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Article by listed accountantSANDY STEWART

I think I am a year-end audit “specialist” - if one can call oneself that. No, not an auditor, but someone who puts financial statements together for companies to be audited.

“Why a specialist?” i can hear you ask. It’s certainly not something I’ve ever seen someone call a career, absolutely, but i have spent years when one adds up the combined months working through trying times finishing an audit.

After starting off my working career doing a few terribly large client audits while doing my articles at one of the large audit firms (which still actually happens to be around today), I then spent the past 25 plus years in commerce being extensively involved in putting things together to be “audited to death” by each new audit team that I have been introduced to.

So onto some thoughts:

·         Communication

Talk about and discuss what will be done, by whom and by when long before the actual dates arrive with your internal team and the audit team. Be clear on responsibilities and group these together logically. Continue discussing when things change. You can expect some reports not to run as they should, some other deadline to also become important, or something to take much longer than expected. Be sure to be clear about what the audit team are expecting and by what time of the day, not just the date.

·         Work as a team

The auditors are there to check the important numbers but it’s a lot easier when all “team members” are working to the same deadlines and goals. As the client, ask for help when you are not sure about something. As the auditor, understand that your client is doing their best.

·         Just another month end, not an “event”

Don’t leave everything to the last minute of the last day of the last month. At least make sure that every quarter is done really well and then have a “mock year end” the month before the actual year end. You may be pleasantly surprised or even amazed at how the accruals are not forgotten, or the close out entries or the balance sheet reconciliations that need to be done are up to date.

·         Team building

Who needs to pay for expensive offsite team events? Building a team is not about being away from the office doing things that have nothing to do with work. What builds a team is a clear common objective, shoulders all pushing the same wheel in the same direction. Be sure that everyone helping understands what they need to do and by when. Also be sure they understand how important their contribution to the team is.

·         Pace yourself and your team

Remember that a year end is not a sprint but a marathon. Spend as much time as necessary to ensure the planning is done well and how long things should take is factored in. Then don’t work 20 hour days for a week (or a month or several months) and collapse in a heap. Remember there is a day of rest for a reason so use it.

·         Plan for next year

While you are doing the actual year end, keep a notebook somewhere with a dedicated page or two. Jot down notes about the things that are difficult to put together, the things the team struggled with or the things that took longer than expected. This can be a file in a shared directory for larger teams. No ideas should be vetoed and the hotter off the press the better. This is your first port of call for your “post audit” review. If you leave it until too long afterward, a lot of the pain has dulled and it’s easy to forget.

·         This is business not “life and death”

Yes, deadlines are important to all accountants. That is why accountants are accountants after all! But remember your family who are always there for you. Remember colleagues, other family and friends. Do your best to still try maintain the work life balance and stop when you’re too tired to think straight. You may be amazed how something you struggled with at 8pm after already doing a 14 hour slog “falls into place” when looked at with a fresh mind after a good night’s rest.

Good luck with your next year end audit. Please drop me a mail or give me a call if you think I can help you with anything to do with your year-end audit or other accounting and tax queries.