8(a) Business Development Program

8(a) Business Development Program

8(a) Business Development Program

As a government contractor, the road to success is not always easy, but is well worth it. The industry offers opportunities for growth to businesses of any size. As a small business though, there are programs to help create an equal playing field with your larger competitors. The Small Business Administration (SBA) has several programs to help small businesses win federal contracts. One, in particular, is the 8(a) Business Development program.

What is the 8(a) Program?

The 8(a) Business Development program creates opportunities for economically and socially disadvantaged business owners. It is a nine-year program, that develops small businesses through training and technical assistance. The program’s assistance strengthens a business’s ability to compete effectively in the federal contracting world. Disadvantaged businesses in the 8(a) program can compete for sole-source contracts. According to the SBA, the government authorizes sole-source contracts to 8(a) participants ranging from $4.5 – $7.5 million, depending on acquisition type.

Eligibility and Certification

The government’s goal is to award 5% of its contracting budget to small, disadvantaged businesses each year. To qualify, a business must meet certain criteria. The SBA states you must:

  • Be a small business
  • Not have previously participated in the 8(a) program
  • Be at least 51% owned and controlled by U.S. citizens who are socially and economically disadvantaged
  • Have a personal net worth of $750 thousand or less, adjusted gross income of $350 thousand or less, and assets totaling $6 million or less
  • Demonstrate good character
  • Demonstrate the potential for success such as having been in business for two years

If you meet these requirements, you can apply for the program.

Compliance Requirements

As a government contractor there are many rules and regulations you must follow to be compliant. One major focus of compliance has to do with your accounting system and financial reporting. Examples of compliance requirements include:

  • Segregating direct costs from indirect costs
  • Excluding unallowable costs
  • Identifying jobs costs per a contract’s requirements

These compliance requirements apply to businesses with the 8(a) certification as well. However, 8(a) businesses must meet more requirements.

For example, during the last 5 years of the program, 8(a) businesses must attain specific percentages of revenue from non-8(a) sources. If they do not meet the amounts for non-8(a) revenue, then they may become ineligible for sole-source 8(a) contracts. Due to this, 8(a) businesses must be able to track and identify the revenue they receive. Also, to remain eligible for the 8(a) program, a business needs to submit an 8(a) annual review. There are many requirements for this annual review, to include providing year-end balance sheet and profit & loss statements, and business tax returns.

Receiving an 8(a) certification can help your small business become successful. Although, the process and the requirements can be tedious. It does not have to be. Our team of experts would love to assist you!

 

Contributed by Elizabeth Partlow

Benefits of a Virtual CFO

Benefits of a Virtual CFO

Benefits of a Virtual CFO

Gone are the days where large businesses, with what seems like infinite funds, are the only ones needing CFOs. Most businesses, regardless of size, can benefit from the expertise of a CFO. They can guide and steer your business in the right direction. With today’s technological advances, you can even reap the benefits of a CFO in a virtual capacity. You may be thinking to yourself ‘is a virtual CFO even worth it?’ Virtual CFOs provide many benefits a traditional CFO does, at a fraction of the cost.

Cost Savings

Virtual CFOs provide your business with all the great benefits of an in-house CFO. However, you are not liable for the financial burden of hiring a full-time employee. In-house CFO’s expect higher salaries, bonuses, and other amazing benefits; rightfully so. When hiring a virtual CFO, many of these expenses do not exist for your business. You pay for the services you desire, which ultimately reduces your business’ costs.

Flexibility

Businesses are like snowflakes. They may look similar, but no two businesses are the same. Virtual CFOs allow you to tailor the conditions of their services to meet your business’ needs. Currently, you may have the need for a full-time CFO, but six months from now that need may decrease. While a virtual CFO deals with the financial side of your business, you will have more time to focus on what you do best.

Expertise

CFOs are subject matter experts (SME) responsible for managing business’ financial operations and strategy. With a virtual CFO you get access to a team of experts versus one expert. Having a team working for your business provides a vast amount of knowledge, to meet your business’ needs. The resources a team will provide are something an in-house CFO does not have. Also, a traditional CFO usually has experience working for one or two industries. However, a virtual CFO has experience working with multiple industries.

