Dividing a marital estate is rarely easy. But it’s made much harder if a divorcing spouse owns a private business and attempts to artificially deflate its profits or hide assets. If you or your attorney suspects this type of deception, engage a forensic accountant to investigate.
When working on divorce cases, fraud experts ask several questions about private business interests. For example, does a spouse own a cash business that may have unreported income? Does the owner receive special (or excessive) perks or tax write-offs that affect the business’s profitability? Are numbers intentionally reported incorrectly to affect the business’s value?
n addition, experts investigate whether the company has any subsidiaries or is part of any other business ventures. Sometimes, a business owner may be a silent partner in an entity where ownership isn’t obvious.
Anomalies in a business’s income statements may reveal possible deception, particularly:
- Excessive write-offs,
- Withheld revenue deposits,
- A large one-time expense, or
- A decrease in revenue with no related decrease in variable expenses.
Sudden changes that occur when a spouse is contemplating divorce may suggest unreported income or overstated expenses. However, these changes could also be due to external forces, such as the loss of a major salesperson or adverse market conditions.
When evaluating expenses, experts often focus on the amounts paid to owners and other related parties. These may include payments for compensation, benefits, rent, management fees, and company vehicles and other perks. The owner-spouse also might try to flush personal expenses through the business.
Balance sheet secrets
Balance sheets may reveal whether an owner is trying to hide assets (for example, in an offshore account) or transfer them to a related party for less than market value. Inventory is particularly susceptible to manipulation. Although notes payable to shareholders can be legitimate transactions, they also may be used to conceal income being distributed to an owner.
Experts review the equity section for any changes in the business’s ownership after the parties filed for divorce. They also search for suspicious withdrawals or distributions from capital accounts. Controlling owners may sometimes attempt to transfer ownership of business interests to close friends or associates to deprive their spouses of portions of the assets or portions of the business income.
Although divorce can give rise to angry actions, most business owners would never stoop to falsifying financial records simply to deprive their ex-spouses of a fair division of marital assets. But if the value of a business seems distorted, contact us for help identifying the causes and to suggest reasonable adjustments.
© 2021 Covenant CPA
Every new company should launch with a business plan and keep it updated. Generally, such a plan will comprise six sections: executive summary, business description, industry and marketing analysis, management team description, implementation plan, and financials.
Now, ideally, you would comprehensively update each section every year. But if the size, shape and objectives of your company haven’t changed all that much, you may not need to make major revisions to the entire plan. However, at the very least, you should always review and revise your financials.
Explain your route
Lenders, investors and other interested parties understand that descriptions of a business or industry analysis may be subject to interpretation. But financials are a different matter — they need to add up (literally and figuratively) and contain realistic projections in today’s dollars.
For example, suppose a company with $10 million in sales in 2019 expects to double that figure over a three-year period. How will you get from Point A ($10 million in 2019) to Point B ($20 million in 2023)? Many roads may lead to the desired destination; your business plan must explain its route.
Let’s say your management team decides to double sales by hiring four new salespeople and acquiring the assets of a bankrupt competitor. These assumptions will drive the projected income statement, balance sheet and cash flow statement referenced in your business plan.
When projecting the income statement, you’ll need to make assumptions about variable and fixed costs. Direct materials are generally considered variable. Salaries and rent are usually fixed. But many fixed costs can be variable over the long term. Consider rent: Once a lease expires, you could relocate to a different facility to accommodate changes in size.
Balance sheet items — receivables, inventory, payables and so on — are generally expected to grow in tandem with revenues. The financials in your business plan must accurately and reasonably justify the assumptions you’re making about your minimum cash balance, as well as debt increases or decreases to keep the balance sheet balanced. And these amounts must be current.
From a lending perspective, your bank will be expected to fund any cash shortfalls that take place as the company grows. So, realistic cash flow projections in your business plan are particularly critical. The financials section should outline how much financing you’ll need, how you intend to use those funds and when you expect to repay the loan(s).
Keep it fresh
Your business plan needs to tell an accurate, objective story of your company — where it’s been, where it is right now and where it’s heading. Keep the whole thing as fresh as possible but pay special attention to the numbers. We can help you review your financials, arrive at reasonable assumptions, and express your objectives and projections clearly.
