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Preventing Embezzlement-General QuickBooks Controls & Procedures

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tips for preventing embezzlementSmall businesses are particularly vulnerable to theft simply because they don’t have the resources or security controls in place to stop them.

Employee theft is extremely common; unfortunately, we hear about it or read about it in the newspapers all of the time.

While it is fair to say, most people don’t steal, embezzlement does happen; so it only makes good business sense for you to consider what you can do to minimize your employees’ opportunities to steal.

Below are some general internal procedures that many business owners who use QuickBooks can implement quite easily.

Who should be the QuickBooks Administrator? As the business owner, you should create the QuickBooks Admin account and password and be the Administrator for your own QuickBooks company data file.  All too often we have seen or heard  from many business owners that their CPA or QuickBooks ProAdvisor is the Administrator of their QuickBooks file and that they don’t even know what the Admin password to their own data file is;  quite frankly we do not agree with this practice.  Your books are YOUR books, just like your business is your business.  You should not give that kind of control to anyone.

We have heard of instances where the business owner and the CPA/ProAdvisor has had a “falling out” and the business owner cannot perform even the simplest of Administrator functions because they do not know the Administrator password and the former CPA/ProAdvisor will not tell them what that password is.  This results in the business owner having to pay for password retrieval.

Set Up the External Accountant User. QuickBooks 2009 and newer has the ability to create an External Accountant User.  Create two different External Accountant Users, one that is actually for your accountant and one that is for you.  Learn how to use the Client Data Review tool to monitor what is going on in your QuickBooks file when you aren’t there to see.

Who should know the Administrator password? Your CPA/ProAdvisor or in-house bookkeeper should know what the Administrator password is; otherwise you could be pulled off the jobsite to perform menial tasks.

The Administrator Account should NOT be used when entering daily transactions. The Administrator account is a special purpose user account and should be treated as such.

Each QuickBooks user should have their own QuickBooks user login account. As the QuickBooks Administrator you should create a user account for each person who will have access to your company data file, this includes a user account for yourself which you will use when entering transactions.  When you create user accounts you are the one who controls who can access what information.

A word of caution for Enterprise users, the permission setting in the Enterprise version are much tighter than in Pro or Premier and you do need to be careful when setting up user permissions or you can effectively prevent an employee from performing the tasks that you do want them to be responsible for.

When should the Administrator Account be used? We recommend that you use the Administrator login account when reconciling the monthly checking and credit card accounts; and then on an “as needed” basis, as there are times when it is required that you, your CPA, or bookkeeper must be logged into QuickBooks in single-user mode as the QuickBooks administrator – such as changing companywide preferences in QuickBooks or granting permission for a third-party application to access your QuickBooks company data file.

Set closing dates and use the Closing Date Exception Report. On a monthly or quarterly basis, after you have reconciled the bank and credit card statements or after the quarterly payroll tax reports have been completed; set a closing date with a password; closing dates are found from the Edit menu -> Preferences -> Accounting -> Company Preferences tab.  This will prevent accidental or unauthorized changes to previously reconciled transactions, because only those people who know the password will be allowed to make changes, and get them into the habit of using the memo field to indicate why a cleared transaction was changed.  You can then run a Closing Date Exception Report, found from the Reports menu -> Accountant & Taxes -> Closing Date Exception Report.

Monitor Accounts Receivable Reports. Implement a procedure that by a specified time on Friday that you receive an Open Invoice Report, found from the Reports menu -> Customers & Receivables -> Open Invoices.  You should review this report and then leave it for your mailroom clerk for Monday morning, so that she can make notes of payments received during the week and return it to you after mail time on Friday.  You can then compare the previous week’s report to the current weeks report for any discrepancies.  For example, the mail clerk indicates that payment for Invoice number 1001 was received on Tuesday, but the current Open Invoice Report shows that it is still outstanding.

Monitor your Accounts Payable Reports. Don’t leave it up to someone else to decide which bills get paid and which ones will be delayed….you could be in for an unpleasant surprise!

How often does your company pay its bills – weekly, bi-weekly, monthly?  Implement a procedure in which you receive an Unpaid Bills Detail Report, found from the Reports menu -> Vendors & Payables -> Unpaid Bills Detail by a specified time on a certain day of the week with the current bank balance indicated.

Review the report and YOU decide who gets paid and who doesn’t; maybe even make a few phone calls if cash flow is tight.  The day before it’s time to pay the bills, ask for the current bank balance and make any necessary adjustments.  Leave this marked up report for your Accounts Payable clerk for the morning that they are to cut the checks.  Keep in mind that taking advantage of early payment discounts could help pay for other upcoming bills.

Third Party Tools – Check out AuditMyBooks, a QuickBooks 3rd party tool, which double-checks your accounting records for problems.

The suggestions contained in this article are not designed to turn you, the business owner, into an untrusting boss but rather are suggestions to help you maintain control of your business and its financial affairs.

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About Your Host:

Nancy Smyth, Certified QuickBooks ProAdvisor

Nancy Smyth, Sunburst Software Solutions, Inc.
QuickBooks Construction & Payroll Expert


I've been using and supporting QuickBooks products since the early 1990's. I've worked with thousands of contractors, assisting them with QuickBooks setup, Certified Payroll Reporting requirements, AIA Billing and Weighted-Average Overtime.


QuickBooks is a powerful product, but learning how to use it in your construction business can be difficult. I hope you find resources available here to be helpful.

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