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How to Develop a Credit Policy

By Blog, General Business News

How to Develop a Credit PolicyA credit policy explains how a company will manage lines of credit for client accounts and what procedures to follow for severely outstanding invoices. It helps a business promote a robust foundation for its working capital level.

Defining a Credit Policy

Unlike personal credit scores, business scores range from 0 to 100; the scores from the FICO Small Business Scoring Service range from 0 to 300. According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, a first step to establishing business credit is to sign up for a Dun & Bradstreet (DUNS) number for each business location.

There are three components to a company’s credit policy. First, develop an effective system of following up on past-due invoices. Second, define when, how much, and the terms of credit extended to customers. Third, establish how the business underwrites a client’s creditworthiness and put guidelines in place to determine when to increase or decrease lines of credit for clients.

Memorializing a Company’s Credit Policy for External and Internal Uses

The reason why it’s so important to have a credit policy in writing is because 6 in 10 workers in large American business workplaces have found it challenging to get information from their fellow co-workers, according to a report by YouGov and Panopto. This same report found that processes that are not documented result in employees wasting an average of 5.3 hours/week either looking for the right person or waiting for a response.

Internally, it enables employees to understand the policy inside and out, creating more efficient workers. Externally, it sets clear ground rules and reduces the likelihood of mismatched customer expectations.

Considerations Before Writing Out a Credit Policy

Depending on the interest rate environment, clients may have a hard time obtaining financing. If they are able to obtain financing in a high-interest rate environment, it will come with a higher cost for the customer. The business may need to have more stringent policies.

Terms of Sale May Not be One-Size-Fits-All

It is imperative to explain how payment terms work before the company engages with clients. Be it net 15, 30, or 60 days, etc., consider how payment timeframes may incentivize pre-payment or early payment discounts. From there, determine when and how the company takes action to deem when payment is “delinquent,” and when it’s considered uncollectable and finally written off and sold to a debt collector.

Depending on the size/revenue/etc. of the company writing the policy, it is not ideal to treat smaller companies the same as larger/more established companies. For example, giving a company a net 45 term versus a net 30 or net 15 has two available outcomes.

Larger companies may be able to pay faster, but if they are given more time to pay, it can negatively impact the receiving company’s cash flow. And while giving small companies similar terms can create more goodwill, it also can cause a company to take it for granted. This presents the potential to never receive payment for outstanding invoices if the small business faces bankruptcy. Similarly, depending on the type of business and/or sector it’s in, risk should be rated appropriately.

Determine Roles/Responsibilities

Ensure each department and person within each department has a defined role within the credit approval process. The sales department can help craft payment terms to reduce late payments and maximize sales. The credit department can handle reviewing to extend, lower, and increase credit limits. The accounts receivable (AR) department should follow up on late invoices, collect payments, and record incoming payments.    

While there’s no boilerplate form for a business’ credit policy, having a policy in place will help a business navigate its internal and external needs more effectively.

Sources

eBook: Valuing Workplace Knowledge

https://www.sba.gov/business-guide/plan-your-business/establish-business-credit

How to Calculate Operating Return on Assets

By Blog, General Business News

How to Calculate Operating Return on AssetsDuring Q3 of 2023, businesses in the United States made approximately $3.3 trillion, according to Statista. This is right behind the third quarter of 2022, when corporations in America made even more money. These figures are the net income of the respective periods, according to the National Income and Product Accounts (NIPA).

With profits reaching all-time highs since Q3 of 2012, understanding how businesses can analyze their profitability ratios through the Operating Return on Assets (OROA) ratio is another helpful tool for number crunchers.

Defining OROA

This calculation helps business owners and analysts determine how well a business is run. It shows the percentage, per dollar, that a business makes in operating income relative to assets involved in day-to-day operations. Unlike the regular return-on-assets (ROA) calculation, the Operating Return on Assets ratio takes a more selective consideration of assets. The primary consideration for the assets in OROA’s calculation is to only consider assets employed in a business’ traditional operations.

The calculation is as follows: 

OROA = Earnings Before Interest and Taxes (EBIT) / Average Total Assets

Another way to look at EBIT for the calculation is to look at the Income Statement’s Operating Income. For the average total assets, it’s taking a look at the business’ Balance Sheet and determining the two most recent yearly Total Assets for the company, that are used in its normal business activities.

