Failure to maintain accurate and up-to-date financial records can lead to a host of problems for a business. These include cash flow issues, heightened risk of fraud, and reliance on incorrect data for decision-making, among others. One crucial aspect of proper financial management is the month-end close process. This involves a series of tasks conducted at the end of each month to ensure the integrity of financial data. In this article, we will explore the significance of this foundational accounting procedure and provide a sample checklist to help you successfully navigate the process.
What is a month-end close process?
The month-end close process is a series of activities performed at the end of each accounting period to finalize the financial statements. It involves reconciling accounts, reviewing financial transactions, adjusting balances, and preparing the balance sheet and income statement. This process aims to ensure the accuracy of the information, identify any errors or discrepancies, and provide management with timely and reliable financial reports.
Why is it important?
The month-end close process is essential for several reasons:
1. Error Reduction
By thoroughly reviewing financial transactions and account balances, you can identify and correct errors or discrepancies. This reduces the risk of inaccurate financial reporting, which can lead to poor decision-making and potential financial losses.
2. Mitigating Fraud Risk
The month-end close includes various controls and reviews that help detect fraudulent activities. By scrutinizing transactions, reconciling accounts, and reviewing supporting documentation, you can identify any irregularities or suspicious activities and take appropriate action.
3. Improved Reporting
Accurate and timely financial reporting is crucial for business decision-making. This process ensures that financial statements are prepared on time, allowing management to analyze the company's performance, identify trends, and make informed decisions for the future.
Now, let's go over a sample checklist to guide you through the process. This list can be customized based on your business's specific needs and industry requirements.
Sample Month-End Close Checklist
Record/Review All Income & Expenses
Verify the accuracy and completeness of all income and expense transactions.
Ensure that all revenue and expense accounts are properly classified.
Review supporting documentation and record any necessary adjustments.
Reconcile Cash, Loans, Credit Card Balances, etc.
Reconcile bank and credit card statements to the general ledger.
Investigate and resolve any discrepancies or outstanding items.
Update cash and loan account balances accordingly.
Update Accounts Payable & Accounts Receivable
Review outstanding invoices and payments.
Reconcile vendor statements and resolve any discrepancies.
Record adjustments for bad debts or uncollectible accounts.
Inventory Count (if applicable)
Conduct a physical count of inventory.
Compare the count to the recorded balances and investigate any discrepancies.
Adjust inventory values as necessary.
Review Fixed Assets
Verify the accuracy of fixed asset records.
Review additions, disposals, and depreciation calculations.
Conduct physical verification of selected assets.
Reconcile Prepaid & Accrued Accounts
Review prepaid expenses and ensure proper allocation.
Calculate and record monthly accruals for expenses or revenues.
Prepare Preliminary Financial Statements
Generate preliminary financial statements, including the balance sheet, income statement, and cash flow statement.
Review the statements for accuracy and completeness.
Highlight any significant variances or unusual trends for further investigation.
Remember, this is just a sample checklist and should be tailored to suit your business's specific needs. In addition, consider assigning task owners and reviewers for each item to ensure accountability and accuracy.
By following a comprehensive checklist, you can streamline your accounting processes, reduce errors, and enhance the reliability of your financial information. If you have any questions about performing a month-end close or other accounting procedures, please contact us. A member of our Client Advisory Services team is happy to help!
Brandi McKay is a Client Advisory Services Manager at Lutz. She began her career in 2011. She specializes in small business consulting, including financial statement reporting and analysis, payroll tax reporting and compliance, and outsourced accounting services.
We work to simplify complexities, help make critical business decisions, and confidently focus on the things that are truly important to you. We embrace your business as our own to spark the right solutions and help you thrive.