Why is a “bad” date on a QuickBooks transaction a problem?
If you find a transaction in your accounting records and it doesn’t have the right date on it, it could be a significant problem! Why? Here are a few things to consider:
- One of the first things that help you to know how you’re REALLY doing in your business is to post income actually earned and costs incurred to earn that income in the same time period. (This matching of income and cost is typically referred to as the “matching principle”).
So if you have an incorrect date on a transaction you end up with either income or costs posted into the wrong period. Then your financial accounting results may look great one month – and terrible the next. This can be really frustrating for owners and managers who need to get accurate financial information for decision-making purposes. Getting the dates right is important!
- BUT if you’ve already turned in your financial results for banking or tax purposes and then delete, make a modification, or post another transaction into that same time period, you’re changing the underlying transactions behind your “official” financial reports. As a result, it could become really difficult to support reported results. Just imagine the possibility of an audit occurring 2-3 years down the road!
Plus, if you’ve changed your financial results behind the scenes, your tax accountant will need to pinpoint where your prior-period numbers have changed and fix the issue (extra time = extra cost).
- And remember…changes could impact paid or unpaid commissions.
What To Do?
Investigate and gather information about the problem transaction:
- Is it in a current accounting period not yet reported to any outside parties?
- Is it from a prior accounting period that has been reported to a lending institution or to your tax accountant?
- How much is the amount of the bad-date transaction? (I.e., Is it just a few dollars, a few hundred dollars, a few thousand, or a much larger amount?)
- What is the impact of the dating error? E.g.:
- Does it affect job costing and related calculations?
- Will it change the amounts of tax owed, or create a change in the prior-period owner’s equity balance?
- Will you need to adjust someone’s commissions?)
Regarding corrections to prior periods:
- Unless you’re an experienced accountant, you should never make changes or corrections to prior (reported) accounting periods (regardless of the size of the transaction).
- If you believe a correction needs to be made, please get feedback and approval from an experienced accountant. (This includes adding, deleting, or changing the amounts of prior-period transactions.)
Corrections to current (“non-reported”) entries:
If the amount of the bad-date transaction is fairly small and in the current accounting period, you can likely proceed with changing the date.
- Generally, corrections to current periods can be made with the owner’s approval – but check with management to see what your internal policy on error corrections is.
- In some cases, you may want to post a second, correcting entry in the current period.
- If the transaction is in the current period, but the amount of the transaction is a mid-to-large amount or has any impact on employees or outside parties, you should check with the owner and/or your accountant before deciding how to proceed.
The Biggest Thing To Remember
Don’t take the dating (or re-dating) of transactions lightly!
An incorrect date can have a number of repercussions, so as you enter transactions be careful to place correct dates on current entries.
If you do find an entry with a ‘bad date’ don’t just “blow through” the correction process. You’ll be much further ahead if you investigate, think it through, and check in with the owner of the company and/or with your accountant before making date-related corrections.
Another Tip: Document Those Errors & Corrections
After a few months, even those with incredible memories can have a hard time recalling the details of what happened to any specific transaction. So it’s a good idea to always document:
- What you found
- When you found it
- Why you thought it needed to be corrected and the results of your research
- Your recommended correction
- Who approved it, and when
- When you made the correction
A simple set of notes can be a real-time and reputation-saver!
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