Monthly Archives: October 2017

Putting Hedging Strategies to Work for Your Business

Hedging Strategies

Discussing business graphsThe Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) recently issued some targeted improvements to its guidance that could encourage more companies to engage in hedging arrangements to minimize volatility in their financial statements. Here’s a close-up on how businesses can hedge price fluctuations and why businesses and their investors alike approve of the changes to the hedge accounting rules.

Hedging
Some costs — such as interest rates, exchange rates and commoditized raw materials — are subject to price fluctuations based on changes in the external markets. Businesses may try to “hedge” against volatility in earnings, cash flow or fair value by purchasing derivatives based on those costs.

If futures, options and other derivative instruments qualify for hedge accounting treatment, any gains and losses are generally recognized in the same period as the costs are incurred. But hedge accounting is a common source of confusion (and restatements) under U.S. GAAP.

To qualify for the current hedge accounting rules, a transaction must be documented at inception and be “highly effective” at stabilizing price volatility. In addition, businesses must periodically assess hedging transactions for their effectiveness.

Simplification
In August 2017, the FASB issued Accounting Standards Update (ASU) No. 2017-12, Derivatives and Hedging (Topic 815): Targeted Improvements to Accounting for Hedging Activities. The updated standard expands the range of transactions that qualify for hedge accounting and simplifies the presentation and disclosure requirements.

Notably, the update allows for hedging of nonfinancial components that are contractually specified and adds the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association (SIFMA) Municipal Swap Rate to the list of acceptable benchmarks for fixed interest rate hedges.

ASU 2017-12 also eliminates the requirement to measure and report hedge “ineffectiveness.” That’s the amount the hedge fails to offset the hedged item.

Instead of reporting hedge ineffectiveness separately for cash flow hedges, the entire change in value of the derivative will be recorded in other comprehensive income and reclassified to earnings in the same period in which the hedged item affects earnings. Companies might still mismatch changes in value of a hedged item and the hedging instrument under the new standard, but they won’t be separately reported.

Universal support
Businesses, investors and other stakeholders universally welcome the changes to the hedge accounting rules. Although the updated standard goes into effect in 2019 for public companies and 2020 for private ones, many businesses that use hedging strategies are expected to adopt it early — and the FASB has hinted that the changes might encourage more companies to try hedging strategies.

Could hedging work for your business? If you have questions, contact George Pickard, CPA, MSA, Ciuni & Panichi, Inc. Senior Manager, at gpickard@cp-advisors.com or 216-831-7171 to discuss your options.

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Risk Management Framework

Risk Management Framework Maximizes Upsides

How effectively do you manage risk?

Risk and reward balanceBusinesses can’t eliminate risk, but they can manage it to maximize the entity’s economic return. A new framework aims to help business owners and managers more effectively integrate ERM practices into their overall business strategies.

A five-part approach is advisable
On September 6, the Committee of Sponsoring Organizations of the Treadway Commission (COSO) published Enterprise Risk Management — Integrating with Strategy and Performance. You can use the updated framework to develop a more effective risk management strategy and to monitor the results of your ERM practices.

The updated framework discusses ERM relative to the changes in the financial markets, the emergence of new technologies and demographic changes. It’s organized into five interrelated components:

  1. Governance and culture. This refers to a company’s “tone at the top” and oversight function. It includes ethics, values and identification of risks.
  2. Strategy and objective setting. Proactive managers align the company’s appetite for risk with its strategy. This serves as the basis for identifying, assessing and responding to risk. By understanding risks, management enhances decision making.
  3. Performance. Management must prioritize risks, allocate its finite resources and report results to stakeholders.
  4. Review and revision. ERM is a continuous improvement process. Poorly functioning components may need to be revised.
  5. Information, communication and reporting. Sharing information is an integral part of effective ERM programs.

