forensic accountant should be an experienced auditor or has a deep knowledge in laws; the type of certification needed could be CPA (certified public accountant), or have a license in accounting, a certification or a diploma from the LACPA (Lebanese Association of Certified Public Accounting). For instance the head of the audit department at professional Auditors indicated that: “Of course you need to have a license in accounting and maybe CPA, for example in our LACPA Lebanese association of certifies public accounting maybe you can get this diploma there”.

Other interviewees said that FA should obviously have a degree in accounting besides the needed experience to be able to detect suspicious acts, or have a BA degree with issues related to fraud and disclosure, CPA is a plus, or maybe have CFE. A lecturer and former partner at KMPG (with 15 to 17 years of experience) commented on this matter by saying: “On the educational level the best certification would be CFE if anyone wants to be involved in that topic he must go for such certification specialized in fraud examination”.

If anyone seeks to be involved in this domain he must go for such certification specialized in fraud examination. Others said that FA already has CPA or long experience. Furthermore, a forensic accountant, as an auditor have stated: “should have investigative skills and you should do the proper training in order to be competent”. Other interviewees also noted that a forensic accountant should have investigative skills and undergo proper training in order to be competent or be a certified accountant with certain skills and experience; the certifications needed are an accounting degree or a law degree since the forensic accountant may have to testify in courts. Or have a formal education in fraud; certifications could be CPA or CFE.

Another important statement coded from the interviewees is that “To become a forensic accountant, you need to be a certified accountant with certain skills and experience, the certifications needed are accounting degree or law degree since the forensic accountant could testify in courts” (Accounting Manager at Malia Group, with 8 years of experience).

In other words, FA accountants should be accountants in the first place, no specialized certification, but should be involved in training workshops or seminars that help enhance his knowledge and skills, or be an accountant or audit with knowledge about relevant laws. An accounting degree is enough but it would be better if he could take courses in investigative accounting if they are available in Lebanon. In addition they should have a degree in accounting with a profound experience and analytical skills; a certification would be a plus such as CPA or any other certification in accounting and auditing field.

Interviewees also reported that the certification that could be held by forensic accountant to practice FA is CPA since it is well known because it is available in many educational institutions. Almost all respondents conferred a high degree of importance for introducing FA in the educational sector in the financially corrupted countries.

Almost all respondents believed that FA should be taught in universities as a course or a graduate major or as case studies in an audit related course. Suggestions also included that FA could be a specialty in educational institutions that grant CPA or any other certification related to auditing or accounting.

Respondents and interviewees also suggested introducing FA through workshops and seminars with the assistance of experts and skillful forensic accountants. They also showed acceptance for online educational programs since DIFA is not available in most financially corrupted countries while it is available in the USA. Therefore online education could shorten the distance to people who cannot leave work and are interested to be specialized in forensic accounting.

The participants also recommended that the employees and managers, who are responsible for the financials of the company, should be educated and submitted to an intensive training to develop their skills to enable them to detect fraudulent activities within the company.

In sum, DIFA is designed to provide a broad range of knowledge and skills to carry out financial investigations. Employee and management fraud, theft, embezzlement, and other financial crimes are increasing, therefore accounting and auditing personnel must have training and skills to recognize those crimes. In addition, high-visibility corporate scandals, such as Enron and WorldCom, demonstrate the need to better prepare entry-level accounting graduates and practicing CPAs in the areas of fraud prevention, deterrence, detection, investigation, and remediation, Houck et al., (2006). Universities and educational institutions, as will be discussed later on, play a vital role in introducing DIFA and other FA related courses, certificates and diplomas. These formal certificates can deepen the students’ knowledge and sharpen their skills in Forensic Accounting through trainings under the supervision of an experienced forensic accountant, participating in various international conferences, reading relevant journals, books and other literature.

Universities:

Universities play a constituent role in introducing FA since they can control the materials that could be taught to the students. Introducing it as a degree, Forensic Accounting could be one of the majors that exist in universities; the study proved that there are some educators who are knowledgeable in the field since most of them did their doctorate degree in the USA and UK. Therefore it could be an undergraduate or graduate degree in the universities.

Concerning the courses, Forensic Accounting could be given as a course in the university instead of being a major; it could be included as part of accounting, CCE, Law or any other major but customized for each specialty.

Regarding the case studies, in case FA is not considered as a major or given as a course, it could be highlighted through case studies where the students analyze many international fraudulent cases and the methods and the logics that were used by forensic accountants to detect and reveal the fraud.