Putting the OROA into practice, it’s calculated as follows:

OROA = $85,000 (Operating Income) / ($425,000 + $450,000) (Total Assets) / 2 =

  = $85,000 / 437,500

   = 0.1942 or 19.42 percent

This means that for every dollar of operating assets, the company has produced $0.1942 in operating income.

There are two important distinctions between OROA and the traditional ROA assets calculation. When it comes to income, OROA uses EBIT or Operating Income, but ROA uses net income as the numerator. With assets considered, OROA uses assets used for regular business operations, while ROA accounts for total assets in the calculation.

Interpreting Operating Return on Assets

One important way to use the result includes looking at a company’s OROA on a trended basis to determine if a business is declining, stagnating, or increasing its profitability.

Especially for investors, it’s important to contrast the OROA of the company at hand against rival businesses within the company’s same industry. When it comes to comparisons, the higher the OROA is, the better the result.

Another important consideration for investors is that OROA provides an accurate assessment of a business’ core operations. Since assets analyzed are for a business’ core profits or services, if a business reports profits from selling a division or it reports a one-time profit surge from investments, its core profitability is less likely to be skewed during investment analysis.

When used in conjunction with other accounting and financial metrics, businesses can continually measure and adjust their operations to increase efficiencies to increase their return on operating assets.

Defining Burn Rate, Gross Burn and Net Burn

By Blog, General Business News

What is Burn Rate, Defining Burn Rate, Gross Burn and Net BurnWhen it comes to any business, but especially for a start-up, it’s essential to determine how long a company can survive before it must declare bankruptcy and/or close its doors. The biggest metric, especially for a start-up, is to determine how much money a company has to keep its lights on.

The term “burn rate” is defined as how much money a company spends monthly to maintain its operations. It is essential for a company to know how long it can operate before it begins to generate income and hopefully becomes cash flow positive.

It is important to look at two differences between the two sub-meanings of this term: the first is “gross burn” and the other is “net burn.” When it comes to “gross burn,” we are talking about how much a business uses in monthly operating costs. The following formula shows a business how long they have in months to operate.

For example, if a business has $2.5 million available for overhead and it spends $200,000 in monthly overhead costs, it would last 12.5 months. Expressed as a formula:

Available financial resources ($2,500,000)/monthly overhead($200,000) = 12.5 (months)

This assumes the company makes no revenue, which will be accounted for in the next example. However, this is where “net burn” comes into consideration. Net burn looks at how much money a business loses every month, but the difference with this calculation is that it looks at if it can be lowered by any incoming revenue.

If a company spends $10,000 on rent/office space, $20,000 on IT expenses, and $25,000 on employee wages, the gross burn rate would be: $55,000. However, if the company is generating sales at $17,500 per month, for example, and the cost of goods sold (COGS) is $5,000, the following calculation would determine its “net burn rate:”

Net Burn Rate = [Monthly Revenue – Cost of Goods Sold (COGS)] – Gross Burn Rate

Net Burn Rate = ($17,500 – $5,000) – $55,000

Net Burn Rate = (12,500) – 55,000 = -$42,500 Gross Burn Rate

The difference between the net burn rate and the gross burn rate may seem obvious or intuitive, but depending on how much money the start-up has available, and factoring in how much the revenue brings in and offsets the COGS, it can make a stark difference for the business’ prospects.

Once a business has determined what its “gross burn rate” and/or “net burn rate” is, the next step is to look at how to reduce costs and/or increase revenue to keep working toward positive cash flow. 

Two considerations for the company include what the business can do and what it must do to make more revenue and increase profit margins. For example, companies could look at the cost-benefit analysis of incorporating AI to see if it would have an overall positive impact on labor costs. They also could look at how to create effective marketing campaigns that cost less (using backlinks instead of paid search engine marketing, for example).

Another consideration is that if the company has enough time and is able to re-strategize its model, this can have a material impact on the business receiving a cash injection from outside investors.  

Determining these timeframes and figures are one way a company can reduce costs and/or pivot to more profitable products and/or services. These two calculations can provide avenues to re-invigorate a business in hopes of providing a path to profitability.

Actions Lottery Winners Should Consider

By Blog, General Business News

What to do if you win a lotteryWe all have those days when we dream of striking it rich with a winning lottery ticket. Never having to work again while living a life of luxury. While your chance of finding a four-leaf clover is higher than winning the lottery, we can still dream, right? And while we are dreaming, let’s talk about the best ways to deal with landing such a large sum of cash. And since lottery winners have a limited time to claim their prize, it’s important to take prudent steps when managing the money.