COSO Chair Robert Hirth said in a recent statement, “Our overall goal is to continue to encourage a risk-conscious culture.” He also said that the updated framework is not intended to replace COSO’s Enterprise Risk Management — Integrated Framework. Rather, it’s meant to reflect how the practice of ERM has evolved since 2004.

New insights
The updated framework clarifies several misconceptions from the previous version. Specifically, effective ERM encompasses more than taking an inventory of risks; it’s an entity-wide process for proactively managing risk. Additionally, internal control is just one small part of ERM; ERM includes other topics such as strategy setting, governance, communicating with stakeholders and measuring performance. These principles apply to all business levels, across all business functions and to organizations of any size.

Moreover, the update enables management to better anticipate risk so they can get ahead of it, with an understanding that change creates opportunities — not simply the potential for crises. In short, it helps increase positive outcomes and helps reduce negative surprises that come from risk-taking activities.

ERM in the future
Our advice is, “Don’t go it alone.” We can help you identify and optimize risks in today’s complex, volatile and ambiguous business environment. We’re familiar with emerging ERM trends and challenges, such as dealing with prolific data, leveraging artificial intelligence and automating business functions. Contact Reggie Novak, CPA, CFE, Ciuni & Panichi, Inc. senior manager, at 216.831.7171 or rnovak@cp-advisors.com for help adopting cost-effective ERM practices to help make your business more resilient and keep your business protected.

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Thinking about Outsourcing Payroll?

Protect your Payroll and Ask for a Service Audit Report

Business People Meeting Communication Working Office ConceptPayroll can be an administrative nightmare if done in-house, especially for smaller companies. In addition to keeping up with employee withholdings and benefits enrollment, you must file state and federal payroll tax returns and follow union reporting requirements. Outside service companies that specialize in payroll administration can help you manage all of the details and minimize mistakes. Payroll providers can also handle expense reimbursement for employees and provide other services.

When payroll is outsourced, however, your company could be exposed to identity theft and other fraud risks if the service provider lacks sufficient internal controls. For example, sensitive electronic personal data could be hacked from your network and sold on the Dark Net — or old-fashioned paper files could be stolen and used to commit fraud.

Audits of payroll companies
Fortunately, CPAs offer two types of reports that provide assurance on whether an outside payroll provider’s controls over paper and electronic records are adequate.

Type I Audits.  This level of assurance expresses an opinion as to whether controls are properly designed.

Type II Audits.  Here, the auditor goes a step further and expresses an opinion on whether the controls are operating effectively.

When performing these attestation engagements, Statement on Standards for Attestation Engagements (SSAE) No. 18 requires:

  • The payroll company’s management to provide a written assertion about the fairness of the presentation of the description of the organization’s control objectives and related controls and the suitability of their design; and for a Type II audit, the operating effectiveness of those control objectives and related controls,
  • The auditor’s opinion in a Type II audit regarding description and suitability to cover a period consistent with the auditor’s tests of operating effectiveness, rather than being as of a specified date, and
  • Auditors to identify in the audit report any tests of control objectives and related controls conducted by internal auditors.

Further, auditors are prohibited from using evidence on the satisfactory operation of controls in prior periods as a basis for a reduction in testing in the current period, even if it’s supplemented with evidence obtained during the current period.

When an audit is complete, the service auditor typically will issue a report to the payroll company.

As the customer of the service provider, it is then up to you to obtain a copy of the audit report from the payroll provider and distribute it to your financial statement auditors as evidence of internal controls.

Outsourcing with confidence
Your financial statement auditors are required to consider the internal control environment for any services you outsource, including payroll, customer service, benefits administration and IT functions. Most service providers obtain service audit reports. If yours doesn’t, you might need to request permission for your CPA to contact and visit the payroll provider to plan their financial statement audit.

The best advice we can offer is:  Don’t go it alone.  Contact Robert Smolko, CPA, Ciuni & Panichi, Inc. audit partner, at 216-831-7171 or rsmolko@cp-advisors.com for sound advice when making decisions about your business.

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