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Making Your Case: The Power of Audited Financial Statements

by: Smith and Howard

December 5, 2016

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When trying to grow their companies, business owners often find themselves having to convince others of the viability of their plans. As a contractor, you’re no different. Whether you need financing from your bank, greater bonding capacity from your surety or just the strategic support of your managers, you’ve got to make your case. Something that can really help: audited financial statements.

GAAP power

Most contractors maintain an in-house accounting system to manage their financials. The documents your staff prepares are called “internally prepared financial statements.”

In many cases, internal financials are perfectly functional for the day-to-day operational needs of a construction company. But they often don’t follow every reporting standard prescribed under Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP).

As part of an audit, Smith & Howard professionals will examine and test various accounting documents to verify whether you’re following GAAP and, afterward, offer an opinion on your statements. If we issue an “unqualified” opinion, it means we agree with the methods your in-house team used to prepare the statements.

If a “qualified” opinion is issued, it usually means our audit has identified one or more GAAP reporting methods that your construction company hasn’t followed. This doesn’t mean your financial statements are inaccurate; it just signifies that you didn’t prepare them according to GAAP. (There may be other reasons for a qualified opinion, as well.)

More money, fewer mistakes

Many lenders and sureties require contractors to provide audited financial statements before they’ll approve loans or bonding. Some local and state governments also provide increased work and project award capacity to construction companies with audited statements.

You may even save money. Businesses with audited statements may obtain lower interest rates on loans. And, because of the extra steps an external auditor takes, audited financial statements are more likely to be free of reporting mistakes, such as data entry errors, than are internally prepared statements. For example, if your balance sheet shows that you bought a crane for $100,000, an auditor will double-check that figure by looking at your receipts/invoices.

Although audited financial statements can provide the benefits mentioned, they’re not something your construction business should leap into without foresight. In addition to requiring a financial investment, an outside audit will call for you and your employees to invest a substantial amount of time and energy toward its completion. You’ll need to gather and provide extensive documentation and even submit to interviews.

A variety of documentation

An important first step in implementing an external audit of your financial statements is meeting with your auditor to establish a good working relationship and discuss timelines and responsibilities before the audit begins. This is the first step in Smith  & Howard’s project planning with our clients. In addition to ensuring a more efficient audit process, it allows us to get to know you and your staff and to have a better understanding of your business.

From there, expect to provide documentation such as a detail general ledger, up to date through the end of the period the audit covers, and the original source documentation (such as canceled checks, bank statements, vendors’ invoices) for areas being tested. You may also need to provide lease agreements, loan covenants and notes of all lenders. In addition, we may ask for a variety of schedules (and supporting documents), including a schedule of:

  • Accounts receivable,
  • Priced inventories,
  • Fixed assets and depreciation taken on them,
  • Prepaid expenses,
  • Loans, trade payables, and other liabilities reconciled with the lenders’ and creditors’ records, and
  • Other accrued liabilities (for example, employees’ accrued vacation and sick time).

Construction-specific documents will also come into play. We will look at ongoing and upcoming projects and either confirm a certain percentage of the costs or test your entire job cost system. We will also test estimates for accuracy and completeness. It’s important to both lenders and sureties that contractors engage auditors with expertise in the construction industry.

Powerful stuff

As you can see from the wealth of information being collected, audited financial statements are powerful stuff. And, to reiterate, it’s particularly important to have a reputable CPA firm with experience in the construction industry perform your audit. Smith & Howard’s expertise in this industry is strong – we have been auditing construction companies since our inception. You can rely on us for an efficient process that produces audited financial statements that your users can rely on.

For more information on how financial statements audits can help your construction business, contact Paul Atkinson at 404-874-6244 or simply fill out the form below.

How can we help?

If you have any questions and would like to connect with a team member please call 404-874-6244 or contact an advisor below.

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