Anderson ZurMuehlen Blog

Valuing and Reporting Gifts in Kind and Donated Services

 

Not-for-profit organizations don’t receive only cash donations. Your support also likely comes in the form of gifts in kind and donated services. But even when such gifts are welcome, it can be challenging to determine how to recognize and assign value to them for financial reporting purposes.

Recording gifts in kind

Gifts in kind generally are pieces of tangible property or property rights. They may take many forms, including:

• Free or discounted use of facilities,
• Free advertising,
• Collections, such as artwork to display, and
• Property, such as office furniture or supplies.

To record gifts in kind, determine whether the item can be used to carry out your mission or sold to fund operations. In other words, does it have a value to your nonprofit? If so, it should be recorded as a donation and a related receivable once it’s unconditionally pledged to your organization.

To value the gift, assess its fair value — or what your organization would pay to buy it from an unrelated third party. In many cases it’s easy to assign a fair value to property, but when the gift is a collection or something that doesn’t otherwise have a readily determinable market value, its fair value is more difficult to assign. For smaller gifts, you may need to rely on a good faith estimate from the donor. But if the value is more than $5,000, the donor must obtain an independent appraisal for tax purposes, which will give you documentation for your records.

Recognizing donated services

The fair value of a donated service should be recognized if it meets one of two criteria:

1. The service creates or enhances a nonfinancial asset. Such services are capitalized at fair value on the date of the donation. These types of services either create a nonfinancial asset (in other words, a tangible asset) or add value to an asset that already exists.

2. The service requires specialized skills, is provided by persons with those skills and would have been purchased if it hadn’t been donated. These services are accounted for by recording contribution income for the fair value of the service provided. You also must record it as a related expense, in the same amount, for the professional service provided.

Beyond the basics

These are only basic guidelines to recognizing and valuing gifts in kind and donated services. For more comprehensive information about handling these gifts, contact us.

© 2017

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Critical Connection: How Costs Impact Pricing

As we head toward year end, your company may be reviewing its business strategy for 2017 or devising plans for 2018. As you do so, be sure to give some attention to the prices you’re asking for your existing products and services, as well as those you plan to launch in the near future.

The cost of production is a logical starting point. After all, if your prices don’t exceed costs over the long run, your business will fail. This critical connection demands regular re-evaluation.

Reconsider everything

One simple way to assess costs is to apply a desired “markup” percentage to your expected costs. For example, if it costs $1 to produce a widget and you want to achieve a 10% return, your selling price should be $1.10.

Of course, you’ve got to factor more than just direct materials and labor into the equation. You should consider all of the costs of producing, marketing and distributing your products, including overhead expenses. Some indirect costs, such as sales commissions and shipping, vary based on the number of units you sell. But most are fixed in the current accounting period, including rent, research and development, depreciation, insurance, and selling and administrative salaries.

“Product costing” refers to the process of spreading these variable and fixed costs over the units you expect to sell. The trick to getting this allocation right is to accurately predict demand.

Deliberate over demand

Changing demand is an important factor to consider. Incurring higher costs in the short term may be worth it if you reasonably believe that rising customer demand will eventually enable you to cover expenses and turn a profit. In other words, rising demand can reduce per-unit costs and increase margin.

Determining the number of units people will buy is generally easier when you’re:

• Re-evaluating the prices of existing products that have a predictable sales history, or
• Setting the price for a new product that’s similar to your existing products.

Forecasting demand for a new product that’s a lot different from your current product line can be extremely challenging — especially if there’s nothing like it in the marketplace. But if you don’t factor customer and market considerations into your pricing decisions, you could be missing out on money-making opportunities.

Check your wiring

Like an electrical outlet and plug, the connection between costs and pricing can grow loose over time and sometimes short out completely. Don’t risk operating in the dark. Our firm can help you make pricing decisions that balance ambitiousness and reason.

© 2017

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4 Questions to Guide Your Prospective Financial Statements

 

CPAs don’t just offer assurance services on historical financial results. They can also prepare prospective financial statements that predict how the company will perform in the future. This list of questions can help you make more meaningful assumptions for your forecasts and projections.

1. How far into the future do you want to plan?

Forecasting is generally more accurate in the short term. The longer the time period, the more likely it is that customer demand or market trends will change.

While quantitative methods, which rely on historical data, are typically the most accurate forecasting methods, they don’t work well for long-term predictions. If you’re planning to forecast over several years, try qualitative forecasting methods, which rely on expert opinions instead of company-specific data.

2. How steady is your demand?

Sales can fluctuate for a variety of reasons, including sales promotions and weather. For example, if you sell ice cream, chances are good your sales dip in the winter.

