Accounting System, Cost And Accounting, DCAA Relations, Running Your Business

Your Tax Accountant is Our Friend – A Natural Partnership

We do not

  • Prepare tax returns
  • Audit

We do

  • Government contracting compliance (to include helping with compliance audits)
  • Cost accounting

Often, small business government contractors require all of these services. The written tax code numbers in the thousands of pages as do the laws and regulations relevant to government contracting compliance. Few accountants make the attempt to keep up with both areas and even within larger accounting firms the specialties (tax and government contracting compliance) are split among different practitioners.

One of the many pleasures in our practice is working with the contractor’s tax accountant or bookkeeper. The contractor benefits by having access to two professionals with a bit of crossover for the same price. Two opinions in harmony, most of the time.

An Example

I flew in to support a contractor on an accounting system audit in conjunction with his tax accountant. DCAA showed up and we began one of the strangest audits in the almost thirty years of work in this area. If I told all of the story, DCAA would attempt to send my old unit from the 82nd Airborne after me, but I will tell part of it.

Toward the end of the rather strange audit, the DCAA auditor went on a rampage about small business contractors keeping their books on a cash basis.

This is not an unusual complaint made by some DCAA auditors, but I had never heard contractors referred to as idiots for the practices, especially in front of one of these “idiot” contractors.

I went on my usual contractor defense, explaining to the auditor the history of accrued accounting and the very classical utilization of the GAAP accounting cycle which allowed you to keep the books on a cash basis during the period and make the accruals as part of the closing process.

In this case, as in too many others, my purpose was to remind and educate the auditor not to rush to judgement and to expand their knowledge of the accounting world beyond the limited field of DCAA auditing. I sought to gently argue that the DCAA auditor’s strong comments were not only wrong but displayed a lack of knowledge on how accounting is actually practiced in the trenches.

The client’s tax accountant took a different approach, and I loved it.

He turned to the auditor and told him in no uncertain terms that the contractor kept his books on a cash basis because he, the tax accountant, recommend the contractor do so and that any small business owner that did not do so was an idiot and paying thousands of dollars in unnecessary taxes.

The room fell silent and I managed to keep a straight face as I backed the tax accountant up and said that not only was he correct, it was common sense, and allowed under GAAP as I previously outlined (cash converted to accrual during period close).

The DCAA auditor quickly packed up and left. I held my breath for a couple of days until DCAA approved the contractor’s accounting system, even though I knew that both the tax accountant and I made strong arguments in defense of the contractor’s practices.

This is simply one of the countless examples of where we worked hand in hand with the contractor’s tax accountant and/or bookkeeper to move the contractor’s business forward.

Indeed, many of our referrals actually come from the contractor’s outside accountant and I am happy to return the favor when one of my clients is seeking tax or audit work.

I will direct the reader to a previous article about cash v accrual accounting for the specific accounting arguments at https://dcaacompliance.wordpress.com/2016/08/15/all-the-fuss-over-accrued-accounting/.

Both Books graphic

 

 

 

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Accounting System, Cost And Accounting, DCAA Relations, Running Your Business

The Small Business Contractor

You

You know who you are. Yes, you, the one trying to figure out just when DCAA is going to enter your life, or worse, a non DCAA auditor or government official is assessing your operations and accounting system. Perhaps, just perhaps, you already had the pleasure and are reading this simply to improve the experience (read: “recover from disaster”).

Why You?

If You Want the Money

Federal regulations require an approved accounting system before the government can award a cost type contract.[1]

  • Cost type contracts are those contracts where the government reimburses the contractor for the contractor’s approved costs, director indirect, and sometimes a fee. The government recently expanded the definition to include fixed price contracts that allow for “progress payments”.
  • Cost contracts make up almost half of the contracts issued by the federal government and the majority of service contracts.

Two Presidents, Regan and Obama, started out their presidencies trying to reduce or even forbid government cost type contracts. In both cases, the number of cost type contracts actually grew.

There is a wealth of government created documents justifying the use of cost type contracts. Most of them center on the necessity of the government to assume the risks associated with the contract. Since cost type contracts are a reality, let me just make two observations and move on:

  • Cost type contracts require greater management and involvement on the government’s parts. They are involved in every aspect of the contract as opposed to simply writing a check upon delivery. DCAA has gone so far as to request from Congress in their annual report 24/7 access to contractor’s accounting systems. Greater government involvement translates into a larger number of government employees to manage an audit the process at all steps. In short, cost type contracts keep government employees ‘busy’ and ‘over worked’. DCAA continues to add new positons each of the last several years.
  • You hear about cost overruns and this is one of the ‘selling’ points for cost type contracts. If you run over budget the government will send you a check. It happens, but there is a lot of paperwork involved and a lot of compliance requirements. More often than not, the opposite happens and contractors do not make as much money on cost type contracts as they would on fixed price work. This translates into an excellent reason why the government likes cost type contracts – the actual amount paid to the contractor is reduced and paid to the bureaucrats instead in the form of salaries and other benefits (see point one).

One of the bizarre results of the crisis government contracting entered into in the year 2008, is the increased award of cost type contracts to small contractors without an approved accounting system despite the requirements forbidding this. It started out by contracting officers just ignoring the regulations in order to get the critical contracts issued, but now some of them are actually ‘approving’ the accounting systems after the contractor fills out a form.

Of course contractors may pay for this action by the contracting officers. Recent Armed Services Board of Contract Appeals (ASBCA) decisions that asserted that a lack of an approved accounting system was no defense for the contractor[2] and contractors with cost contracts and an unapproved accounting system appear to be holding all of the risks.

I am not telling contractors to turn down contracts, I am just pointing out issues for consideration.

Your solution may be as simple as taking the contract and making sure your accounting system is fully compliant in anticipation of the day DCAA or another auditor working for the government shows up.

The process of adopting and implementing an accounting system that would win government approval reduces the contractor’s risk and provides critical information to help them identify and manage costs.

Excerpt from Surviving a DCAA Audit available on Amazon 

DCAA Compliance Logo

 

[1] FAR (16-301-3(a)(3)) “(3) The contractor’s accounting system is adequate for determining costs applicable to the contract or order…”

 

[2] ASBCA 56581 and 52593

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Cost And Accounting, Running Your Business

Tom Price and Indirect Costs

Tom Price, Secretary of Health and Human Services, seems to hold a limited understanding of cost accounting and the necessity of indirect costs. I guess he is one of those guys who believes that organizations can exist without administrative costs.

Both the House and the Senate rejected the change this week.

“Tom Price, the secretary of health and human services, said the government

could achieve huge savings next year without harming lifesaving research by paring

back payments to universities for overhead — the “indirect costs” of research

financed by the health institutes.

 

These include the cost of utilities, internet service, data storage, the construction

and upkeep of laboratories, disposal of hazardous waste and compliance with federal

rules protecting human subjects of clinical research.

 

“About 30 percent of the grant money that goes out is used for indirect

expenses, which, as you know, means that that money goes for something other than

the research that’s being done,” Mr. Price said.”

New York Times April 3, 12017

 If you are uncomfortable with the press reporting on this issue, feel free to watch the testimony on the House’s site. If you think that is fake new, I cannot help you.

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