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Year End Accounting Considerations for Churches

If you haven’t started on it yet, now is a great time to work on a 2020 budget. You should still have plenty of time to get a budget draft together, and if your board meets in December, they can approve it or request changes then. This will be one less thing on your mind during the Christmas season, and if not done by year end, will almost certainly get pushed out past January. By then, you’ll already be spending money and having things come up. For peace of mind and keeping this out of the list of stressful things you’re dealing with, now is the time.

Where to Start

A great place to start is to just run a year to date budget to actual report for the current year, and use that as a template to get you started. Analyze any differences and make necessary adjustments for recurring items like phone bills, utilities, etc. Also think about any out of the ordinary expenses you budgeted for this year, and what types of one time expenses you’ll have for next year, and also make adjustments for those. Using your current year budget to get started will be a great help, especially with recurring expenses, but don’t fall into the trap of just blindly copying last year’s budget and making them next year’s budget. Put a little thought into this and you’ll spend a lot less time explaining “surprise” budget variances at your board meetings next year. One other note to keep in mind when budgeting – you don’t have a crystal ball, your budget is going to serve as your framework for next year’s income and expenses, but it won’t be exact. It’s ok to round off numbers and make estimates when necessary. Don’t drive yourself crazy trying to predict the future.

Be Proactive and Get Ahead

January will be busy with year end letters, payroll tax filings, w2’s, setting up your pledges for the year, and other administrative tasks. Do what you can now to get ahead of it. Focus on doing what you can now to make January easier on yourself. Have you been keeping up with address changes for your employees and members throughout the year? If not, now is a great time to ask your employees to let you know if they’ve made any changes. While you’re at it, ask them to submit a new w4 if they’d like any of their tax withholdings to change next year. Your members can be a little harder to keep up with. An easy way to get this info is to just make an announcement at Sunday services that you’re working on updating member info and ask that anyone who’s had changes in contact info during the year to swing by the office, send an email, or call in and let your administrators know.

Identify Opportunities for Improvement

Finally, a bigger picture item. A new year is a great time to analyze and modify your accounting and financial procedures. Think about any sources of stress in your processes and how you can alleviate that. Churches change over time, and the processes you’re using don’t always keep up on their own. Some of these adjustments can be as easy as assigning someone to do a task that wasn’t being done consistently before. Some things can be made easier with the help of the many new software applications that are available these days. New software can be a little extra work on the front end, but that work can pay dividends in time savings and peace of mind many times over if it solves a problem that’s been holding

you back.

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