If demand for your products varies, consider forecasting with a quantitative method, such as time-series decomposition, which examines historical data and allows you to adjust for market trends, seasonal trends and business cycles. You also may want to use forecasting software, which allows you to plug other variables into the equation, such as individual customers’ short-term buying plans.

3. How much data do you have?

Quantitative forecasting techniques require varying amounts of historical information. For instance, you’ll need about three years of data to use exponential smoothing, a simple yet fairly accurate method that compares historical averages with current demand.

Want to forecast for something you don’t have data for, such as a new product? In that case, use qualitative forecasting or base your forecast on historical data for a similar product in your arsenal.

4. How do you fill your orders?

Unless you fill custom orders on demand, your forecast will need to establish optimal inventory levels of finished goods. Many companies use multiple forecasting methods to estimate peak inventory levels. It’s also important to consider inventory needs at the individual product level and local warehouse level, which will help you ensure speedy delivery.

If you’re forecasting demand for a wide variety of products, consider a relatively simple technique, such as exponential smoothing. If you offer only one or two key products, it’s probably worth your time and effort to perform a more complex, time-consuming forecast for each one, such as a statistical regression.

Plan to succeed

You may not have a crystal ball, but using the right forecasting techniques will help you gaze into your company’s future with greater accuracy. We can help you establish the forecasting practices that make sense for your business.

© 2017

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Fortifying Your Business with Enterprise Risk Management

Hundreds of years ago, prosperous towns managed the various risks of foreign invaders, thieves and wild animals by fortifying their entire communities with walls and towers. Today’s business owners can take a similar approach with enterprise risk management (ERM).

Assessing threats

In short, ERM is an integrated, companywide system of identifying and planning for risk. Many larger companies have entire departments devoted to it. If your business is ready to implement an ERM program, be prepared for a lengthy building process.

This isn’t an undertaking most business owners will be able to complete themselves. You’ll need to sell your managers and employees on ERM from the top down. After you’ve gained commitment from key players, spend time assessing the risks your business may face. Typical examples include:

• Financial perils,
• Information technology attacks or crashes,
• Weather-related disasters,
• Regulatory compliance debacles, and
• Supplier/customer relationship mishaps.

Because every business is different, you’ll likely need to add other risks distinctive to your company and industry.

Developing the program

Recognizing risks is only the first phase. To truly address threats under your ERM program, you’ll need to clarify what your company’s appetite and capacity for each risk is, and develop a cohesive philosophy and plan for how they should be handled. Say you’re about to release a new product. The program would need to address risks such as:

• Potential liability,
• Protecting intellectual property,
• Shortage of raw materials,
• Lack of manufacturing capacity, and
• Safety regulation compliance.

Again, the key to success in the planning stage is conducting a detailed risk analysis of your business. Gather as much information as possible from each department and employee.

Depending on your company’s size, engage workers in brainstorming sessions and workshops to help you analyze how specific events could alter your company’s landscape. You may also want to designate an “ERM champion” in each department who will develop and administer the program.

Ambitious undertaking

Yes, just as medieval soldiers looked out from their battlements across field and forest to spot incoming dangers, you and your employees must maintain a constant gaze for developing risks. An ERM program, while an ambitious undertaking, can provide the structure for doing so. We can assist you in managing risks to your business in a financially sound manner.

© 2017

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Ready for the New Not-For-Profit Accounting Standard?

A new accounting standard goes into effect starting in 2018 for churches, charities and other not-for-profit entities. Here’s a summary of the major changes.

Net asset classifications

The existing rules require nonprofit organizations to classify their net assets as either unrestricted, temporarily restricted or permanently restricted. But under Accounting Standards Update (ASU) No. 2016-14, Not-for Profit Entities (Topic 958): Presentation of Financial Statements of Not-for-Profit Entities, there will be only two classes: net assets with donor restrictions and net assets without donor restrictions.

The simplified approach recognizes changes in the law that now allow organizations to spend from a permanently restricted endowment even if its fair value has fallen below the original endowed gift amount. Such “underwater” endowments will now be classified as net assets with donor restrictions, along with being subject to expanded disclosure requirements. In addition, the new standard eliminates the current “over-time” method for handling the expiration of restrictions on gifts used to purchase or build long-lived assets (such as buildings).

Other major changes

The new standard includes specific requirements to help financial statement users better assess a nonprofit’s operations. Specifically, organizations must provide information about:

Liquidity and availability of resources. This includes qualitative and quantitative information about how they expect to meet cash needs for general expenses within one year of the balance sheet date.

