Intercompany accounting is typically downplayed, oversimplified, and sometimes even swept under the rug so you can “deal with it on another day”. While this may have been acceptable back in the day, the consequences are becoming harsher, and companies need to realize that it’s finally time to tidy up the situation.
Here’s why improper intercompany accounting (ICA) practices are increasing corporate risk and what companies can do to rectify the situation.
An Overview of the Current Intercompany Situation
For any company that has ever consolidated, merged, or expanded globally, intercompany relationship management is key. When companies evolve and expand their global reach, the number of intercompany transactions that are generated spirals upwards.
These are usually complicated further by local tax policies, regulations, currencies, transfer pricing, and the different systems that the legal entities within one organization might use.
Intercompany reconciliation and elimination also becomes more challenging as the size of the organization grows. Any out-of-balance accounts and rogue transactions could have a serious impact on financial statements. This can then catch the attention of auditors and regulators, which will lead to compliance problems, fines, lawsuits, and more.
That’s why companies need proper ICA practices in place. But that’s not to say all companies follow these precise rules. As companies evolve, the volume of intercompany transactions also increases. That means there are more spreadsheets, invoices, journals, emails, and approvals to keep track of.
Intercompany accounting and management then becomes so complex, the mere task of reconciliation also becomes complex, laborious, and incredibly time consuming.
In those cases, it’s tempting to put off intercompany tasks or complete them to a substandard quality. This denial and neglect is one of the biggest issues that surround ICA and a main reason why companies are unnecessarily exposing themselves to increased financial, compliance, and reputational risk.
What Are the Risks of Improper Intercompany Accounting?
Three main company functions are affected by ICA practices:
In terms of accounting, the main risk of improper ICA practices are financial statements that include incorrect figures and reports. This can significantly affect the company’s reputation, stock price, and shareholder value — not to mention the increase in risk of serious penalties, such as fines and even jail time.
Poor practices can also reduce transparency because documentation is not standardized or centralized, making it difficult to obtain a clear view of things. In worst cases, this lack of transparency can give unscrupulous professionals the opportunity to hide fraud or illegally redistribute business assets.
Each country and jurisdiction has its own tax laws. Accurate ICA practices ensure that organizations stick to these laws without exposing themselves to undue tax penalties. Whether it be indirect tax on intercompany shipments or conducting monthly transfer pricing charges, tax departments are integral to the establishment and operation of a successful ICA function.
The treasury function receives details of intercompany balances and is responsible for managing and settling this activity. Inadequate ICA practices upstream in accounting will lead to an inaccurate and potentially unreconciled picture when it comes to settlement. As well as delaying period close, this can more crucially lead to unresolved liabilities impacting intercompany liquidity and working capital.
And the problems don't stop there as a lack of proper ICA impacts the treasury department's ability to correctly deal with hedging, FX gain and loss, and keeping an accurate record of what is being settled.
How Can Companies Rectify These Issues?
As with any assessment of internal business processes, it pays to review the old adage of people, process, and technology. On the technology front, many companies are unaware that they can use specialized technology to help them with ICA. Or, if they are aware of its existence, they aren’t using it properly or are using the wrong type for their requirements.
So when you’re looking for the correct software to aid you with your intercompany practices, you should consider the following functionalities:
Clearly outlines and automates according to local governance and policies – software that can automate intercompany transactions according to local rules and regulations means you can easily eliminate the risks of inaccurate tax reports.
Automated transfer pricing – the right software will automatically determine the correct price for an intercompany transaction, altering it according to different scenarios and requirements.
Keeping data in one centralized location – typically, companies rely on a mix of spreadsheets, loose invoices, emails, and even verbal exchanges. This might be convenient at the time, but it will only serve to overcomplicate reconciliation. Software can help by keeping all this data in a single location, reducing the risk of lost invoices and reporting inaccuracies.
Managing transactions and workflows – software can simplify the workflow approval process between sender and receiver by sending approvals to both parties. This means both parties can take action on the request as soon as it appears, which is useful for companies in different time zones. It also helps to systematically control who is responsible for the current task and what will be coming next.
Aging analysis – when companies are unable to settle their balances in full, they will often be left with unpaid invoices. These invoices can easily become buried under new invoices, and they might reach their expiration date before they are remembered again. Software that provides aging analysis helps to prevent this by automatically ordering the invoices with the oldest first so companies can always be aware of these unpaid balances.
Matching payables and receivables – payables and receivables can easily be raised at various times by different companies using unrelated systems. Companies will then struggle to match up these invoices with each other. Software can help eliminate this issue by producing payables with receivables at the same time and linking them so changes in one will automatically be made in the other.
Compatible with all sources of data – not all corporate systems are compatible with every type of data. This then requires companies to convert their data into the appropriate format before they import it into their systems. The right software will be able to handle any type of data so you no longer need to convert. You can simply import immediately, which reduces the risk of manual error.
It’s Important You Choose the Right Intercompany Accounting Software
Half of the battle is knowing that ICA technology exists; the other half is knowing which type of software to use and how to deploy it to maximize the efficiency of operations.
Speak to our team today and arrange a demo of how Virtual Trader can revolutionize your ICA practice.