Secrets of Bonding #25: World’s Cheapest Audit

When it comes to financial statements prepared by a CPA (Certified Public Accountant), there are three levels of presentation:

Compilation – This is the lowest level and does not include any checking or verification of the numbers by the accounting firm. The numbers are merely “compiled” by the CPA.

Review – Some checking and “review” by the CPA.

Audit – The CPA performs analysis and verifications to authenticate the numbers.

Bond underwriters expect better prepared financials for higher amounts of surety credit.  This means contractors that have large bonding lines must provide Audited company financial statements (FSs).  Sureties and bankers are more confident when analyzing an audited FS – we assume everyone would have these high quality financial reports if it wasn’t for the cost.

Because of the time and human resources involved, a Review is less expensive than an Audit, and a Compilation is the least expensive of the three.

So in comes your contractor client who, for a number of reasons, decided to have a Compilation at the last fiscal year-end.  Now a large project needs to be bonded, and from a size standpoint, the underwriter normally expects a Reviewed FS.  If it is not practical to go back and upgrade the Compilation to a Review, what are your options?

The underwriter may be willing to work with the Compilation FS if some key elements are documented and / or verified.  Such an analysis is the heart of the difference between a Compilation and a Review.

At the minimum the underwriter is likely to ask for proof of cash, aged receivables (A/R) and payables (A/P), and a Work in Process (WIP) Schedule.  Let’s go over each one briefly.

Cash: If the FS date is 12/31, the idea would be to provide proof of the cash amount shown on the FS on that date.  If the FS shows $52,125 cash, you need bank or brokerage statements adding up to that figure for 12/31.

A/R & A/P: These reports should be as of the FS date and add up to the receivable and payables listed on the FS.  The A/R should be broken down by age showing how much is current, 60, 90, and over 90 days old. Retainages should be identified since they are not regular “trade receivables.” It is also beneficial to indicate which receivables were subsequently collected after the fiscal date. Payables should also be aged.

WIP Schedule: Needed as of the fiscal date to support the analysis of the company balance sheet.

This strategy is not as good as actually having a CPA Review, but the analysis performed by the underwriter could substitute for a Review and justify issuance of a bond. Plus, such services performed by the underwriter are free!  So, even though this is not really an Audit or Review, you can think of it as the “World’s Cheapest Audit.”  It can be just what you need to get a bond and keep moving forward with the file.

For the future, if similar sized bonds are likely, the client should plan on having a Review performed at the next fiscal year-end – it will help with surety and bank credit.  Added bonus: The company will have better documents for management review and the accountants will provide professional guidance that is not included with a Compilation.

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