Growth

Virtual CFOs possess skills and expertise to foresee your business’ woes. This allows them to assist in your business’ financial affairs. Providing financial advice in areas like strategic planning, forecasting, and cash flow management to help your business grow. A virtual CFO ultimately can provide a roadmap for growth. This roadmap not only delivers your business’ goals, but also focuses on how to achieve these goals.

There are many benefits of a virtual CFO. They reduce costs, provide flexibility and expertise, and promote growth. Our team specializes in these services and would love to discuss your needs.

 

Contributed by Elizabeth Partlow

Pre-Award Survey Failures

Pre-Award Survey Failures

Pre-Award Survey Failures

As a government contractor, you are all too familiar with the importance of being compliant. One of the many requirements, you face is to have an accounting system that complies with Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR). This is especially true if you want to bid on cost reimbursable or T&M contracts. How do you determine if your system is compliant though? Passing a pre-award survey indicates that your accounting system is compliant.

What is a Pre-Award Survey

The pre-award accounting system survey or audit (pre-award survey) evaluates a prospective government contractor’s accounting system. It determines if an accounting system can adequately accumulate contract costs. The survey uses the Standard Form (SF) 1408 for the assessment. To pass the survey, all the questions on the SF 1408 must have YES responses. If there are any NO responses, this indicates that there is a deficiency in your accounting system. Failing a pre-award survey can halt your progress on a contract.

Passing the pre-award survey is important. One of the first steps to passing is having the knowledge of what not to do. Below are five of the most common causes of pre-award survey failures.

GAAP Financial Reporting

The first question on the SF 1408 asks if the accounting system is in accordance with generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP). Essentially, to have a compliant accounting system a contractor must use the accrual basis of accounting. Many contractors prefer to use the cash basis of accounting because it is easier. However, accrual basis accounting accrues expenses as a contractor incurs them. This is important because it helps to stabilize indirect costs rates throughout the fiscal year. Ultimately, helping to better manage over-billings of the government.

Labor Distribution

Labor allocation is another common cause of a pre-award survey failure. Over billings are a major concern of the government. It is important that contractors record all their, and their employees, work hours. This includes hours on contracts and non-contracts, as well as during hours outside the normal workday. Not recording all hours can cause over billings on indirect rates.

Segregation of Costs

Segregating of costs is imperative to passing a pre-award survey. It is so important that the FAR has an entire section about contract cost principles and procedures. Also, there are multiple questions on the SF 1408 that surround this topic. One specifically asking if the accounting system provides for ‘proper segregation of direct costs from indirect costs.’

Contractors usually have no problem delineating between direct and indirect costs. However, segregating indirect costs seems to be more difficult. It is important to classify these costs regarding their ‘cost benefit analysis.’ Costs that benefit multiple contracts should be overhead, whereas costs that exist without contracts should be G&A.

The segregation of unallowable expenses is important as well. Costs that do not meet the criteria of FAR 31 are unallowable. Contractors cannot bill the government for these costs and must exclude them. Excluding these costs reduces the billings of indirect costs to the government.

Indirect Cost Rates

Government contractors must be able to determine and monitor their indirect cost rates regularly. Monitoring indirect cost rates ensures a contractor bills the government accurately. A deficiency in the accounting system results when a contractor is unable to ensure that costs do not exceed contract limitations. Many of the questions on the SF 1408 go hand in hand. For example, a contractor should be able to calculate and monitor indirect cost rates by following GAAP and segregating costs.

Policies and Procedures

Although, there is not a question on the SF 1408 about policies and procedures, they are still important to have. Having these in place provides evidence as to how the contractor manages each question on the checklist. Also, understanding the difference between accounting processes and internal controls is important. Accounting processes do not provide any proof of important activities such as fraud prevention. Proper policies and procedures help to regulate internal controls, as well as provide necessary documentation. Many internal control procedures are detrimental to the passing of the pre-award survey.