How Much Do Winners Actually Take Home?

Let’s take a look at actual prize amounts from recent winnings. The October 2023 Powerball jackpot of $1.2 billion translated to a cash value of $551.7 million. Depending on what the winner decides – either taking the lump sum or opting for a multi-decade annuity – they have a serious decision to make.

It’s important to consider inflation factors if choosing the multi-decade annuity option. For example, when it comes to 30 payments taken over 29 years, the first consideration is to determine if there’s a 5 percent increase in the amount for each subsequent year. However, it’s important to keep inflation and the value of money going forward in mind.

For example, between March 2021 and March 2023, the average monthly inflation rate was 5 percent or higher, according to Statista Research Department. It peaked during June 2022 at 9.1 percent on a monthly basis. If the lump sum was taken before inflation increased during the post-COVID-19 reopening, or the annuity was increased by 5 percent, lottery winners without a plan to preserve and increase their earnings would have seen their money’s purchasing power decline.

Another thing to consider is how to legally navigate the tax code. For example, when it comes to federal taxes, 24 percent is automatically withheld. According to the 2024 Federal Tax Code, large winnings will put the winner in the 37 percent tax bracket. If the winner is single or married, the 37 percent bracket kicks in at $578,125 and $693,750, respectively. Additionally, winners also are required to determine compliance with state, county, city, etc. taxes. State taxes can vary greatly; looking at you: Pennsylvania at 3.07 percent, and New York at 10.9 percent.

When it comes to being generous through philanthropy, winners can work with their legal and financial professionals to determine how to offset taxes. This can take the form of direct donations, creating a donor advisor fund (DAF) to get the tax benefit immediately, especially if the lump sum is taken, but also if an annuity is taken. With 2023’s standard deduction threshold of $13,850 (single) and $27,700 (married couples), winners might consider how to make charitable donations part of a tax reduction plan.

Another question to ask is whether establishing a trust would be helpful when sorting out one’s distribution of assets. If a winner dies intestate (without a will), the state of that person’s residence will determine who gets your money – regardless of who you may have wanted to receive it.

Similarly, setting up a trust may be beneficial for both claiming the lottery winning anonymously, and it can help determine how to give money to family members. A trust can be set up for a family member or a pet’s care and can be conditional on releasing the funds when the individual reaches a certain age.

While these steps are not comprehensive, and each winner will have unique circumstances, there are many legal and financial considerations to think about immediately upon winning and before claiming a jackpot.

Sources

https://www.irs.gov/credits-and-deductions-for-individuals

https://www.statista.com/statistics/273418/unadjusted-monthly-inflation-rate-in-the-us/

Two Ways to Measure Revenue Per User

By Blog, General Business News

Two Ways to Measure Revenue Per User

When it comes to measuring revenue, it’s essential that businesses analyze it from a variety of perspectives. While there’s revenue and net income on an income statement to show a company’s quarterly financials, another way to measure it is through ARPU (average revenue per user) and ARPPU (average revenue per paying user).

Defining ARPU

ARPU is the average revenue per customer or per unit. It looks at how much revenue is earned over a particular timeframe (multiple times a month, quarter, half-year, or 12 months) divided by the average patron during the same timeframe. This can be applied to many different types of companies, including social media and software as a service (SaaS). It’s calculated as follows:

ARPU = Total revenue/Average units or subscribers

ARPU = $10,000,000/100,000 = $100

Interpreting ARPU

This is a snapshot of a company’s profitability. It’s a way for companies to track revenue generation over a short or long period. With this information, a company or investor can analyze the business’s past and present performance. It can help determine whether or not the business needs to re-evaluate its operations and product models or if an investor should invest in a company.

When it comes to evaluating an investment, if one company in a specific industry is generating an ARPU of $5 and another company is generating an ARPU of $3, the first company could be a more attractive investment. Similarly, if the trend of a company’s ARPU is increasing, it’s worth looking at how the company’s stock has performed. Additional investment research can determine how the company’s stock price is appreciated.

Average Revenue Per Paying User (ARPPU)

ARPPU is used to determine the average revenue from a company’s paying customers only. To contrast this measurement type, ARPU factors in all users.

