Completing an effective financial audit can be one of the more stress-inducing aspects of running a business. Despite the tedious nature of the task, financial audits are a crucial step to maintaining a legitimate business. A financial audit refers to reviewing your company’s financial statements and other related documents to ensure reasonable accuracy. Stakeholders may take an interest in the outcome of financial audits as evidence of sound accounting practices, and to assess the extent of the business’s financial health.
These annual audits can be conducted by either external audit boards or internally, by the management of the company. Whilst external audits can be beneficial in providing increased assurance and legitimacy to external stakeholders, it’s important to know the ins and outs of conducting an internal financial audit. Furthermore, demonstrates an ability to conduct an effective internal financial audit demonstrates integrity and reflexivity, two key aspects in maintaining a strong relationship with stakeholders.
To ensure you are confident in your ability to conduct a smooth and effective financial audit, here are five key steps to consider:
1. Planning is key
Failing to plan for your internal financial audit can make the entire process more stressful than need be. Extensive planning should ideally begin throughout the year leading up to the audit, ensuring organised records are kept up-to-date throughout the year. Communicating with key team members is essential for this process, ensuring all relevant participants are made aware of the expectations and long-term preparation required for a successful financial audit.
2. Review Internal Systems
Gathering the necessary documents for an internal financial review is a good time to assess key internal processes, such as internal data storage. Efficient storage and data management will make identifying specific documents simple, and save you from wasting time on minor admin duties later on. Archived documents, including invoices, checks and contracts should be easily accessible, to respond to any potential issues in the audit process. This is also a good time to ensure your company’s record-keeping practices are in line with the respective legislation or other governing documents.
3. Risk Assessment
Your internal financial audit should include some dimension of risk assessment, particularly with regard to fraud. Assessing which areas of the business are covered for instances of fraud, and where your weak points lie can direct your organisation towards the correct point of action. Conduction financial risk assessments lay the groundwork for growth, allowing your company to take advantage of opportunities with the peace of mind provided by financial security.
4. Analyse Tax Records
An effective financial audit requires a comprehensive examination of tax records, both historical and current. Ensure you check your local and national legislation regarding the duration that tax records should be kept. Key areas to look out for in tax documents include inflated expense reporting, incorrect tax return processes and accurate declaration of profits. Assessing tax documents also allows for the identification of any missed opportunities, such as tax exemptions and reliefs.
5. Compile a Report
Although compiling a report may seem unnecessary given the internal nature of your financial audit, it can be beneficial to compile your findings in a centralised location. Compiling a report that is digestible to a large audience facilitates a culture of transparency, and can reassure key stakeholders of your company’s position.