© 2019 Covenant CPA
Time flies when you’re having fun — and running a business. Although it’s probably too early to start chilling a bottle of bubbly for New Year’s Eve, it’s certainly not too early for business owners to start doing some strategic planning for next year. Here are some ways to get started.
Begin with your financials
A good place to find inspiration for strategic objectives is your financial statements. They’ll tell you whether you’re excelling or struggling so you can decide how strategically ambitious or cautious to be in the coming year.
Use the numbers to look at key performance indicators such as gross profit, which tells you how much money you made after your production and selling costs were paid. It’s calculated by subtracting the cost of goods sold from your total revenue. Also calculate current ratio, which is calculated by dividing current assets by current liabilities. It helps you gauge the strength of your cash flow.
Examine other areas
Human resources is another critical area of strategic planning. What was your employee turnover rate last year? High turnover could be a sign of poor training, substandard management or low morale. Any of these problems could undercut the strategic objectives you set.
Examine sales and marketing, too. Did you meet your goals for new sales last year, as measured in both sales volume and number of new customers? Did you generate an adequate return on investment for your marketing dollars?
Finally, take a close look at your production and operations. Many companies track a metric called customer reject rate that measures the number of complete units rejected or returned by external customers. Sometimes a business must improve this rate before it moves forward with growth objectives. If yours is a service business, you should similarly track and assess customer satisfaction.
Set new objectives
With a review of your financials and key business areas complete, you can more reasonably set goals for next year under the banner of your strategic plan. On the financial side, for instance, your objective might be to boost gross profit from 20% to 30%. But how will you lower your costs or increase efficiency to make this goal a reality?
Or maybe you want to lower your employee turnover rate from 20% to 10%. What will you do differently from a training and management standpoint to keep your employees from jumping ship this year?
Don’t let year end creep any closer without reviewing your business’s recent performance. Then, use this data to set realistic goals for the coming year. We can help you choose the best metrics, crunch the numbers and put together a solid strategic plan.
© 2019 Covenant CPA
Like many business owners, you probably created a business plan when you launched your company. But, as is also often the case, you may not have looked at it much since then. Now that fall has arrived and year end is coming soon, why not dig it out? Reviewing and revising a business plan can be a great way to plan for the year ahead.
6 sections to scrutinize
Comprehensive business plans traditionally are composed of six sections. When revisiting yours, look for insights in each one:
1. Executive summary. This should read like an “elevator pitch” regarding your company’s purpose, its financial position and requirements, its state of competitiveness, and its strategic goals. If your business plan is out of date, the executive summary won’t quite jibe with what you do today. Don’t worry: You can rewrite it after you revise the other five sections.
2. Business description. A company’s key features are described here. These include its name, entity type, number of employees, key assets, core competencies, and product or service menu. Look at whether anything has changed and, if so, what. Maybe your workforce has grown or you’ve added products or services.
3. Industry and marketing analysis. This section analyzes the state of a company’s industry and explicates how the business will market itself. Your industry may have changed since your business plan’s original writing. What are the current challenges? Where do opportunities lie? How will you market your company’s strengths to take advantage of these opportunities?
4. Management team description. The business plan needs to recognize the company’s current leadership. Verify the accuracy of who’s identified as an owner and, if necessary, revise the list of management-level employees, providing brief bios of each. As you look over your management team, ask yourself: Are there gaps or weak links? Is one person handling too much?
5. Operational plan. This section explains how a business functions on a day-to-day basis. Scrutinize your operating cycle — that is, the process by which a product or service is delivered to customers and, in turn, how revenue is brought in and expenses are paid. Is it still accurate? The process of revising this description may reveal inefficiencies or redundancies of which you weren’t even aware.
6. Financials. The last section serves as a reasonable estimate of how your company intends to manage its finances in the near future. So, you should review and revise it annually. Key projections to generate are forecasts of your profits and losses, as well as your cash flow, in the coming year. Many business plans also include a balance sheet summarizing current assets, liabilities and equity.
Keep it fresh
The precise structure of business plans can vary but, when regularly revisited, they all have one thing in common: a wealth of up-to-date information about the company described. Don’t leave this valuable document somewhere to gather dust — keep it fresh. Our firm can help you review your business plan and generate accurate financials that allow you to take on the coming year with confidence. Call us now at 205-345-9898.
© 2018 Covenant CPA