Assume the following: A business had revenue of $2 million, an average user base of 1 million, and an ARPU of $2.

If, however, we’re looking at the ARPPU, we need to take out the non-paying user base. If the non-paying user base is determined to be 425,000, the remaining paying base is 575,000. Use the following formula to calculate ARPPU:

ARPPU = Period of Recurring Revenue/Active Paying Users during the same measurement period

ARPPU = $2 million/575,000 = $3.48 per active paying user

Interpreting ARPPU

When the ARPPU is low, this indicates the business’ products or services aren’t well received by customers and those to whom it is marketing. A higher ARPPU indicates a company’s marketing efforts, products, and services are received well by customers. Similar to ARPU, results from ARPPU can be analyzed for trends to see when products or services are well received; and then investigated to determine whether it is influenced by the sales and marketing, customer service, product quality, etc.

Whichever way a business analyzes its sales and revenue generation processes, taking multiple approaches can provide different perspectives to help owners and employees determine when and where to make improvements to its operations.

Common Financial Reporting Mistakes and How to Correct Them

By Blog, General Business News

Common Financial Reporting Mistakes and How to Correct Them

Common Financial Reporting MistakesWith accounting fraud and financial reporting mistakes creating a lack of confidence, understanding how financial reporting mistakes occur and are detected is an important topic. According to the Association for Federal Enterprise Risk Management and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, the first nine months of 2018 saw 8.8 percent more accounting fraud enforcement action cases versus 2017.

Controls are procedures implemented to lower the chance of financial reporting issues. While these mechanisms are meant to prevent an overload of problems, they are not always foolproof. Corporations also are required to show that sufficient financial oversight is in place for financial records and assets by the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002. There are two types of controls: preventive and detective.

As the name implies, preventive controls are devised to avert mistakes before they happen. Methods include ongoing training, worker evaluations, and mandating different layers of authorization for transactions.

Detective methods look at the granular accounting steps. Having internal and external audits performed and comparing real-world activity against what’s been budgeted or forecasted are two ways to implement this approach. However, performing account reconciliation where the business’ financial data is compared against third-party documentation can provide near real-time insight into what is actually occurring. This includes analyzing checks and cash the business has collected and documented on their books but that may not be reflected on bank statements. Another factor in the reconciliation process is checks the company has sent out that have not been processed by the business’ vendors, etc.

Since detective controls alert companies to errors after the fact, it is important that they are conducted in a timely manner – daily, monthly, quarterly, or annually. If there’s a discrepancy between the company’s ending cash balance and the bank’s monthly statement, there might be differing balances. This can be due to the financial institution’s service fees and checks taken into account by the business that aren’t yet reflected on the financial institution’s statement.  However, other cases of discrepancies could point to signs of fraud.

According to the University of California Los Angeles, there are many ways to split tasks. Doing this is integral to successful mitigation of errors and unauthorized behavior because it deters the likelihood of multiple workers collaborating. Specifically, when it comes to authorizations, reconciliations, and responsibility for the assets, it is a high priority for businesses to break tasks up among multiple workers.

Examples include dividing the duties between opening the mail/preparing a list of checks to review and the individual who deposits the checks. The individual who oversees accounts receivables should be separate from the person who creates a list of checks received. It’s not advisable for a sole employee to initiate, approve, and record a transaction. Similarly, reconciling balances, handling assets, and reviewing reports should not be done by a single employee. A minimum of two individuals should be available to handle any transaction.

While the most diligent accounting professional has made a mistake from time to time, learning how to identify financial reporting mistakes can reduce the likelihood of even rare mistakes being unknowingly shared with others.

Sources

Wrong Numbers: The Risks of Inaccurate Financial Statements

How to Identify and Avoid Cash Flow Pitfalls

By Blog, General Business News

Cash Flow Pitfalls, Cash Flow problemsLooking at expenses for one’s business is essential to reduce cash flow issues. For example, it would show if there’s too much money leaving the business or what type of scenario the business might face if there’s an unexpected and large expense that guts the business’ cash position. Tracking expenses on a monthly basis is one way to determine a company’s financial health.  

Estimating sales by starting with last year’s month-by-month figures is one way to start. Looking at credit and cash sales from a business’ monthly income statements provides historical reference. Examining both fixed and variable past expenses, specifically, is a good starting point. However, it’s important when projecting future sales and reasonable increases to remember that the business could be impacted negatively by a new competitor or positively if one goes out of business.

