It's that time again... the dreaded year-end beast has again reared its head. As financial staff, navigating this phase can be daunting, but don't worry; we're here to help! With a strategic approach and effective practices, the year-end process can be a smooth and successful endeavor.
Setting the Stage
Preparation is Key: Beyond setting timelines and delegating responsibilities, consider creating a comprehensive checklist that outlines specific tasks, deadlines, and accountable individuals. Having a detailed roadmap ensures everyone is on the same page and reduces the chances of missed steps.
Review and Update Policies: Conduct a thorough review of financial policies, incorporating changes in laws or regulations. Collaborate with legal experts to ensure compliance and create an environment that fosters adherence to ethical and financial standards.
Jim K., former Finance Director at City of Moraine
“Plan ahead. You have to decide what data you need by the end of the year that will change in January. Also, delegate! Especially when it comes to accrual balance and payroll.”
Organizing Financial Data
Clean Up Records: Perform a meticulous examination of financial records. This includes reconciling bank statements, addressing any discrepancies, and ensuring accuracy in the data. Advanced software tools can help automate this process, saving time and reducing human error.
Accruals and Adjustments: Account for all expenses and revenues, even those not yet processed. Accrue expenses and recognize revenues to accurately reflect the financial standing.
Linda J., former Finance Director at Village of Waynesville
“Try to block out time every day, starting in November, to work on year-end tasks, whether it’s making sure you have 1099 vendor information, checking if bank reconciliations are up to date, double-checking employee information for W-2's, or doing accounts payable as early as possible in December. Be as proactive as possible, even if you have to close your door to focus.”
Compliance and Reporting
Compliance Checks: Verify compliance with regulatory bodies and ensure adherence to reporting standards. This includes tax filings, governmental regulations, and financial reporting requirements. Schedule periodic reviews throughout the year to minimize last-minute compliance hurdles during year-end.
Financial Reports and Statements: Develop standardized templates for financial reports to ensure consistency and clarity. Timely and accurate financial statements are vital not only for internal decision-making but also for transparent communication with the public.
Kelly Hephner, former Director of Finance at Village of Montpelier
“Prepare ahead of time, balance W-2s every quarter, don't wait until last pay to add fringes, keep an eye open for unneeded/unused P.O's, reconcile as much as possible all year long. This makes the end of December so much easier!”
Communication and Collaboration
Interdepartmental Coordination: Collaborate with various departments to gather necessary information and ensure accuracy in financial reports. Encourage them to maintain accurate records and provide timely information, fostering a culture of collaboration that eases the year-end process.
Stakeholder Engagement: Regularly engage with stakeholders to update them on financial standings and the year-end process. Address any concerns or queries promptly to maintain trust and transparency.
Don S., former Asst. Finance Director at City of Orrville
“It’s never too early to verify your encumbrances. I used to start in September. After your final appropriations are done, evaluate your budgets monthly. Also, balance your W-2 information for the 941 quarterly. These things will keep you from having headaches at the end of the year.”
Utilize Financial Software: Leverage technological solutions to streamline processes. Financial software can automate tasks, enhance accuracy, and expedite reporting. Ensure it aligns with governmental accounting standards and provides features for automation, comprehensive reporting, and data security.
Training and Support: Ensure staff are proficient in utilizing financial software. Continuous training and support for staff using financial software are crucial. Regular workshops or online resources can help employees maximize the software's potential and minimize errors due to lack of familiarity.
Danielle W. - former Asst. Finance Director at City of Fairborn
“Begin early by setting clearcut expectations from staff and firm cutoff dates for requisitions and payment requests. Incorporate the governing body in the year-end process to ensure that meeting dates are still on schedule. Download any documents suggested by your software provider and delegate tasks to employees with firm due dates. Start a folder somewhere that all necessary employees can access. This will be where reports, documents, or other items can be saved."
Final Checks and Reflection
Reconciliation and Validation: Perform final reconciliations and validations to confirm the accuracy of financial data. Set aside dedicated time for final checks to catch any discrepancies before presenting the year-end reports.
Post-Year-End Review: Conduct a post-year-end review to analyze the process. Analyze successes, challenges, and areas needing improvement. Gather feedback from team members to refine procedures for the following year.
What we do for our customers to help them succeed
Every year, we try to help our customers have the smoothest year-end possible in the following ways:
They have access to year-end webinars on our various modules.
They have dozens of knowledge base articles they can read on our support website that can be accessed at any time.
They receive a Year-End Survival Guide that alleviates stress and guides them through the process.
Our Customer Support stays available to help our clients through the process.
Our VIP modules naturally make year-end a breeze.
The year-end process in local government finance demands meticulous attention, collaboration, and strategic planning. By establishing a structured approach, leveraging technology, fostering collaboration, and prioritizing accuracy, you can navigate this critical period successfully. And we'll always be here for advice and guidance.
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