Auditing Fixed Assets

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Your company’s fixed assets are the long-term pieces of property used in the production of income, everything from office appliances to laptops to warehouse machinery. In order to keep your asset records accurate, you’ll need to conduct regular audits.  

Without accurate asset records, your financial balance sheets will be incorrect, losses may occur, or fixed assets necessary for the continued functioning of your business may not be available when needed.

The audit process doesn’t have to be difficult or time-consuming, assuming you don’t still do everything manually. According to the Wasp Barcode State of Small Business Report, an incredible 55 percent of small businesses do not track assets or use a manual process to do so.

Investing in an automated asset management solution not only provides a tool to record asset information, but many solutions include mobile capability – which makes auditing of your assets simple and painless.

Accurate Financials

Fixed asset reporting is an intrinsic part of the balance sheet. If your asset records are not accurate, your balance sheet will be incorrect. This can be extremely detrimental to a company, especially where depreciation and taxation are concerned.

Inaccurate asset documentation implies there is an issue with the overall validity of transactions. If your company’s fixed asset listing is considerably different than what is detailed (either in a software program or on paper reports), there is a significant problem with the process of managing your company’s assets.

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Both private and public companies are required to keep accurate reports for a variety of reasons. Government, charity, and educational institutions may need to classify and track asset details by funding source or grant. Having incorrect fixed asset reporting can be problematic in these situations; a non-profit organization that does not properly track its fixed assets by grant could potentially lose or be forced to repay funds.

Meanwhile, companies that pay less than they are supposed to on their taxes as a result of inaccurate accounting can still be held financially and legally liable. Small businesses with little financial know-how are not exempt from following these rules. 

Additionally, companies and organizations that depend on their fixed assets – where missing or lost assets impede employee productivity – are able to immediately correct asset management problems by regularly conducting thorough asset audits.

Two common issues are “ghost assets” and their cousins, “zombie assets.” Ghost assets are common—they are assets that appear on the ledger but don’t seem to exist in real life. Maybe the asset has gone missing, or has been broken down for spare parts to repair other assets. Either way, you’re accounting for an asset that isn’t actually contributing to your bottom line.


Related Article: TIME TO COMPUTERIZE: ASSET MANAGEMENT THROUGH TECHNOLOGY

Zombie assets are less common, but these are assets that appear in person, not on the ledger. These just add to confusion come yearly audit time, and contribute to inaccurate records.

Loss Prevention

Fixed asset audits also determine if your company is experiencing inordinate shrinkage. If losses form a pattern and are consistent across all assets, evaluating how your assets are assigned, moved, or stored should identify the weakness within your company’s asset management procedures, allowing you to address and correct those procedural gaps before your losses become too severe.

Choosing to skip auditing means you will not identify equipment loss in a timely fashion, and your company may continue to lose equipment.

According to the Department of Justice, nearly one-third of all employees commit some degree of employee theft. And frankly, if you don’t have a system in place for keeping track of your assets, you are practically inviting theft—or less insidious forms of loss, such as plain accidents and forgetfulness.  
Furthermore, the longer an asset is missing, the more difficult it is to trace its path – a path that would lead to recovery of the asset. Timely identification of missing assets means you have greater opportunity of retrieval and less chance you’ll have to purchase a replacement.

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Coming Around To Tracking Fixed Assets

It’s understandable if you haven’t invested in asset tracking up to this point—as we saw above, plenty of businesses haven’t. Even big organizations, like the University of Phoenix Stadium crew (which helps manage games for the NFL’s Arizona Cardinals), only recently made the switch over.

The stadium crew handles up to $100,000 worth of equipment on any given day, and previously there was no system that promised accountability, much less helped the team do their jobs in a timely manner.

After investing in a Mobile Asset system, the crew reported that they saved 20 hours of work for each event, adding up to 1,000 labor hours saved each year—with 100 percent production accuracy to boot.

This team performs, essentially, a daily audit to make sure everything is back in its place. Most organizations don’t need to be that thorough.

Here Are Your Audit Principles

Auditing fixed assets is not always conducted in the same way; these audits can be as simple or as complex as deemed necessary.

Often, companies will perform simple fixed asset audits throughout the year and perform an in-depth audit at the very end of the year.

However you choose to complete the audit, the basic principle is the same:

  • Look at your last audit numbers.
  • Determine your current audit numbers.
  • Ensure that the difference coincides with your transaction reports.

The amounts listed on your balance sheet should match the detailed listing of your fixed asset inventory. When comparing the two, verify the following is true about each asset:

  • The asset is valued correctly.
  • The asset has been classified correctly.
  • The asset’s purchase and/or sale dates are accurate. In addition to the information listed above, you should also have all applicable documentation and ownership information for each asset.

How Easy Auditing Can Be

By tracking your assets (location, movement, checkouts/check-ins, and disposal) with an asset management solution, you guarantee accuracy.  

Every time an asset is “managed” that transaction should be recorded. Using barcoded asset tags makes the recording of those transactions as simple as a scan. These resulting detailed records ensure your audit is completed quickly and efficiently because you won’t spend most of your time addressing discrepancies. Instead, you will simply scan the assets within a location and allow the asset tracking solution to do the data analysis.

Asset tracking solutions that include the use of a mobile computer and cloud computing means you can conduct an audit free of a traditional desktop computer. Walk into any or your locations, scan all of the assets, and then synchronize the mobile computer with your desktop to update your asset database.

Investing in an asset tracking solution is the first step in accurate fixed asset records; auditing those assets regularly guarantees the validity of your financial records and helps protect your company from loss.

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Brian Sutter

Brian Sutter

Director of Marketing at Wasp Barcode
Brian Sutter is the Director of Marketing at Wasp, responsible for the development and execution of the company’s marketing strategy. His role encompasses brand management, direct and channel marketing, public relations, advertising, and social media. He also writes and speaks on topics related to helping small business owners grow their business and improve operational efficiency.
Brian Sutter
Brian Sutter