Determining when payment will be received is a good way to project cash flow. If it’s cash, then it’s instant and no further calculation is necessary. However, if payment is conducted by invoices, credit lines, etc., businesses are encouraged to perform the Days Sales Outstanding (DSO) calculation. This calculates, on average, how long customers take to pay outstanding invoices.

DSO = (Monthly accounts receivables/Total sales) x Days in the month

This is a good way to measure how long customers actually take to pay invoices versus what terms are specified in contracts or invoices.

Another consideration is to look at fixed and variable expenses. While fixed expenses are just that, fixed, it’s important to monitor variable expenses because they can fluctuate. One example is inflation, which can increase the cost of input materials, salaries, overhead, etc. Depending on the volume of production or sales, electricity, commission, or similar costs can also vary.

Once this information is gathered, the current month’s projected cash flow can be calculated.

The formula is as follows: (Last month’s cash balance + Current month’s projected receipts) – Projected expenses.

Preventing Bad Debt from Happening Before Collections is Necessary

According to SCORE, there are many things a business can do to reduce the likelihood of customer debt default and increase cash flow. Businesses can check the creditworthiness of both individual and commercial clients before offering credit to determine the likelihood of defaulting. 

Similarly, if Net 30 is the standard timeframe to pay an invoice, offering a 5 percent discount if it’s paid within seven days is one way to encourage prompt payment. Businesses that get a deposit when signing the contract or before beginning work will generate a more consistent cash flow.

Operating Cash Flow Ratio Example

This looks at how easily a company can satisfy current liabilities from its cash flows that are produced from the business operations. If there’s negative cash from operations, a business might be relying too heavily on financing or selling assets to run its operations. If earnings are steady, but cash flow from operations is falling, this is a negative indication of a company’s health. It’s calculated as follows:

(Operating Cash Flow/Current Liabilities) = ($15 billion/$45 billion) = 0.33

Businesses with an operating cash flow ratio greater than 1 have produced more cash in an operating period than is necessary to satisfy current liabilities. Businesses that have a reading less than 1 did not produce enough cash to satisfy current liabilities. However, further investigation is required to ensure that it’s not taking some of its excess cash to reinvest in projects with the potential to create future rewards.

While there’s no way to predict future cash flow trends, making projections can help businesses compare actual results to projects and adjust their plans more efficiently.

Sources

https://www.score.org/resource/article/10-ways-improve-collections-and-cash-flow

How to Reduce Common Payroll Errors

By Blog, General Business News

Common Payroll ErrorsAccording to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and the National Federation of Independent Businesses (NFIB), almost one-third of companies see penalties due to payroll issues. Understanding a few examples, according to the NFIB, of how companies can better comply and avoid penalties is essential to smoother operations.

Underpayment of Estimated Tax by Corporations Penalty

As long as there’s a reasonable expectation of at least $500 in estimated taxes owed, corporations are required by the IRS to file. If, however, a corporation doesn’t satisfy its estimated tax payments or pays them after their quarterly submission deadline, the IRS will assess penalties. This can occur even if the IRS owes filers a refund.

The IRS recommends the easiest way to avoid the penalty is to pay the quarterly estimated taxes by the 15th day of April, June, September, and January of the following year (the following month after each quarter). If the 15th is on a weekend (Saturday or Sunday) or it’s a legal federal holiday, payment would be due on the next regular business day.

When it comes to assessing penalties for underpayment of estimated taxes, the IRS determines the penalty based on how much-estimated taxes are underpaid, the time frame of when the payment was due and underpaid, and the IRS’ current quarterly interest rates.

Based on 2023’s third-quarter data from the IRS, the federal agency charges a 7 percent penalty annually, compounded daily.

Failure to Deposit Penalty

Another payroll tax mistake businesses may make is the Failure to Deposit Penalty. The NFIB reported that nearly 50 percent of small businesses see fines on average of $850 annually because they’re late or missing payments. In order for businesses that must make employment tax deposits, it’s imperative to do so either on the IRS’ monthly or semi-weekly basis.

Required employment tax deposits cover Social Security, Medicare, and federal income taxes, along with Federal Unemployment Tax. Employers on the monthly route are required to deposit employment taxes on payments for the prior month by the 15th of the following month. For the semi-weekly route, deposits for employment taxes on payments made between Wednesdays and Fridays are to be made by the following Wednesday. For deposits done on a Saturday, Sunday, Monday, or Tuesday, employment tax deposits must be made by the following Friday.

