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Don’t treat an audit as an afterthought
It should come as no surprise that the most important step you need to make in preparing for your audit is to plan ahead. Being well prepared will minimise risks of missed reporting deadlines, added costs and strain on company management’s time. Being organised can save time for all parties involved in the audit.
Set a clear project plan to include timelines and completion dates
In advance of your financial year end, meet with your auditors and together work on a clear project plan for timelines and deliverables and this can act as a tracker through the audit process. Communication is key to a successful audit and ensuring all expectations are fully aligned.
Allocating the responsibilities
A critical part of audit readiness is allocating the responsibilities internally in regard to handling the audit. This includes scoping the level of resources and expertise necessary, and setting a timeline for project management.
Documentation and filing
Keeping all documentation in a secure, easy to access location, is key to avoiding scrambling to find documentation for the auditors. For example, keep track of debt agreements, leasing arrangements, lawsuits, complex transactions, technology modifications, and contracts with major customers and vendors.
Don’t leave everything until year end
Your financial year end can often be a very busy period for the organisation for completing your month end and year end reconciliations and then quickly moving into the new financial year. Don’t leave everything until that already busy time to start getting ready for your audit. Complete reconciliations and prepare any of the required information for the audit in the lead up to the year end. At year end it will only be updating for the movement in the month and any additional required accruals. This should hopefully help from an efficiency and resourcing aspect.
Identify significant changes
You need to ask yourself how has the company's financial situation changed since last year? Are there new projects/ agreements? Is there more revenue coming in? Are there grants or government supports that your organisation has accessed over the past 12 months? These are some examples of key questions that you need to answer ahead of the year-end audit to be fully prepared.
It is also important to note any non-financial changes that have occurred in the company. Have internal control systems been altered or were new processes introduced? You should be aware of these things as they could indirectly impact the fiscal findings for the financial year.
Incorporate learnings from previous year’s audit
Most year-end audits will have adjustments made and management letter points, these can be a great starting point to help you to draw more accurate conclusions for the current year audit. Schedule a planning meeting with those performing the audit and the decision-makers to see how you can navigate the previous year end recommendations made and improve the accuracy of this year's audit.
The auditor and the client should be in constant communication. Frequent communication is key to ensure queries, questions and/ or requests are being addressed in a timely manner in order to prevent delays. Maintaining constant communication will minimise the pressure of the audit and help ensure a successful audit. We would recommend weekly calls throughout the audit process with the audit project plan and tracker being used as a basis to track overall progress. We would also recommend a pre planning meeting in advance of the audit process kicking off to identify some of the potential issues identified above such as significant changes in accounting or auditing standards that may impact the audit in a different wat to last year.
Although your statutory audit is an annual requirement, you should be thinking about it throughout the year. Keep records and schedules up to date. This will reduce the lead-in time necessary for each year end audit. A month end “hard” close for best practice, along with a closing financial checklist each month. This will ensure all month-end processes are performed and all journal entries are posted. This also provides an opportunity to identify problems early.
For companies that will be performing a year-end physical inventory count, plan carefully and educate your teams. Consider counting before year-end and doing a roll forward, with approval from your auditor. Like your year-end sales cut-off, you should also have a strong process in place to ensure proper cut-off of shipping and receiving.
Audit preparation is having proper documentation and processes in place to streamline the financial statement and audit preparation process. While every company faces its own unique challenges, following these few key guidelines throughout the financial year is a great start to ensuring your audit runs smoothly and efficiently and is in line with the your expectations.
Remember, the key to decreasing the stress of an audit and increasing the benefits is communication and preparation.