Financial closing is a key task for finance teams that comes around at the end of every month, quarter, and year. In theory, closing the books is a relatively straightforward process–you aim to organize, reconcile, and report the financial activities of the company over the fiscal period.
Yet as teams expand and workforces become more distributed, the reality for many accountants is a series of hectic and stressful tasks that take much longer than they should. With month-end closing, it can feel like a never-ending cycle of chasing after documents throughout the year.
Sound familiar? Unfortunately, that's completely normal.
Preparation is one of the most effective strategies to optimize planning and execution of the closing period. By outlining the highest priorities and identifying tasks that require actions from other team members, finance teams of all sizes can save themselves days of work and alleviate stress for everyone involved.
Here are the key steps.
Key financial obligations at month end
Every closing period has a similar structure, as accountants wrap up and review the earnings and spend activities of the preceding fiscal cycle. These financial reports help company leadership understand and stay on top of their finances and investments, to manage cash flow positively and grow the company with informed business decisions.
At the end of each calendar month, finance teams gather and turn their focus to several key functions including:
- Tallying up income and revenue
- Reconciling company expenses
- Reviewing bank accounts and statements
- Preparing key financial statements
- Profit & loss statement summarizing earnings and spend
- Balance sheet detailing all assets and liabilities
- Cash flow statement recording cash balance and all transactions
Businesses that put off monthly closing, or worse, leave year-end closing until the very last minute, have to prepare massive reports within tight deadlines. You're constantly chasing all of the documentation from the entire year with little time or energy to spare.
Closing the books periodically can feel daunting, but it’s much easier to keep track of the company’s finances throughout the entire year when you run through and review the transactions on a monthly basis.
You’ll have a more consistent and accurate overview of the business’s financial standing, and find more opportunities for cost savings in business operations.
Saving days of reconciliation for month-end close also helps significantly cut down the overall processing time for quarterly and annual closing.
Your complete month-end close checklist
The purpose of this month-end close checklist is to make the entire process more manageable by breaking it down into smaller steps. This makes it easier for you to tackle each task with greater focus, while reducing the risk of errors or missed deadlines.
In order to complete the closing process on time with this checklist, it’s best to have the following elements on-hand and ready to go:
- Total income/revenue
- Accounts receivable
- Expense receipts and supplier invoices
- Bank accounts and statements
- Petty cash totals
- Inventory total
Depending on your business and industry, you might have additional required documentation. We’ve laid out the general essential steps you need to perform to close the books on time.
Follow this checklist to streamline your month-end closing process:
1. Create a closing schedule
You have so much going on this time of year, don’t waste valuable headspace memorizing a bunch of dates. Prevent delays and inefficiencies by noting down all important and relevant deadlines, and prioritize each task according to their upcoming due dates.
2. Record sales - income, revenue, accounts receivable
List all incoming revenue totals, whether they’ve been paid or when they are due, and their different sources. Cross reference invoices and bank statements to check for inaccuracies and that you aren’t missing any outstanding customer payments. If there’s a payment missing, send the customer a reminder of the amount due and apply any late fees as necessary.
3. Reconcile expenses, supplier invoices, accounts payable
Depending on how effectively you’ve managed your expenses throughout the fiscal year, this step can either be a breeze, or the most time-consuming on the checklist. Every transaction should be reconciled in the bank accounts with its matching expense receipt, invoice or bill–and any outstanding debt should be caught and settled as soon as possible.
4. Record petty cash
Some businesses don’t have petty cash reserves, while others have separate petty cash budgets for different departments in the company. Depending on your company’s setup, account for this and tally the totals correctly when physically counting cash and reconciling petty cash transactions in the records.
5. Review assets and liabilities
Identify and list all your current fixed and liquid assets, and note if there have been any new purchases or transactions related to these assets. Document any loans that have been taken out for the business and their payment progression.
6. Count inventory
If you sell products, you want to make sure your inventory documentation is consistently up-to-date. Doing monthly inventory checks lets you know if you need to restock certain items more frequently or if there are items that will expire by a certain date, which can affect the value of your assets.
7. Prepare financial reports
The business ledger and financial statements like P&L statement and balance sheet are the big deliverables for the closing period. Executives need these reports to stay informed on business performance and use them as the basis to make major decisions for the next fiscal period. Make sure they’re accurate, so your company’s strategic financial planning is built on healthy foundations.
Save days on your month-end close process
Even when equipped with a month-end close checklist, sometimes accountants find themselves struggling with incomplete or missing documentation. Things like lost paper receipts and incorrect data entries are common occurrences which can cause serious delays.
That’s why even the best-prepared finance teams need great tools. Spend management software like Spendesk lets you collect employee receipts automatically and reconcile payments in minutes, not days. This solution also automates tedious processes for reimbursement and invoice management–empowering employees to spend autonomously, while giving finance teams greater visibility and control over spending behavior.
Good preparation paired with finance process automation, as well as enforcing a clear company spend policy, makes month-end closing a walk in the park, for accountants and team members alike.