Beginning with the due date of the employment tax deposit, the penalty is calculated by the number of calendar days the deposit is late.

Between one and five calendar days, there’s a 2 percent penalty on the unpaid deposit. Between six and 15 calendar days, the penalty increases to 5 percent of the unpaid deposit. If it’s late by more than 15 calendar days, the penalty is 10 percent of the unpaid deposit amount.

If more than 10 calendar days have passed after the first written contact from the IRS notifying the filer of failing to deposit their employment taxes or the day the business receives correspondence requiring immediate payment of employment taxes, the penalty increases to 15 percent of the unpaid deposit. It’s also subject to interest on the penalty.

While these are only two ways businesses can incur payroll-related tax penalties, it’s illustrative of how businesses need to keep on top of their federal (and state) obligations.

Sources

https://www.irs.gov/payments/failure-to-deposit-penalty

https://www.irs.gov/payments

https://www.irs.gov/businesses/small-businesses-self-employed/employment-tax-due-dates

https://www.irs.gov/faqs/estimated-tax/individuals/individuals-2

https://www.irs.gov/payments/underpayment-of-estimated-tax-by-corporations-penalty

https://www.irs.gov/newsroom/interest-rates-remain-the-same-for-the-third-quarter-of-2023

https://www.irs.gov/payments/underpayment-of-estimated-tax-by-corporations-penalty

https://www.nfib.com/content/partner-program/money/are-you-guilty-of-committing-these-5-payroll-mistakes/  

How Businesses Can Identify and Increase Efficiency with Managerial Accounting

By Blog, General Business News

Managerial accounting is a form of internal reporting that helps business owners and others involved in the organization’s decision making. It looks at individual processes and products to see how they are functioning via practical data points. This is done in hopes of applying data analysis to improve the business’ operational efficiency.

It is important to keep in mind the intended audience and data structure with regard to managerial accounting versus financial accounting. While managerial accountants analyze information, it is not subject to GAAP requirements; however, financial accountants must present company information according to GAAP standards – and such information is often intended for external consumers like investors or lenders.

Measuring Inventory Levels

One way that businesses turn to managerial accounting is through scrutinizing their inventory turnover. Companies that analyze how often they have sold and replenished their inventory over a measured time period can make better decisions about their inventory cycle (production, buying new input materials, marketing, and pricing). Managerial accounting professionals help businesses identify carrying costs of inventory. It’s expressed as follows:

Inventory Turnover = Cost of Goods Sold (COGS) / Average Value of Inventory

Higher ratios usually indicate greater company sales. Lower sales generally indicate there are problems with product or service demand.

Monitoring Outstanding Accounts Receivables

Analyzing accounts receivable can provide beneficial insights on a business’ bottom line. An accounts receivables (AR) aging report categorizes AR invoices based on how long they have been outstanding. The report can categorize how late payables are (30 days or less, 31-60 days, 61-90 days and so on). Based on the results, companies can look at historical data, along with projected sales, to figure out how much they need to allocate for uncollectable accounts. Companies also can proactively reduce credit limits, determine when it’s time to stop doing business with a customer/client, and send unpaid bills to collection.

Price Variance Considerations

When a business looks at price variance, the first step is to take the final price paid for each unit, then subtract the unit’s standard cost from the former figure. The resulting figure is multiplied by however many units were actually bought. It’s a way for managerial accountants to determine the difference, either a positive variance (increased costs above the standard price) or a negative variance (decreased costs relative to the standard price), between the cost planned and the cost at time of purchase.  

The formula is expressed as follows:

Price Variance = (Actual Price – Standard Price) x Actual Quantity

If a business is planning to make a purchase for their next fiscal year, it may want only 5,000 widgets that cost $10 per widget. The business gets a bulk discount of $1 per widget, bringing it down to $9 per widget. However, when the time to purchase the 5,000 widgets comes along, it realizes it only needs to purchase 3,500 widgets. At the quantity of 3,500 widgets, the business won’t receive the bulk discount, reverting the cost back to $10 per widget, creating a variance of $1 per unit or widget.

Using the formula, it could be expressed as follows:

Price Variance = ($10 – $9) x 3,500 = $1 x 3,500 = $3,500. Since circumstances changed at the business between their initial planning and ultimate purchase time-frame, the price variance resulted in $3,500.

