Prior to reading the standard on Account Reconciliation, it is beneficial to review the below sections to gain foundational information:
- Accounting Fundamentals Section
- Financial Statements Section
- Closing Procedures - Month-End/Quarterly Close Section
This section discusses the elements of the accounting reconciliation process and how it is conducted internally within Indiana University. Information presented below will walk through what account reconciliation is, how to complete this closing procedure, and requirements and best practices related to this process.
Note, this standard should be reviewed prior to reading account specific reconciliation standards.
Account reconciliation is a fundamental accounting process that ensures the integrity of financial transactions. Reconciliations are a review of operating reports to ensure that the balances posted to an account are those that were approved by the fiscal officer, or their delegate, and that they are allowable and appropriate. Performing account reconciliations on a monthly basis per Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) helps in understanding the entity’s financial status, discovering accounting errors and inaccuracies, ensuring completeness and detecting incidents of theft or fraud.
Reconciliation is the comparison of individual object codes within the general ledger with source documents and subsidiary ledgers and systems. For example, source documents include external sources, timesheets, inventory listings, contracts, capital asset listings, bank or credit card statements. In addition, reconciliation means ensuring transactional activity has occurred as expected and individual accounting transactions are accounted for and supported.
Importance and Impact of Account Reconciliation
Reconciling accounts is a crucial internal control measure to ensure accurate financial reporting. Reviewing the flow of financial transactions within an account helps identify transaction error, inaccurate balances, improper spending, embezzlement, and highlights other negative activity, such as theft or fraud. Failure to detect these errors may lead to issues concerning internal controls or the accuracy of the financial statements which impacts future funding from government organizations, creditors, or individual donors.
In order to ensure the integrity of an entity’s financial reports, it is important that each entity performs account reconciliations on a regular basis. By performing account reconciliations as part of normal close accounting procedures, the university can produce reliable and accurate financial statements free from incorrect or misleading information that could result in false conclusions. This is important since these periodic reports are used at the account, organization and university level in the university’s externally audited consolidated financial statements and to make management decisions that impact the future of the entity.
How to Perform an Account Reconciliation
Properly reconciling an account involves:
- Confirming all transactions have been recorded and accounted for appropriately during the period
- Determining all subsidiary ledgers and systems reconcile to the object code balances in the general ledger
- Ensuring balances in all object codes are substantiated and supported
- Ensuring documentation exists for all non-system generated entries – refer to the Closing Procedures Balance Sheet Substantiation section for further information on substantiating non-system generated entries
Recommendations for reconciling specific object level balances will be included in their respective sections of the IU Accounting Standards Book.
Types of account reconciliations include but are not limited to; accounts receivable reconciliation, accounts payable reconciliation, unearned revenue reconciliation and prepaid reconciliations. Standard procedures are in place to ensure consistent and efficient review of the account activity. The reconciliation process at the account level typically comprises the following steps:
NOTE: The focus of the reconciliation process is to ensure accuracy and appropriateness of beginning and ending balances.
- Verify that the ending detail for the account matches the ending account balance
- Ending balances reconcile to external source document and subsidiary ledgers/systems
- Include substantiation for all ending balance (check). When requested, units should be able to provide support for all reconciled balances.
Account Reconciliation ExampleSystem Generated Object Code
At month end, a fiscal officer is reconciling object code 9045 - INVOICES PAYABLE-EXTERNAL SYSTEM. These entries are automatically generated when invoices are entered into BUY.IU. The fiscal officer follows the following steps to reconcile the account:
- Are the open invoices valid for this account?
- Is the account on the open invoice accurate?
- Are there any outstanding invoices for longer than one month? If so, why isn't it getting paid?
Non-System Generated Object Code
At month end, a fiscal officer is reconciling object code 9000 - ACCOUNTS PAYABLE. Entries to this object code are entered manually within KFS. The fiscal officer follows the following steps to reconcile the account:
- Are the transactions listed correct (i.e. did I or another person in my unit with fiscal authority create this transaction?)
- Have all adjustments been made to the object code?
- Have all reversals occurred for balances that have been paid?
Requirements and Best PracticesThis section outlines general requirements and best practices related to performing account reconciliations. Following the requirements and best practices outlined below will allow users to gain a better understanding of their entity’s financial health and help identify errors, mistakes, and pitfalls before they create larger issues.
- The (RC) fiscal officer is responsible for the accuracy, reliability, and completeness of the financial statements.
- The (RC) fiscal officer is responsible for completing all associated account reconciliations for operating accounts on a monthly basis to ensure accuracy and completeness of accounts.
- Review the trial balance report to the general ledger to ensure that the debits equal the credits. If the balance of the debit column does not match the credit column, identify the amount of the difference so that you have an idea of how much the discrepancy is.
- Look at the balance of each account in the trial balance report to ensure that the balance is reasonable. For example, asset accounts should have a debit balance. Liability accounts should have a credit balance. If an account that should have a debit balance has a credit balance or vice versa, pull the activity in that account and evaluate each transaction to find the error.
- Develop an object code specific template that is best suited to the unit’s function and usage. Use these templates monthly during the reconciliation to ensure consistency throughout the fiscal year.
- Check the transactions of each account against the journal entry logs for the account. This step ensures there is a record of each transaction, that each one posted correctly and that the supporting documentation is accurate.
- Validate the transactions on the bank statement against the cash account in the ledger so that you can be sure that your cash transactions and ledger statements are accurate as well.