Expenses. The new standard requires entities to report expenses by both function (which is already required) and nature in one location. In addition, it calls for enhanced disclosures regarding specific methods used to allocate costs among program and support functions.

Investment returns. Organizations will be required to net all external and direct internal investment expenses against the investment return presented on the statement of activities. This will facilitate comparisons among different nonprofits, regardless of whether investments are managed externally (for example, by an outside investment manager who charges management fees) or internally (by staff).

Additionally, the new standard allows nonprofits to use either the direct or indirect method to present net cash from operations on the statement of cash flows. The two methods produce the same results, but the direct method tends to be more understandable to financial statement users. To encourage not-for-profits to use the direct method, entities that opt for the direct method will no longer need to reconcile their presentation with the indirect method.

To be continued

ASU 2016-14 is the first major change to the accounting rules for not-for-profits since 1993. However, it’s only phase 1 of a larger project to enhance financial reporting transparency for donors, grantors, creditors and other users of nonprofits’ financial statements. Contact us for help preparing or evaluating an organization’s financial statements under the new standard.

© 2017

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How Effectively Do You Manage Risk?

Businesses can’t eliminate risk, but they can manage it to maximize the entity’s economic return. A new framework aims to help business owners and managers more effectively integrate enterprise risk management (ERM) practices into their overall business strategies.

5-part approach

On September 6, the Committee of Sponsoring Organizations of the Treadway Commission (COSO) published Enterprise Risk Management — Integrating with Strategy and Performance. You can use the updated framework to develop a more effective risk management strategy and to monitor the results of your ERM practices.

The updated framework discusses ERM relative to the changes in the financial markets, the emergence of new technologies and demographic changes. It’s organized into five interrelated components:

1. Governance and culture. This refers to a company’s tone and oversight function. It includes ethics, values and identification of risks.

2. Strategy and objective setting. Proactive managers align the company’s appetite for risk with its strategy. This serves as the basis for identifying, assessing and responding to risk. By understanding risks, management enhances decision making.

3. Performance. Management must prioritize risks, allocate its finite resources and report results to stakeholders.

4. Review and revision. ERM is a continuous improvement process. Poorly functioning components may need to be revised.

5. Information, communication and reporting. Sharing information is an integral part of effective ERM programs.

COSO Chair Robert Hirth said in a recent statement, “Our overall goal is to continue to encourage a risk-conscious culture.” He also said that the updated framework is not intended to replace COSO’s Enterprise Risk Management — Integrated Framework. Rather, it’s meant to reflect how the practice of ERM has evolved since 2004.

New insights

The updated framework clarifies several misconceptions from the previous version. Specifically, effective ERM encompasses more than taking an inventory of risks; it’s an entitywide process for proactively managing risk. Additionally, internal control is just one small part of ERM; ERM includes other topics such as strategy setting, governance, communicating with stakeholders and measuring performance. These principles apply at all business levels, across all functions and to organizations of any size.

Moreover, the update enables management to better anticipate risk so they can get ahead of it, with an understanding that change creates opportunities — not simply the potential for crises. In short, it helps increase positive outcomes and reduce negative surprises that come from risk-taking activities.

ERM in the future

We can help you identify and optimize risks in today’s complex, volatile and ambiguous business environment. We’re familiar with emerging ERM trends and challenges, such as dealing with prolific data, leveraging artificial intelligence and automating business functions. Contact us for help adopting cost-effective ERM practices to help make your business more resilient.

© 2017

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Don’t Let “Founder’s Syndrome” Impede Your Succession Plan

Are you the founder of your company? If so, congratulations — you’ve created something truly amazing! And it’s more than understandable that you’d want to protect your legacy: the company you created.

But, as time goes on, it becomes increasingly important that you give serious thought to a succession plan. When this topic comes up, many business owners show signs of suffering from an all-too-common affliction.

The symptoms

In the nonprofit sphere, they call it “founder’s syndrome.” The term refers to a set of “symptoms” indicating that an organization’s founder maintains a disproportionate amount of power and influence over operations. Although founder’s syndrome is usually associated with not-for-profits, it can give business owners much to think about as well. Common symptoms include:

• Continually making important decision without input from others,
• Recruiting or promoting employees who will act primarily out of loyalty to the founder,
• Failing to mentor others in leadership matters, and
• Being unwilling to begin creating a succession plan.

It’s worth noting that a founder’s reluctance to loosen his or her grip isn’t necessarily because of a power-hungry need to control. Many founders simply fear that the organization — whether nonprofit or business — would falter without their intensive oversight.