Educational Institutions:

Educational Institutions complete the role of the universities by covering the gap when some of the courses and degrees are not granted by the universities; they would be available in educational institutes or academies. The major course of actions that could be taken by these institutions is granting DIFA which must be an official certification given to the experts that want to practice Forensic Accounting in their countries. Yearly or monthly sessions must be announced through specialized means of marketing. Moreover, the certification could be incorporation with the government where certified accountants working in their departments and institutions could be sent to acquire it from a reputable educational institution. This certificate should be officially recognized and certified from the ministry of education, finance, and justice. The syndicate must hire qualified forensic accountants capable of studying, analyzing, suggesting policies, and training others.

Rectification Of Accounting Errors

Accountants prepare trial balance to check the correctness of accounts. If total of debit balances does not agree with the total of credit balances, it is a clear-cut indication that certain errors have been committed while recording the transactions in the books of original entry or subsidiary books. It is our utmost duty to locate these errors and rectify them, only then we should proceed for preparing final accounts. We also know that all types of errors are not revealed by trial balance as some of the errors do not effect the total of trial balance. So these cannot be located with the help of trial balance. An accountant should invest his energy to locate both types of errors and rectify them before preparing trading, profit and loss account and balance sheet. Because if these are prepared before rectification these will not give us the correct result and profit and loss disclosed by them, shall not be the actual profit or loss.

All errors of accounting procedure can be classified as follows:

1. Errors of Principle

When a transaction is recorded against the fundamental principles of accounting, it is an error of principle. For example, if revenue expenditure is treated as capital expenditure or vice versa.

2. Clerical Errors

These errors can again be sub-divided as follows:

(i) Errors of omission

When a transaction is either wholly or partially not recorded in the books, it is an error of omission. It may be with regard to omission to enter a transaction in the books of original entry or with regard to omission to post a transaction from the books of original entry to the account concerned in the ledger.

(ii) Errors of commission

When an entry is incorrectly recorded either wholly or partially-incorrect posting, calculation, casting or balancing. Some of the errors of commission effect the trial balance whereas others do not. Errors effecting the trial balance can be revealed by preparing a trial balance.

(iii) Compensating errors

Sometimes an error is counter-balanced by another error in such a way that it is not disclosed by the trial balance. Such errors are called compensating errors.

From the point of view of rectification of the errors, these can be divided into two groups :

(a) Errors affecting one account only, and

(b) Errors affecting two or more accounts.

Errors affecting one account

Errors which affect can be :

(a) Casting errors;

(b) error of posting;

(c) carry forward;

(d) balancing; and

(e) omission from trial balance.

Such errors should, first of all, be located and rectified. These are rectified either with the help of journal entry or by giving an explanatory note in the account concerned.

Rectification

Stages of correction of accounting errors

All types of errors in accounts can be rectified at two stages:

(i) before the preparation of the final accounts; and

(ii) after the preparation of final accounts.

Errors rectified within the accounting period

The proper method of correction of an error is to pass journal entry in such a way that it corrects the mistake that has been committed and also gives effect to the entry that should have been passed. But while errors are being rectified before the preparation of final accounts, in certain cases the correction can’t be done with the help of journal entry because the errors have been such. Normally, the procedure of rectification, if being done, before the preparation of final accounts is as follows:

(a) Correction of errors affecting one side of one account Such errors do not let the trial balance agree as they effect only one side of one account so these can’t be corrected with the help of journal entry, if correction is required before the preparation of final accounts. So required amount is put on debit or credit side of the concerned account, as the case maybe. For example:

(i) Sales book under cast by Rs. 500 in the month of January. The error is only in sales account, in order to correct the sales account, we should record on the credit side of sales account ‘By under casting of. sales book for the month of January Rs. 500″.I’Explanation:As sales book was under cast by Rs. 500, it means all accounts other than sales account are correct, only credit balance of sales account is less by Rs. 500. So Rs. 500 have been credited in sales account.

(ii) Discount allowed to Marshall Rs. 50, not posted to discount account. It means that the amount of Rs. 50 which should have been debited in discount account has not been debited, so the debit side of discount account has been reduced by the same amount. We should debit Rs. 50 in discount account now, which was omitted previously and the discount account shall be corrected.

(iil) Goods sold to X wrongly debited in sales account. This error is effecting only sales account as the amount which should have been posted on the credit side has been wrongly placed on debit side of the same account. For rectifying it, we should put double the amount of transaction on the credit side of sales account by writing “By sales to X wrongly debited previously.”

