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Accounting Best Practices: Maintaining Proper Internal Controls

maintaining proper internal controls

If you’re a small business owner, maintaining proper internal controls may not be at the forefront of your mind. Having a system for internal controls may seem like something reserved for large, public companies. Things like embezzlement and fraud only happen in “big business” and could never happen at your company. However, that isn’t necessarily true. It’s essential for every business to have policies and procedures in place to maintain internal controls in order to protect corporate assets and appropriately manage operations. 


Importance of Maintaining Proper Internal Controls

Internal controls are policies and procedures put in place to ensure the accuracy of financial information, protect assets, and deter fraudulent activities. Maintaining proper internal controls is crucial for any business, no matter how large or small, to prevent fraud, errors, and financial losses. Without proper internal controls, your business is vulnerable to various risks, including theft, embezzlement, and errors in financial reporting.

Implementing internal controls provides multiple benefits to businesses, including increased transparency, better decision-making, and improved efficiency. Effective internal controls help you to detect and prevent fraud, safeguard your assets, and ensure compliance with regulations. They also provide a framework for identifying and addressing weaknesses and potential risks in your company’s financial operations. Maintaining proper internal controls is essential for establishing a strong foundation for your business, reducing the risk of financial losses, and building trust with stakeholders.


Maintaining Proper Internal Controls Best Practices

Maintaining internal controls can be a challenge if it’s a new practice for your business. Here are three best practices to help you get started:

Segregation of Duties

Segregation of duties is one of the most important internal controls to implement in your business. Segregating duties ensures that no single individual has complete control over financial transactions, which reduces the risk of fraud and errors. 

When duties are segregated, different individuals are responsible for different parts of the financial process, such as creating and approving transactions, processing payments, and reconciling accounts. For example, the person who approves transactions should not be the same person who initiates them, as this can create a conflict of interest. By separating these duties, it ensures that financial transactions are conducted with transparency and accountability, reducing the risk of fraudulent activities.

When implementing segregation of duties, it is important to ensure that each individual has the necessary training and expertise to complete their assigned tasks correctly. This will ensure that financial transactions are accurate and complete, reducing the risk of errors. Additionally, you should review and update your business’s segregation of duties policies regularly, as changes in your organization’s structure can require adjustments to be made. By ensuring that duties are properly segregated and that individuals are competent in their assigned tasks, businesses can prevent fraud and errors, ensuring that the financial health of your company is maintained.

Establishing Policies and Procedures

Establishing policies and procedures is essential to maintaining proper internal controls. Policies and procedures provide a framework for conducting financial transactions consistently and accurately, reducing the risk of errors and fraudulent activities. By creating policies and procedures that cover all aspects of financial transactions, you can ensure that your business’s financial data is recorded accurately and that transactions are authorized correctly. Additionally, policies and procedures help to identify potential areas of risk and provide guidance on how to mitigate them.

When creating policies and procedures, be sure to involve key stakeholders and subject matter experts to ensure that your policies are comprehensive and effective. Regularly review your policies and procedures, updating them as necessary to ensure that they remain relevant and effective. 

By ensuring that effective policies and procedures are in place, you can create a system of checks and balances to prevent errors and fraudulent activities. Additionally, having documented policies and procedures can also help to demonstrate compliance with regulations and standards, which can be beneficial in the event of an audit or legal issue.

Conducting Regular Audits

Conducting regular audits is another critical element of proper internal controls. Audits help to identify weaknesses in the internal control system and prevent potential fraud and errors. Regular audits should be performed by an independent auditor to ensure that they are unbiased and thorough. The auditor should review all financial transactions, including accounts payable and receivable, payroll, and bank reconciliations. By conducting regular audits, you can identify areas where improvements can be made and promptly address any issues that are identified.

Audits can also provide assurance that financial information is accurate and reliable, which is important to stakeholders such as investors and lenders. Additionally, audits can identify areas where your policies and procedures may need to be updated or revised, ensuring that they remain effective. By conducting regular audits, your business can maintain the trust of stakeholders and ensure that you are meeting compliance requirements. 

It is important to note that audits should be conducted regularly, at least annually, but may need to be conducted more frequently depending on the size and complexity of your business. 


Partners in Your Success

When it comes to accounting best practices, maintaining proper internal controls is critical to the financial health of any business. By implementing segregation of duties, establishing policies and procedures, and conducting regular audits, you can reduce your business’s risk of fraud and errors while building trust with your stakeholders.

If you have questions about maintaining proper internal controls for your business, schedule your free consultation today.