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4 tips for not-for-profit accounting staff

We know the feeling. You already have a lot on your plate. And now there are significant changes coming down the pike in the form of Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) accounting standards updates and tax reform. If you find yourself hoping the nonprofit accounting environment will settle down in 2018, you’re not alone. But alas, we’re here to help. Consider these tips:

Start at the top.

Having a well-run not-for-profit board is important for making sure strategic objectives are met even as changes occur. If you have open seats, be sure you select new board members carefully. Identify a diverse range of skills and experience that you’re looking for when recruiting board members. These may include finance, information technology, human resources, marketing, fundraising or law. For more advice, check out these governance and management FAQs and this blog post on 5 tips for an effective not-for-profit board.

Break big projects down into manageable tasks, and start now.

 FASB’s new not-for-profit standard will bring significant changes to your organization’s financial statements. Don’t get overwhelmed by diving in sooner rather than later. If you’re looking for a good place to start, consider your chart of accounts. The new financial statement presentation standard will impact your chart of accounts in five areas: liquidity, net assets, investment return, statement of cash flows and expense reporting. To read more about these areas viewed through the lens of your chart of accounts, take a look at our blog post series, part I and part II.

Don’t let your audit sneak up on you.

Preparing for an annual audit can be overwhelming even when all is calm on the technical front. With the pending changes to accounting standards, regular communication with your external auditor throughout the year will be critical. Ask questions now about standards that will be effective for the coming year(s), so you can determine the extent of impacts to your organization and prepare accordingly. Also ask questions about accounting for any unusual or infrequent transactions you may have. Read this article for more tips on auditor communications and audit preparation.

Commit to getting tax compliance right.

With the IRS’s data-driven audit methodology, they’re casting a wider net for audits. This means it’s important to focus on the accuracy and completeness of your Form 990 and try to minimize reporting of any red flags. If you need help understanding or preparing the Form 990 and its accompanying schedules, the AICPA Not-for-Profit Section’s tax resource library can help.

Regardless if you’re new on the job or are a seasoned veteran, accounting and finance staff at not-for-profits can benefit from resources to help address questions that may arise on any given day. The AICPA Not-for-Profit Section’s resource library has a vast array of articles, FAQs and toolkits to guide its members.

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Lana Richards, Manager- Not-for-Profit Content Development, Association of International Certified Professional Accountants

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