 

A government contractor passes the pre-award survey once their accounting system is deemed acceptable. Passing of the survey requires expertise in many areas such as GAAP financial reporting and government regulations. This may seem like a daunting task, but it does not have to be. Having a team with these specialties makes all the difference.

 

 

Originally written by Cheryl Jefferson Cooke, CPA/CFF

Updated and additional content provided by Elizabeth Partlow

Advertising and Public Relations Costs

Advertising and Public Relations Costs

Advertising and Public Relations Costs

The investment in advertising and public relations costs is one many business owners are willing to make. These costs often provide a return on investment, ultimately helping to grow your business. As a government contractor though, these costs can cause quite the headache. The classification of Advertising and public relations costs can be tricky for government contractors. Knowing the distinction between allowable and unallowable costs can help you remain compliant, while reaping many benefits.

Advertising is ‘the use of media to promote the sale of products or services.’ Examples of advertising media are magazines, newspapers, conventions, and direct mail. Public relations are ‘all functions and activities dedicated to maintaining, protecting, and enhancing the company image or maintaining or promoting favorable relations with the public.’ Public relations include activities that relate to advertising and customer relations. Advertising and public relations costs include:

  • Costs of media time and space
  • Purchase of services outside organizations perform
  • Applicable portion of salaries, travel and fringe benefits of employees that engage in the functions and activities that FAR 31.205-1 identifies.

Allowability of Advertising and Public Relations Costs

When determining the allowability of advertising and public relations costs a basic rule of thumb exists. If these costs relate to benefiting the government, then they are most likely allowable. If not, they are unallowable. Government contractors often take a conservative approach to these costs and classify them as unallowable. However, in doing this they take the chance of not recouping the costs from the government.

The Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) sets specific guidelines to determine the allowability of these costs. Advertising costs are allowable only if FAR 31.205-1(d) indicates they are. Allowable advertising costs include:

  • Costs that arise from requirements of government contracts
  • Costs to promote sales of products normally sold to the U.S. government
  • Costs that are allowable in accordance with FAR 31.205-34

The guidelines for allowable public relations costs include that they must be a requirement for contracts. Also, there are other guidelines for these costs to be allowable that FAR 31.205-1(e) addresses. Examples of allowable public relations costs are:

  • Responding to inquiries about a company’s policies
  • Communicating with the public
  • Costs of participation in community service activities such as blood bank drives and disaster assistance.

Unallowable Advertising and Public Relations Costs

These costs can, however, also be unallowable. FAR 31.205-1(f) provides guidance for the determination of unallowable costs. If a cost does not meet the requirements above, then it is unallowable. Some common examples of these unallowable costs are:

  • Events that do not focus on the promotion of sales to the government
  • Costs of corporate celebrations
  • Cost of promotional material

Understanding the aspects of advertising and public relation costs is imperative as a government contractor. These costs can be tricky for government contractors. The misclassification of them can negatively impact your business. Having a team of experts to provide you with guidance can help ‘tackle’ this challenging subject.

 

Originally written by Jamie M. Shryock, CPA

Updated and additional content provided by Elizabeth Partlow

5 Reasons to Outsource Your Accounting

5 Reasons to Outsource Your Accounting

5 Reasons to Outsource Your Accounting

As a business owner, working long hours is something you are all too familiar with. You are responsible for managing the day-to-day activities, while simultaneously growing your business. You feel there are just not enough hours in the day to complete your ‘to do list.’ Often wishing for a solution where you can do it all. The great thing is, there is a way to accomplish this. When you outsource you accounting services, you ease the stressors of ‘doing it all.’ Plus, your dream is to be a business owner, not an accountant.

The thought of outsourcing any business process may have your ‘wheels spinning.’ How can this help to solve your problems? Outsourcing provides many benefits, ultimately aiding in the success of your business.

Cost Savings

Having an inhouse accountant, bookkeeper, or even an accounting team is a significant expense to your business. You are responsible not only for an employee’s pay, but also everything that goes along with it. This includes things like payroll taxes, paid time off, and other benefits. When outsourcing accounting services, you are paying only for the services you desire. It reduces your business’ costs and helps to increase its profitability.

