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Internal Accounting: An Overview of Controls Needed

Most businesses have financial records that accurately reflect their activity, but no company is safe from accidental or intentional mishandling of funds. One of the best ways to minimize the risk of a financial mishap is to perform a review of your firm's internal accounting procedures and controls.

Although this cannot replace an internal audit performed by a CPA, a review of the following areas will allow you to see how your business measures up and may show you whether your business has weaknesses and is in need of professional help to strengthen its internal accounting controls. Here are some questions you should ask about your business's financial activity.

Accounting & Bookkeeping

Records. Do you keep regular accounting records? Are they properly organized and are they balanced regularly?

Checks. Do you use pre-numbered checks, and do you have a set policy for completing and signing checks? Is the person completing the check different from the person signing the check?

Bank Reconciliations. Are bank reconciliations done each month? Who performs this task? Does anyone review it?

Petty Cash. Is there a fund for petty cash? Is there a maximum amount that can be withdrawn? Who has access to it? Who supervises it? Where is it located?

Mail and Receipts. Is the person who opens the mail different from the person who posts the mail receipts and checks?

Bank Deposits. Are different persons responsible for preparing the bank deposits and actually making the deposits?

Accounts Receivable & Billings

Receipts. Are the receipts you use pre-numbered? Are cash receipts balanced daily? Is there a procedure to ensure that the daily deposit total equals the amount collected in a day?

Billing forms. Are all bills entered into a billing system? Are they pre-numbered?

Tracking. Is there a way to ensure that all products, services or consultations are tracked and billed?

Electronic transfer of information. Do you transfer information or make payments electronically? Do you have a mechanism to check whether the electronic transmissions were received?

Verification. Is there a method of verifying the accuracy and timeliness of payments received?


Aging. Is an accounts receivable aging report printed and reviewed in detail? This will help an office assess how well its collection efforts are doing.

Statements. Are monthly statements on account balances sent to all customers who have balances due?

Reminders. Do your statements have dunning messages? (A dunning message is a friendly reminder at the bottom that the account is overdue by a certain number of days.)

The above is just a starting point, but it can assure you that all of your business is being accounted for, or it may signal to you that your business procedures have certain financial weaknesses and may need some fine tuning. If so, you may want a more detailed audit performed, and our office would be happy to assist you.