Archive for the ‘Business Advice’ Category

Fraud Hotlines Deter Occupational Fraud

Monday, August 25th, 2014

When it comes to your business or organization, you are passionate about making sure your staff embodies your mission and objectives. You take care to select only the best candidates; and when you find them, you conduct thorough interviews, background checks and offer extensive training and timely performance reviews. Months later, now that you have invested significant resources into finding, training and polishing your new employee, you can finally rest easy knowing that you created a team dedicated to common goals and objectives – right?

Fraud Happens

In its most recent version of The Report to the Nations on Occupational Fraud and Abuse, the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE) analyzed 1,483 cases of occupational fraud, which resulted in losses totaling more than $3 billion. Of those cases, the ACFE found that businesses with 100 employees or less are more susceptible to financial losses as a result of the three categories of occupational fraud – corruption, asset misappropriation and financial statement fraud.

Here’s A Tip

Maybe, like so many other business owners, you have already considered these facts and have taken steps to deter fraud in your own offices by establishing and implementing codes of conduct and external audits. While those measures provide a good foundation, you may be surprised to learn that of the nearly 1,500 cases of fraud that were reviewed, auditing only revealed a few instances of fraud. On the other hand, 42 percent of these cases were detected by tips. These tips were frequently reported on fraud hotlines and resulted in a 50 percent quicker response time when it came to detecting and stopping fraud.

The Value of a Fraud Hotline

Be proactive about fraud prevention, instead of reacting when you’re caught in the middle of it. A fraud reporting hotline service, such as Red Flag Reporting, has helped clients stay informed about what’s going on in their businesses. Services like Red Flag provide businesses with an opportunity to focus on building relationships, increasing revenue and improving community outreach instead of chasing down occupational fraud in the workplace.

Fraud hotlines are utilized by small and large businesses alike and can help identify and deter other types of unethical behavior before it grows out of control. Fraud hotlines can result in:

  • Fewer OSHA violations
  • Lower Workers’ Compensation costs
  • A decreased likelihood of employment practices lawsuits
  • Zero-tolerance of discrimination in the workplace

Not all employees are bad and not everybody is looking for an opportunity to financially ruin their employer. In fact, fraud hotlines are great because they prove that you are have a team made up of responsible, honest, hard-working men and women. These professionals are the eyes and ears of your business or organization and you not only depend on them to help identify instances of fraud, you need them to report issues to you before they explode into situations that severely damage your financial well-being, employee morale and reputations. By providing your team with a hotline, they will be even more inclined to provide you with a tip or two without feeling like they are rocking the boat.

Are you concerned about the potential for fraud in your organization? Email Rea & Associates to learn more about how a fraud hotline could work for you.

Author: Annie Yoder, CPA, CFE, CFF (New Philadelphia office)

 

Related Articles:

Fraud: Could It Happen To You?

Does Your Audit Process Protect You From Fraud?

How Can Analytics Help Reduce Fraud Risk At Your Business?

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New Form of Malware Catching Retailers Off Guard

Monday, August 25th, 2014

Last week, UPS announced that 51 of its stores were infected by point-of-sale (POS) malware that has been affecting other retailers across the U.S. In total, UPS estimates that approximately 105,000 POS transactions were comprised in the data breach, leaving many customers’ financial and contact information exposed, increasing their risk of identity theft and fraud.

POS malware, known as Backoff, was identified last week as having targeted a New Orleans restaurant, a much smaller retailer than UPS. On July 31, several government agencies sent out an alert about Backoff. The alert explained the risks that Backoff posed to U.S. businesses, including smaller merchants, and that this new form of malware was found to infect POS systems via access to a remote-access portal.

And just a few days ago, the U.S. Secret Service announced that an estimated 1,000 businesses have been infected by Backoff. Now the Department of Homeland Security is encouraging all businesses – no matter the size – to scan their POS systems to check for a possible compromise.

While these recent incidents may not affect you or your business directly, the discovery of this new form of malware should cause you to stop and assess your business’s IT security situation. Do you have the right security protocols in place to protect your business – and your customers – from a potential data breach?

How To Protect Your Business From A Data Breach

Your mind may be far from thinking about your business’s IT environment. You’re probably focused more on the day-to-day operations of your business and serving your customers. But think of protecting your business’s IT environment as one way of serving your customers. By protecting your IT systems, you are helping ensure that your customers’ personal and financial data is safe. Here are some ways you can protect your business’s IT environment:

  • Use End Point Protection monitoring to verify that all workstations are current on their virus definition files and OS patches.
  • Make sure all servers are patched with the most current operating system security patches.
  • Employ a vendor to complete penetration testing to find any open avenues to your network.
  • Consider implementing Intrusion Detection Systems (IDS) or Security Information & Event Management (SIEM) applications. Many companies utilize IDS/SIEM to monitor their incoming and outgoing network traffic. If the expense is too great or you don’t have qualified personnel, then consider a vendor to provide the service. Many vendors provide these services at a very reasonable price.
  • Review the Mitigation and Prevention Strategies of the Department of Homeland Security July 31, 2014, announcement of the Backoff malware.