Treatment plan

The good news is that founder’s syndrome is treatable. The first step is to address whether you yourself are either at risk for the affliction or already suffering from it. Doing so can be uncomfortable, but it’s critical. Here are some advisable actions:

Form a succession plan. This is a vital measure toward preserving the longevity of any company. If you’d prefer not to involve anyone in your business just yet, consider a professional advisor or consultant.

Prepare for the transition, no matter how far away. Remember that a succession plan doesn’t necessarily spell out the end of your involvement in the company. It’s simply a transformation of role. Your vast knowledge and experience needs to be documented so the business can continue to benefit from it.

Ask for help. Your management team may need to step up its accountability as the succession plan becomes more fully formed. Managers must educate themselves about the organization in any areas where they’re lacking.

In addition to transferring leadership responsibilities, there’s the issue of transferring your ownership interests, which is also complex and requires careful planning.

Blood, sweat and tears

You’ve no doubt invested the proverbial blood, sweat and tears into launching your business and overseeing its growth. But planning for the next generation of leadership is, in its own way, just as important as the company itself. Let us help you develop a succession plan that will help ensure the long-term well-being of your business.

© 2017

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Should Your Business Use Per Diem Rates for Travel Reimbursement?

Updated travel per diem rates went into effect October 1. To simplify recordkeeping, they can be used for reimbursement of ordinary and normal business expenses incurred while employees travel away from home.

Per diem advantages

As long as employees properly account for their business-travel expenses, reimbursements are generally tax-free to the employees and deductible by the employer. But keeping track of actual costs can be a headache.

With the per diem rates, employees don’t have to keep receipts for covered travel expenses. They just need to document the time, place and business purpose of the travel. Assuming that the travel qualifies as a business expense, the employer simply pays the employee the per diem allowance designated for the specific travel destination and deducts the per diem paid.

Although the per diem rates are set by the General Services Administration (GSA) to cover travel by government employees, private employers may use them for tax purposes. The rates are updated annually for the following areas:

  • The 48 states in the continental United States and the District of Columbia (CONUS),
  • Nonstandard Areas (NSAs) that are in CONUS but have per diem rates higher than the standard CONUS rates,
  • Certain areas outside the continental United States, including Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Rico and U.S. possessions (OCONUS), and
  • Foreign countries.

The rates include amounts for lodging and for meals and incidental expenses (M&IE) but not airfare and other transportation costs.

What’s new?

For October 1, 2017, through September 30, 2018, the per diem standard CONUS rate is $144, an increase of $2 over the prior year. This rate consists of $93 for lodging and $51 for M&IE. Also effective October 1, there are 332 NSAs. The following locations have moved from NSAs into the standard CONUS rate:

  • California: Redding
  • Iowa: Cedar Rapids
  • Idaho: Bonners Ferry / Sandpoint
  • North Dakota: Dickenson / Beulah
  • New York: Watertown
  • Ohio: Youngstown
  • Oklahoma: Enid
  • Pennsylvania: Mechanicsburg
  • Texas: Laredo, McAllen, Pearsall and San Angelo
  • Wyoming: Gillette.

There are no new NSA locations.

What’s right for you?

As noted earlier, the per diem changes go into effect on October 1, 2017. During the last three months of 2017, an employer may switch to the new rates or continue with the old rates. But an employer must select one set of rates for this quarter and stick with it; it can’t use the old rates for some employees and the new rates for others.

Because travel expenses often attract IRS attention, they require careful recordkeeping. The per diem method can help, but it’s not the best solution for all employers. An even simpler “high-low” per diem method is also available. And, in some cases, a policy of reimbursing actual expenses could be beneficial, despite the recordkeeping hassles. If you have questions regarding travel expense reimbursements, please contact us.

© 2017

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GAAP vs. Tax-Basis Reporting: Choosing the Right Model for Your Business

 

Virtually every business must file a tax return. So, some private companies issue tax-basis financial statements, rather than statements that comply with U.S. Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP). But doing so could result in significant differences in financial results. Here are the key differences between these two financial reporting options.

GAAP

GAAP is the most common financial reporting standard in the United States. The Securities and Exchange Commission requires public companies to follow it. Many lenders expect private borrowers to follow suit, because GAAP is familiar and consistent.

In a nutshell, GAAP is based on the principle of conservatism, which generally ensures proper matching of revenue and expenses with a reporting period. The principle also aims to prevent businesses from overstating profits and asset values to mislead investors and lenders.

Tax-basis reporting

Compliance with GAAP can also be time-consuming and costly, depending on the level of assurance provided in the financial statements. So some smaller private companies opt to report financial statements using a special reporting framework. The most common type is the income-tax-basis format.