(iv) Amount of Rs. 500 paid to Y, not debited to his personal account. This error of effecting the personal account of Y only and its debit side is less by Rs. 500 because of omission to post the amount paid. We shall now write on its debit side. “To cash (omitted to be posted) Rs. 500.

Correction of errors affecting two sides of two or more accounts

As these errors affect two or more accounts, rectification of such errors, if being done before the preparation of final accounts can often be done with the help of a journal entry. While correcting these errors the amount is debited in one account/accounts whereas similar amount is credited to some other account/ accounts.

Correction of errors in next accounting period

As stated earlier, that it is advisable to locate and rectify the errors before preparing the final accounts for the year. But in certain cases when after considerable search, the accountant fails to locate the errors and he is in a hurry to prepare the final accounts, of the business for filing the return for sales tax or income tax purposes, he transfers the amount of difference of trial balance to a newly opened ‘Suspense Account’. In the next accounting period, as and when the errors are located these are corrected with reference to suspense account. When all the errors are discovered and rectified the suspense account shall be closed automatically. We should not forget here that only those errors which effect the totals of trial balance can be corrected with the help of suspense account. Those errors which do not effect the trial balance can’t be corrected with the help of suspense account. For example, if it is found that debit total of trial balance was less by Rs. 500 for the reason that Wilson’s account was not debited with Rs. 500, the following rectifying entry is required to be passed.

Difference in trial balance

Trial balance is affected by only errors which are rectified with the help of the suspense account. Therefore, in order to calculate the difference in suspense account a table will be prepared. If the suspense account is debited in’ the rectification entry the amount will be put on the debit side of the table. On the other hand, if the suspense account is credited, the amount will be put on the credit side of the table. In the end, the balance is calculated and is reversed in the suspense account. If the credit side exceeds, the difference would be put on the debit side of the suspense account. Effect of Errors of Final Accounts

1. Errors effecting profit and loss account

It is important to note the effect that an en-or shall have on net profit of the firm. One point to remember here is that only those accounts which are transferred to trading and profit and loss account at the time of preparation of final accounts effect the net profit. It means that only mistakes in nominal accounts and goods account will effect the net profit. Error in the these accounts will either increase or decrease the net profit.

How the errors or their rectification effect the profit-following rules are helpful in understanding it :

(i) If because of an error a nominal account has been given some debit the profit will decrease or losses will increase, and when it is rectified the profits will increase and the losses will decrease. For example, machinery is overhauled for Rs. 10,000 but the amount debited to machinery repairs account -this error will reduce the profit. In rectifying entry the amount shall be transferred to machinery account from machinery repairs account, and it will increase the profits.

(il) If because of an error the amount is omitted from recording on the debit side of a nominal account-it results in increase of profits or decrease in losses. The rectification of this error shall have reverse effect, which means the profit will be reduced and losses will be increased. For example, rent paid to landlord but the amount has been debited to personal account of landlord-it will increase the profit as the expense on rent is reduced. When the error is rectified, we will post the necessary amount in rent account which will increase the expenditure on rent and so profits will be reduced.

(iil) Profit will increase or losses will decrease if a nominal account is wrongly credited. With the rectification of this error, the profits will decrease and losses will increase. For example, investments were sold and the amount was credited to sales account. This error will increase profits (or reduce losses) when the same error is rectified the amount shall be transferred from sales account to investments account due to which sales will be reduced which will result in decrease in profits (or increase in losses).

(iv) Profit will decrease or losses will increase if an account is omitted from posting in the credit side of a nominal or goods account. When the same will be rectified it will increase the profit or reduce the losses. For example, commission received is omitted to be posted to the credit of commission account. This error will decrease profits ( or increase losses) as an income is not credited to profit and loss account. When the error will be rectified, it will have reverse effect on profit and loss as an additional income will be credited to profit and loss account so the profit will increase ( or the losses will decrease). If due to any error the profit or losses are effected, it will have its effect on capital account also because profits are credited and losses are debited in the capital account and so the capital shall also increase or decrease. As capital is shown on the liabilities side of balance sheet so any error in nominal account will effect balance sheet as well. So we can say that an error in nominal account or goods account effects profit and loss account as well as balance sheet.

