As I write this in late April 2020, Congress is creating a series of federal relief packages related to the COVID-19 pandemic, aimed at individuals, small businesses and large businesses alike.

Also, several government agencies are issuing new guidance nearly daily on already passed legislation, especially the CARES Act. As a result, state agencies are struggling to keep up with implementation.

Many decision-makers are looking to their accountants for forecasting, cash flow management, or more frequent financial metrics and other analysis to mitigate problems or take advantage of current conditions.

While accountants can be very helpful in these ways, I’d like to highlight a few lesser known ways accountants can influence positive outcomes:

They can influence how mail is received and distributed. Many organizations receive paper checks in the mail. Where they goes and who handles them after they arrive can make it easier or harder for checks to be stolen before they’re deposited.

Along with the obvious problems that come with stolen funds, lost checks can negatively impact account receivable records, financial statement audits, and even negatively impact relationships: Customers become frustrated when they receive collection calls for bills already paid. And donors become frustrated when their donations are not properly acknowledged.

Accountants can influence how bills are paid. Have you ever wondered why it takes your company so long to cut a check? Many companies have a formal process for paying invoices that includes a series of steps and people. While these processes can be circumvented, they make it more difficult for funds to go to the wrong people, especially when these processes are carefully enforced by upper management. These methods can also prevent invoices from being paid twice or vendors being paid before their work is successfully completed.

They can help you be fully prepared for an IRS audit, even if you don’t undergo an annual financial statement audit. Failing an IRS audit can mean significant fines for the company. Standard accounting procedures require many companies to substantiate all the financial record keeping needed in an IRS audit.

Early in my career, I worked as a project accountant at a construction company. I received a call from a supplier that had no accounting staff, who asked if I could resend him the invoices for a project we had paid. Three days later that same supplier called again, looking for invoices for a different project. The IRS auditors were still there!

That same year, I worked with a much larger company with a full accounting staff. This company was also audited by the IRS. However, that auditor was in and out within two days and without issue. Having accountants make companies fully prepared for the surprise IRS audit.

So, along with providing financial analysis or reports to help plan your future, it’s helpful to know your accountant can add value to your organization in other ways, too.


Editor’s note: Maris Edgar has spent 12 years as a CPA and finance manager. She currently serves as a controller and CFO with three small nonprofits and is part of the back-office accounting service at FEI’s parent company, Alliance for Strong Families and Communities.