Tax-basis statements employ the same methods and principles that businesses use to file their federal income tax returns. Contrary to GAAP, tax law tends to favor accelerated gross income recognition and won’t allow taxpayers to deduct expenses until the amounts are known and other requirements have been met.

Key differences

When comparing GAAP and tax-basis statements, one difference relates to terminology used on the income statement: Under GAAP, businesses report revenues, expenses and net income. Tax-basis entities report gross income, deductions and taxable income. Their nontaxable items typically appear as separate line items or are disclosed in a footnote.

Capitalization and depreciation of fixed assets is another noteworthy difference. Under GAAP, the cost of a fixed asset (less its salvage value) is capitalized and systematically depreciated over its useful life. Businesses must assess whether useful lives and asset values remain meaningful over time and they may occasionally incur impairment losses if an asset’s market value falls below its book value.

For tax purposes, fixed assets typically are depreciated under the Modified Accelerated Cost Recovery System (MACRS), which generally results in shorter lives than under GAAP. Salvage value isn’t subtracted for tax purposes, but Section 179 expensing and bonus depreciation are subtracted before computing MACRS deductions.

Other reporting differences exist for inventory, pensions, leases, and accounting for changes and errors. In addition, businesses record allowances for bad debts, sales returns, inventory obsolescence and asset impairment under GAAP. But these allowances generally aren’t permitted under tax law; instead, they’re deducted when transactions take place or conditions are met that make the amount fixed and determinable. Tax law also prohibits the deduction of penalties, fines, start-up costs and accrued vacations (unless they’re taken within 2½ months after the end of the taxable year).

Pick a winner

Tax-basis reporting is a shortcut that makes sense for certain types of businesses. But for others, tax-basis financial statements may result in missing or even misleading information. Contact us to discuss which reporting model will work the best for your business.

© 2017

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Reasons to Outsource Payroll and Obtain a Service Audit Report

With Labor Day starting out this week, it’s a good time to focus on how your business pays employees. Payroll reporting doesn’t have to be a laborious process. Consider using an outside company to manage your payroll function. Here’s why payroll outsourcing may be beneficial and how a service audit can provide assurance about your payroll provider’s internal controls.

Rewards and risks

Payroll can be an administrative nightmare if done in-house, especially for smaller companies. In addition to keeping up with employee withholdings and benefits enrollment, you must file state and federal payroll tax returns and follow union reporting requirements. Outside service companies that specialize in payroll administration can help you manage all of the details and minimize mistakes. Payroll providers can also handle expense reimbursement for employees and provide other services.

When payroll is outsourced, however, your company could be exposed to identity theft and other fraud risks if the service provider lacks sufficient internal controls. For example, sensitive electronic personal data could be hacked from your network and sold on the Dark Net — or old-fashioned paper files could be stolen and used to commit fraud.

Audits of payroll companies

Fortunately, CPAs offer two types of reports that provide assurance on whether an outside payroll provider’s controls over paper and electronic records are adequate.

Type I audits. This level of assurance expresses an opinion as to whether controls are properly designed.

Type II audits. Here, the auditor goes a step further and expresses an opinion on whether the controls are operating effectively.

When performing these attestation engagements, Statement on Standards for Attestation Engagements (SSAE) No. 18 requires:

  • The payroll company’s management to provide a written assertion about the fairness of the presentation of 1) the description of the organization’s control objectives and related controls and the suitability of their design; and 2) for a Type II audit, the operating effectiveness of those control objectives and related controls,
  • The auditor’s opinion in a Type II audit regarding description and suitability to cover a period consistent with the auditor’s tests of operating effectiveness, rather than being as of a specified date, and
  • Auditors to identify in the audit report any tests of control objectives and related controls conducted by internal auditors.

Further, auditors are prohibited from using evidence on the satisfactory operation of controls in prior periods as a basis for a reduction in testing in the current period, even if it’s supplemented with evidence obtained during the current period.

When an audit is complete, the service auditor typically will issue a report to the payroll company. As the customer of the service provider, it’s then up to you to obtain a copy of the audit report from the payroll provider and distribute it to your financial statement auditors as evidence of internal controls.

Outsourcing with confidence

Your financial statement auditors are required to consider the internal control environment for any services you outsource, including payroll, customer service, benefits administration and IT functions. Most service providers obtain service audit reports. If yours doesn’t, you might need to request permission for your CPA to contact and visit the payroll provider to plan their financial statement audit. Contact us for more information.

© 2017

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