While managerial accounting has many different tools for analysis, the one common thread is that regardless of the tool used, managerial accountants help businesses find higher levels of operational efficiency.

Delving Into Forensic Accounting

By Blog, General Business News

What is Forensic AccountingAccording to a 2022 Allied Market Research report, the size of the global forensic accounting market is forecast to increase in value to $11.68 billion in 2031, up from its 2021 estimated value of $5.13 billion. Allied Market Research puts this compound annual growth rate at nearly 9 percent (8.8 percent). This same report found that the Covid-19 pandemic saw an uptick in the need for forensic accounting skilled professionals and approaches.

Forensic accounting is a specialization within the general accounting profession. Professionals in this specialized subset focus on allegations of financial fraud brought by individuals and businesses in the civil courts and government agencies in the criminal courts. Disputes can range from family members contesting assets and valuations of such assets in estate, business, or divorce proceedings. When it comes to proving criminal allegations, government agencies look to forensic accountants to investigate financial records for evidence of fraud in the quest to prove crimes such as securities fraud or identity theft.   

Forensic Accounting Methodology

According to the Journal of Accountancy and the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE), CPAs and specifically forensic accountants can use Benford’s Law to begin the process of identifying potential fraud. Examples of data sets that forensic accountants can build and analyze come from income statements, expense reports, ledgers, balance sheets, invoice and inventory data, accounts payable, and accounts receivable. When analyzing the leading or first digit in a data set, forensic investigators can take the data set and look at how the leading digits are distributed against the percentages that Benford’s Law sets out.

According to the ACFE, in contrast to the common belief that digits occur in equal probability, Benford’s Law states that numbers starting with 1 as the first digit occurs with the highest frequency. Then each subsequent number 2 through 9 occurs with lower probability. According to Carnegie Mellon University, per Benford’s Law, 30.1 percent of a data set will be led by a 1. The digit 2 will be the first in a data set 17.6 percent of the time. For numbers 3 to 9, the likelihood of each respective number leading the data set should become less frequent.

The ACFE gives the example of a counting exercise to illustrate Benford’s Law. When counting to 25, only one of the 25 numbers would lead with a 3; seven numbers would lead with a 2; and there would be 11 leading numbers beginning with 1. Numbers generated by a computer would give equal weighted probability to 1 to 9 being the first or leading digit. If equally weighted numbers were in fact generated, the results would deviate from Benford’s Law. However, simply because Benford’s Law is not observed in the dataset analyzed, it doesn’t automatically mean fraud occurred. But it is a tool that helps forensic accountants investigate further and determine through additional means if fraud did, in fact, occur.

Similarly, the ACFE points out that if someone wants to commit a financial crime, they would generate invoices worth a lot. It would be a lot more effective for someone to pass off invoices of $800 or $900, versus smaller $100 or $200 amounts. While this would make better use of a criminal’s time, according to Benford’s Law, if a forensic accountant were to test a data set against a few hundred invoices, they might see an abnormal percentage of them with high leading numbers, prompting further investigation.

The Journal of Accountancy reminds readers that it’s important to keep in mind a few caveats. The more numbers available in the data set, the better. It can work with as few as 50 to 100 numbers, but more is always preferred. Another consideration, per the ACFE, is where the data comprising the data set originates. Using a sports analogy, if players are between 5 feet and 8 feet tall, it would make testing the data set against Benford’s Law impossible because there’s zero chance of numbers 1 through 4 and 8 or 9 showing up in a probability test. In these scenarios, Benford’s Law wouldn’t apply.

While the method for detecting financial fraud is not black and white, the need for more forensic accountants will not slow down any time soon.

Sources

https://www.acfeinsights.com/acfe-insights/2023/3/28/benfords-law-how-to-use-it-to-spot-fraudnbsp?rq=Benford

https://www.acfeinsights.com/acfe-insights/2023/3/21/benfords-law-applicationsnbsp?rq=Benford

https://www.acfeinsights.com/acfe-insights/what-is-benfords-law?rq=Benford

https://insights.sei.cmu.edu/blog/benfords-law-potential-applications-insider-threat-detection/

https://www.journalofaccountancy.com/issues/2017/apr/excel-and-benfords-law-to-detect-fraud.html

https://www.alliedmarketresearch.com/forensic-accounting-market-A17182