2. Errors effecting balance sheet only

If an error is committed in a real or personal account, it will effect assets, liabilities, debtors or creditors of the firm and as a result it will have its impact on balance sheet alone. because these items are shown in balance sheet only and balance sheet is prepared after the profit and loss account has been prepared. So if there is any error in cash account, bank account, asset or liability account it will effect only balance sheet.

Accounting Software Can Be Sophisticated Or Simple But Rarely Both

Accounting software is a system of recording financial transactions on a computer across a full range of accounting options almost invariably dependent upon the size of business being catered for. Financial software can vary from a several million pound solution for major public companies to simple managed lists of income and expenses.

The requirements from accounts software are diverse with the most complex and comprehensive financial accounting packages incorporating financial reporting information and managed by teams of qualified accountants supported by accounts clerks, bookkeepers and substantial input from automated data sources. At the other end of the scale a self employed sole trader might use accounting software themselves and produce a set of financial accounts for the year in an afternoon.

Different accounting standards are required from the software packages dependent upon the fitness for purpose and client needs. Double entry bookkeeping automated through a database system and probably arranged in financial modules would normally be the choice of the majority of public companies. Single entry bookkeeping would not be an acceptable accounting solution for a limited company due to audit requirements and statutory obligations.

Single entry bookkeeping does however have its place in the market place for the smaller less complex businesses who maintain financial control through a close intimate knowledge of every financial transaction. The main objective of a sole trader is more likely to be the production of the tax accounts and complete the periodic and annual tax return forms.

The most sophisticated level of financial software in the largest companies mirrors the accounting functions in those organisations with various modules for accounts receivable, accounts payable, stock control, general ledger and fixed assets. These accounting modules may also be integrated with other business functions such as production and dispatch functions and also divided into separate modules within the finance function.

In larger companies the sales daybook and data entry of sales turnover would often be the responsibility of one department while the accounts receivable function might be split with a specialist credit control function within that accounting module. A further division may also include sales administration and customer records. Similarly the accounts payable function might be split between the purchasing department, accounts purchase invoice department and a legal function for overdue payments.

Accounting software for smaller companies and organisations is commonly a system of data entry of prime transactions which include sales income, purchase expenses and cash and bank transactions. The entry of these prime documents being to a database which automates the double entry bookkeeping principles and produces both accounts receivable, accounts payable and general ledger databases.

Some accounting knowledge is usually required to operate a database accounting software system and that financial knowledge is usually available within the company as most companies that use database accounting software also employ a bookkeeper or accounts clerks to input data and in slightly larger small companies also qualified accountants to manage the accounting function.

The need for accounting knowledge in a database system is partially to understand the data entry principles and the relevancy of the rules that need to be followed but essentially understanding of accounting principles is required to understand what is happening ton the information after input. And most important, a qualified accountant has the financial knowledge, training and experience to know what the system should be producing and how to query the database to retrieve that information.

In addition to inputting the prime income and expenditure details the most benefit of a database system is the level of control the information it contains can provide the company management and financial directorship. The accounting function also has the security of producing trial balances, periodic profit and loss accounts, balance sheets and other financial and statements for tax and control purposes.

Small business accounting packages requiring little or no accounting knowledge are available.

Small limited companies must obtain accounting software based upon double entry bookkeeping principles as in addition to producing a profit and loss account and a trial balance to demonstrate accuracy and integrity of the financial records plus a balance sheet is required for reporting purposes. Accounting standards require the limited company to have a system of financial control and accounting software is an essential tool in achieving this.

Some accounting knowledge either from the management or outsourcing the bookkeeping services is usually required with even the simplest database accounting solutions even if this requires the understanding of what accounts receivable ledgers, accounts payable ledger and control accounts mean.

There are other possibilities and those businesses with a minimum of accounting knowledge can consider spreadsheet based accounting software. Spreadsheet accounts are less flexible and often do not have the range of options a database system has due to the lack of database queries available. These disadvantages of flexibility being compensated by the fact that all entries are visible, transparent and changes can be made more easily.

Financially at the sole trader and self employed end of the business spectrum then the requirements from accounting software may be completely different. Gone are the sophistication of control accounts, trial balances and many aspects of financial control. The most important aspect of self employed accounting is often to produce a set of accounts for tax purposes.

Self employed small business that do not require a balance sheet can use accounting software based upon single entry bookkeeping rather than double entry and with the reduced requirement for financial control then less financial queries to the system are required. In these respects the simpler an accounting solution the better and in this market an accounting solution written on spreadsheets that can produce the net taxable profit would meet the requirements.