“Any remedy is going to depend on having financial statements that are reliable” (Tom Foley)
On the last day of February each year, many companies face their end of financial year or “EOFY”. Whether it’s referred to as the EOFY, Close of the Financial Period, Financial Year End or FYE, or simply ‘Year End’, this important time is just around the corner for many companies on the 28th of February. It is often a stressful time as the financial loose ends from the last 12 months are tied up, various reports and registers are produced, crucial decisions are made, and the accounts for the last year are closed off. All necessary to present an accurate and up-to-date overview of the financial performance over the period, enabling proactive tax planning, ensuring audit-readiness and providing key information for business owners to strategise for the future, plan, structure, invest and grow.
Why a specified financial year end?
The financial year of a company is its annual accounting period and can be any 12-month period the company uses for accounting purposes.
A financial year is a legal requirement. The Companies Act stipulates that a company must have a financial year, with a start and end date. The financial year end date must be set out in the Company’s Notice of Incorporation.
For many companies this date is the end of February each year, although some companies have a financial year end on a different date. A company can change its financial year end by filing a notice of change with the Companies and Intellectual Property Commission (CIPC).
Why is a financial year end so important?
A company’s financial year is not only a statutory requirement, but also – crucially – the period on which its tax liability is assessed. It also determines when the tax payments are due.
Annual income tax returns must be submitted within one year from the end of the company’s tax year. Payments are made with provisional returns filed at six-month intervals from the tax year end based on an estimate of taxable income for the year.
Interest is charged on any underpayment outstanding for more than six months after the tax year end, except in the case of February year ends, in which case it is seven months. Any balance with interest is then paid following assessment.
Furthermore, the company’s financial year also determines when the annual financial statements are due. These annual financial statements are used for compliance purposes, as well as by investors and other stakeholders, such as banks and other creditors, to understand business operations and to assess a company’s performance.
But perhaps most importantly, financial year end is the crucial time for business owners and managers to thoroughly analyse business performance and make important decisions. This is made possible by an accurate and timely financial year end that produces accurate and reliable financial statements.
So how can your company best prepare for the looming financial year end?
Tips for financial year end success
- Identify the important deadlines and the activities that must be completed by each date, such as data processing and reporting deadlines, the tax return and payment dates, and the annual financial statements submission dates.
- The difference between a successful year end close and a stressful one is accurately managing the accounts all year, keeping the bookkeeping up-to-date and correctly and timeously completing each month-end.
- During year end closing, accounts must be checked carefully for discrepancies, omissions and human errors as these can be costly in consequences. Every rand must be accounted for and all supporting documentation available for a possible tax audit.
- Thorough and accurate inventory checks to determine stock levels, consumables and assets on hand will produce up-to-date asset registers for accurate balance sheets, and that will inform asset purchase decisions, depreciation expense claims and capital gains tax calculations.
- Current accounts payable reports will allow accurate budgeting for accounts to be settled before financial year end; while up-to-date accounts receivable reports allow payments to be chased and income due to be collected within the current financial year.
- Tax planning involves structuring the company’s finances to ensure the company pays only the tax that is legally required to be paid. This might involve accelerating transactions into the current year or delaying transactions into the next financial year to better manage tax liabilities. For example, a company might make asset purchases, pay annual subscriptions earlier, make donations before year end, delay issuing invoices where permissible, or consider writing off debtors or assets before the year end. Any such measures must be lawful, consistent in application and able to pass a possible tax audit, so professional advice is essential.
- There are tax changes each year and these could include new or amended deductions or concessions for small business, so be sure to speak to your accounting and tax advisor to ensure all possible tax breaks are considered before finalising the financial statements.
- Backup and store business information – including registrations, financial information and customer data – in a secure off-site location.
Reap the maximum benefits of an accurate and successful financial year end
An accurate and successful financial year end will produce reliable and timely financial records and reports that provide a holistic view of the financial health of the company, enable proactive tax planning, and ensure tax audit readiness.
The annual financial reports detail the company’s assets and liabilities, profit and expenses, and cash flow. Reviewing annual financial statements will reveal if adjustments are required, such as more sales or fewer expenses, as well as where adjustments must be made and how much adjustment is required in the year(s) ahead.
As such, financial statements are key tools for business owners to strategise for the future, plan, structure, invest and grow, and are often required by stakeholders such as banks and other creditors, potential investors and business partners to obtain an overview of the company’s financial performance and opportunities for growth and improvement.
In addition, accurate and reliable annual financial statements produced over the years provide an essential record for any potential investor or buyer of the company in the future and also ensure the appropriate value of the entity from the owner’s perspective.
Disclaimer: The information provided herein should not be used or relied on as professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your professional adviser for specific and detailed advice.