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What Are Clean Financials and How Can You Get Them?

We often hear prospective clients come to us explaining they are in need of clean financials. Interestingly, this is not a technical term—but its use is so widespread that it often seems to be. So we sat down with AccountingDepartment.com’s Senior Implementation Controller, Jennie Hoffman, CPA to discuss what she thinks clients really mean when they say clean financials—and what they should actually be asking for instead.

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Jennie Hoffman: “I'm not sure where the term, "Clean Financials" comes from, or what a client interprets that to mean. I suspect that bankers will tell them they need clean financials or that their Tax Preparer is suggesting they obtain assistance in order to have clean financials to prepare the tax returns.”

“Ultimately, the lack of clarity over the exact definition of clean financials may allow many outsourced accounting companies the opportunity to say they provide clean financials, when they actually provide anything but that.”

“To us, clean financials means quite a few things.”
  • “To us, clean = accurate. Transactions are recorded properly, in the correct accounts, for the right amount on the correct date.”
  • “Also, clean = consistent. We are recording the same transactions to the same accounts. You will find all rent payments posted to rent. All payments for the Coffee vendor to the same account. And so on.”
  • “As well as clean = professional looking. Our financials are reviewed internally before they are provided to clients, not only for content but for appearance. The report headers explain the report, the pages are easy to view, etc.”
  • “And finally, clean = provided timely! We strive to provide financial reports to management as soon as possible after the month closes. We do a hard close each month, locking the file after each closing.”

“Unfortunately, not all accounting services are created equal, so unless you’re specifying accurate, consistent, professional and timely, you may think that’s what you’re getting—but it could really be up to the discretion and interpretation of your accounting partner. Having clear communications about your expectations and deliverables upfront and often will help ensure you’re actually getting the clean financials you want.”

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