The Cost of Protecting Your Customers

What cost is too much to protect my customers’ data? Only you can answer this question. UPS and the restaurant have chosen to pay for identity theft and credit monitoring services for customers who may have been affected from their data breaches (a data breach-related expense many companies don’t consider). But take that one step further. What cost is too much to protect my business’s reputation? In order for your company to survive in today’s digital world, it’s critical for your business to cultivate a culture of trust with your customers. Many businesses find that they’ll do what it takes to prevent security breaches. What will you do?

Want more IT tips? Check out other articles that provide best practices on how to secure your business’s IT environment.

Author: Joe Welker, CISA (New Philadelphia office)

 

Related Articles:

8 Tips For Crafting A Strong Password

Do You Know Who Has Access To Your IT Network?

How Can I Protect My Business From A Data Security Breach?

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Obtaining Tax-Exempt Status Just Got Easier

Tuesday, August 12th, 2014

Many individuals want to know how easy it is to obtain tax-exempt status. About a month ago, you would have been told that the application process alone was rather lengthy. In fact, the standard Form 1023, which is the Application for Recognition of Exemption Under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, is 26 pages in length. On July 1, the Internal Revenue Service introduced a significantly shorter application form – Form 1023-EZ – which is just three pages long.

What Is Form 1023-EZ?

Form 1023-EZ is a simplified version of Form 1023 and its use is limited to organizations with gross receipts of $50,000 or less and total assets of $250,000 or less. The IRS says that 70 percent of new applicants should be able to use the new form, but to ensure that the right organizations are using the right form; the IRS has outlined factors that may disqualify larger organizations from using the new form. Be sure to read the instructions carefully.

The IRS says it currently has more than 60,000 backlogged 501(c)(3) applications. The new, streamlined application form is anticipated to speed up the approval process for smaller groups, which means the agency will have more resources available to review applications submitted by larger organizations.

What You Need To Know About The 1023-EZ Form

If you are planning to fill out the new EZ form, here are three things you need to know:

  • The new EZ form must be filed online.
  • A $400 user fee is due at the time the form is submitted and must be paid through pay.gov.
  • Users must complete an eligibility checklist, which is included in the instructions for Form 1023-EZ, before filing the form.

Obtaining Tax-Exempt Status and Creating A Tax-Exempt Organization

The new EZ form makes it very easy to create a tax-exempt organization, but applicants should always seek professional assistance to ensure that their organization is operating, and will continue to operate, in accordance with their tax-exempt purpose.

Email Rea & Associates and ask if your organization qualifies to use Form 1023-EZ. Our team of business accounting and consulting professionals can answer your questions and guide you on your path to formally establishing your tax-exempt organization.

Author: Lisa Beamer, CPA (New Philadelphia office)

 

Want more best practices for nonprofit organizations? Check out these blog posts:

How Effective Is Your Nonprofit Organization?

How Do You Build A Strong Not-for-Profit Board?

How Do You Protect Your Non-Profit’s Donations From Fraud?

 

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Software Updates Don’t Have To Be Hard

Monday, August 4th, 2014

Your business probably uses a variety of software systems, whether it’s for an accounting function, a manufacturing process or a scheduling process. It has been said that technology doubles in advancement nearly every 12-18 months. New updates, new releases, and new products are brought to market constantly. Yet, when was the last time you or your team evaluated your current software or compared it to other existing options?

Most people dread the idea of switching software or converting to a newer version, but if you and your team do the homework, the transition doesn’t have to be so painful or costly.

Considerations For Your Current Software

Consider the following points when evaluating your existing software:

  • Does your current software do what you want it to? If so, does your staff know how to use it effectively?
  • Does your current software do what you need it to? Have you had to put many workarounds into your systems to make the software work?
  • Are your users complaining?
  • Is your IT department complaining?
  • Are you paying a lot for the service you are receiving?
  • Are you getting the IT support you need from the software company?

Five Tips For Easing Your Software Evaluation Process

When you decide to evaluate your software, here are some tips to ease the process:

  1. Assign a project manager. This person will be responsible for making sure team members are completing assignments and for keeping the group moving forward.
  2. Put together a team of users. Consider who uses the software and include members who vary in experience, IT savviness and tenure. Include a member of your IT team.
  3. Do your research. Call on companies who are in your industry to see what they use and ask them about their experiences. Are they satisfied with their software? How do they effectively use it? Also call on companies who use your existing software also to see what their experiences have been.
  4. Calculate a cost/benefit analysis. With any conversion, there are hard costs and soft costs involved. Calculate the amount of time and resources a change could involve, as well as its impact on your team’s morale. If there is a large conversion cost to incur, how quickly will you earn that back with the efficiencies to be gained from making the change?
  5. Keep the end goal in mind. What are you trying to accomplish by going through this process? For example, are you trying to find something that will help you gain efficiencies? Be sure the testing and research is focused around those kinds of end goals.