Expertise

Accountants specialize it just that, accounting. When you outsource accounting, you get access to a team of experts. We constantly are improving our skills and keeping up with the industry standards. Understanding the ever-changing laws and regulations to help keep you compliant. Having the right team of experts is vital to the success of your business. Outsourcing also allows you to tailor your accounting services to your needs.

Focus on Growing

Business owners get caught up in the daily minutia of a business, rather than growing it. When you outsource accounting though, this changes. The time you desperately were looking for, now exists. This gives you and your team the opportunity to focus on setting and achieving goals. As this occurs, you have continuous access to an accounting team. Giving you the ability to expand your accounting services as your business grows.

Minimize Time and Resources for Recruiting

Recruiting is a time-consuming task. You spend countless hours going through the process of creating a job post, reviewing resumes, and performing interviews. Only to risk being left with mediocre candidates, or someone who lasts for six months. Then the long and exhausting process starts all over. Outsourcing your accounting eliminates the expense and tedious process of trying to find the perfect candidate.

Smarter Business Decisions

Outsourcing accounting services provides a fresh outlook on your financial data. This gives you an opportunity to finally have a proactive business strategy, versus a reactive one. Analyzing your business’ financial information from a bird’s eye view allows accountants to evaluate the financial health of your company. They can provide you with impartial advice, which can help you achieve your business’ goals.

 

There are many benefits to outsourcing your accounting services. It reduces costs, provides expertise, promotes growth, and much more. Our team knows your pain points as a business owner and is here to help!

 

Contributed by Elizabeth Partlow

Incurred Cost Submission Common Problems

Incurred Cost Submission Common Problems

Common Problems for the Incurred Cost Submission

The Federal Acquisition Regulations (FAR) requires government contractors with certain contracts to submit an incurred cost submission (ICS). FAR 52.216-7 requires contractors who have time and material (T&M) or cost-reimbursable contracts to submit an ICS. The ICS schedules reconcile a contractor’s billings with the government. It does this by calculating the final indirect cost rates contractors incur. Government contractors have six months to submit an ICS after their fiscal year is over.

An ICS can be an overwhelming task to complete. The ICS model includes several schedules. Each of these schedules takes time, and usually many documents to complete. With at least fifteen schedules to complete, common problems may happen.

Job Cost Errors

As a government contractor, it is important to classify costs correctly. Therefore, classifying costs as direct, fringe, overhead, general & administrative, and unallowable is necessary. The proper classification minimizes the reporting errors of costs on the ICS schedules.

Segregating costs, such as allowable and unallowable costs, also prevents government contractors from incurring any penalties. The FAR clause 52.242-3 describes how contractors may face penalties as a result of including unallowable costs in their indirect cost pools.

Similarly, the job cost ledger not reconciling with the general ledger is another common problem for the ICS. Examples of why the two ledgers do not reconcile are:

  • Not assigning direct costs to a job
  • Assigning direct costs to a customer, not to a specific job
  • Tagging indirect costs to a job

Invoice Errors

It is important to make sure invoicing for government contracts is done correctly. However, there are different requirements for each type of contract. Some contracts include restrictions or limits on the invoicing for certain costs. On the other hand, other contracts may require to invoice at negotiated rates. Common errors that occur during the invoicing process are:

  • T&M contracts are not billed at negotiated rates
  • T&M contracts are billed with labor rates and hours as lump sums
  • Cost reimbursable contracts are billed like a T&M project.

In addition, over or under billings may exist on Schedule I as a result of job costs or invoicing errors. Due to this, the government contractor may owe the government money, or vice versa.

In conclusion, completing an incurred cost submission is necessary if government contractors have cost reimbursable or T&M contracts. Your virtual CFO should be proactive during the year to help minimize errors when completing an ICS. Ultimately, working having a virtual CFO who specializes in government contracting is the best.

 

Originally written by Jamie M. Shryock, CPA 

Updated and additional content provided by Elizabeth Partlow