Best Practices For Selecting Business Software

Change for the sake of change is never a good thing. You want to be able to show that you adequately vetted out possible solutions and that the conclusion has been reached by the team. Perhaps you will find out that your current system is adequate, but that your team needs additional training on how to use it to its fullest potential. It would be more cost effective to schedule additional training rather than to go through an unnecessary and costly software conversion. Your team, and your budget, will thank you in the end.

If you would like to learn about more best practices, contact Rea & Associates. Our accounting professionals and business advisors can help you determine what steps you should take during your business software selection process.

 

Author: Lesley Mast, CPA, Macc-Taxation (Wooster office)

 

Looking for more business advice? Check out these blog posts:

Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation To Pay Small Business Claimants $420 Million

Be On Guard For IRS Phone Scams

Is Your Business Running On Microsoft 2003 Servers? It’s Time To Update

 

 

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How Can Super Circular Reforms Work For Your Non-profit Organization?

Thursday, July 31st, 2014

When it comes to maintaining a high level of transparency and accountability, not-for-profit organizations face a lot of challenges. Not only does the community look to your organization to provide high-quality services and resources, the government expects your organization to utilize federal funding responsibly. The ability of not-for-profit organizations to secure federal assistance is critical, which is why industry leaders are seeking more clarity pertaining to a wide range of recent reforms made to the Uniform Administrative Requirements, Cost Principles, and Audit Requirements for Federal Awards. These reforms are scheduled to take effect the Dec. 26, 2014. Here’s some insight into what you can expect moving forward.

Super Circular Reforms

Last December, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) passed sweeping reforms to the Uniform Administrative Requirements, Cost Principles, and Audit Requirements for Federal Awards, also known as the Super Circular or the Omni Circular. The goal for these reforms is to help the federal government streamline its guidance concerning administrative requirements while strengthening the oversight of federal funds. By ensuring compliance of these reforms, the OMB hopes to reduce financial waste, fraud and abuse.

Whether you’re the director of an organization that seeks federal grants and/or assistance, an accountant who serves such an organization, or a citizen who benefits from the organization’s government funding, the Super Circular is a big deal. The federal government awards more than $500 billion every year, and it is the OMB’s responsibility to ensure that every dollar spent is a good use of taxpayer funds.

What Do Super Circular Reforms Mean For You?

  • This newer guidance effectively consolidates eight federal circulars into one, which makes guidelines, cost principles, and audit requirements easily accessible. Having one “Super Circular” to thumb through – even though it tops 100 pages – is a welcome change to grant seekers, grant recipients and awarding agencies.
  • Now that the grant guidance is easily accessible and transparent, the OMB anticipates increased competition among agencies and organizations that are eligible for monetary assistance.

For example: If you have never applied for aid in the past, but you think your organization or government agency may be eligible for federal assistance, you can now easily find out. More agencies and organizations are expected to take advantage of the fact that these guidelines are easily accessible, which means there will be more people vying for government money.

A comprehensive list of federal assistance programs is available in the programs tab of the Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance (CFDA) website. This site not only provides a list of programs and grants available, it provides key information about what is required to apply and qualify for federal assistance.

  • New provisions have established a higher threshold for an A-133 audit. The threshold for an A-133 audit is now $750,000 – which is higher from the previous threshold of $500,000. This means that not-for-profit organizations that bring in less than $750,000 annually are not required to complete an A-133 audit, which will provide some relief to about 5,000 non-federal organizations. This doesn’t mean the OMB will stop monitoring the federal aid that is distributed to these organizations, the OMB says 99.7 percent of aid awarded to organizations and agencies will still be subject to single audit oversight.

Please Note: If your fiscal year ends in December, the $750,000 single audit threshold won’t go into effect until your Dec. 15, 2015 audit. And if your fiscal year ends in June, it won’t go into effect until December 30, 2016.

  • The Super Circular significantly reforms how organizations and agencies will maintain their cost principles. Specifically, in its guidance, the OMB places a greater emphasis on internal controls. The Super Circular effectively defines what organizations and agencies can consider indirect costs, administrative salary direct costs, compensation, and costs associated with materials and supplies.

For example: While the salaries of your administrative and clerical staff may have been treated as indirect costs in the past, the OMB says that it may now be more appropriate to consider them as direct costs if the work performed is specifically outlined within the grant-funded project or initiative.

  • The deadline for organizations and government agencies to comply with the OMB’s reforms is Dec. 26, 2014.

Because the reform-laced Super Circular was written with the goal of helping organizations and agencies apply for aid, manage funds and prepare for audits, it is anticipated that the OMB will succeed in its efforts to increase competition among organizations and agencies that are eligible to receive aid. As a result, more insight and accountability will be demonstrated by recipients of federal assistance.

Super Circular Help

The OMB has repeatedly said that these reforms will make the process of obtaining federal funds easier and more transparent. If you have specific questions as to how the Super Circular will affect your organization or government agency, contact Rea & Associates. Our Ohio not-for-profit team can help you make sense of these revised regulations.

Author: Brent Ardit, CPA (Dublin office)

 

Want more not-for-profit business advice? Check these posts out:

Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation To Pay Small Business Claimants $420 Million 

How Effective Is Your Nonprofit Organization?

How Do You Build a Strong Not-for-Profit Board?

 

 

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