TEPAP – Day 1

On Sunday, Dick Wittman did a presentation on basic farm financial skills. As a class, he had us take a set of financial numbers and report them on both a cash and accrual basis. I would say less than 10% of the class got the right answer.

Dick emphasized the need to be able to report your numbers on an accrual basis in order to understand if you are really making money or losing money.  Tax basis reports are of little value for managerial accounting.  If you don’t do this, chances are the banker does and can help you generate reports like this.

That was followed up with a discussion on deferred tax liabilities. Dick provided two examples in particular that really hit home on the danger of managing around taxes only. Using section 179 depreciation on machinery while financing that equipment with debt can leave an operation vulnerable to this current economic downturn. Many operations now have loan payments coming due, have to sell grain to pay for that equipment, but have tax due on the income because they have used up the deductions with accelerated depreciation.

The second example focused on how deferring taxes can make you a poor marketer. The example of holding grain when at a high price and waiting until prices are lower costs way more than selling and paying the high price. Marketing should be a separate decision from tax planning. If not, it often drives sales at low price or the wrong time of the year.

Finally, we talked about several key ratios. Debt Repayment Capacity is one of two we discussed that I think is critical to know. Basically when calculated, it simplifies things down to how much cash flow do I have vs. how much debt do I have to service every year. The last ratio that we discussed is the Sustainable Growth Rate Ratio. If your business is growing, this is the maximum rate your business can grow without depleting your assets.

I had a chance to catch up with Dick for a quick interview and you can hear his comments here.

You can find a lot of good free resources here on his website.  I use his workbook with many of my clients and have found it to be very useful.




TEPAP – Farmers MBA

I’m writing this between switching planes in Dallas.  I’m on my way to TEPAP or otherwise known as The Executive Program for Agricultural Producers.    This is an amazing program.  I attended Unit 1 last year and can’t wait to get started tomorrow in Unit 2.

There are two aspects of the program that make it so special.   First, the speakers and classroom sessions bring together some of the brightest minds in the agricultural industry.  For those who go over to the website and look at the schedule you will probably recognize many of them.  Two of my favorites from last year were David Kohl and Dick Wittman.

One of the unique aspects of the program is the evening sessions where the speakers do 1 or 2 hours of Q&A.     That to me is a great bonus you get that doesn’t happen at most seminars you attend.

However, the really special aspect of TEPAP is the network of producers you join.   Continue reading

Time For New Accounting Software?

Is the new year time for new accounting software?   Before ditching what you have been using, let me offer some observations from my past experience.

Tip #1:  Define the users and reports needed first.

Start first with defining the users of the information and what type of information they need.   Be specific on the frequency of reports, roles of users, reason for the reports, and why you are doing this.   This will help really define what is needed vs. what looks good on a spec sheet.

This process should include both internal and external users of the information.   Here is an example of what that process may look like.
Continue reading

Trial Balance – First Report Used By CPA’s

If you provide a Quickbooks or other electronic file for your tax preparer, chances are the first report they look at is the trial balance report. When opening a set of books from a client, especially if that entity is a corporation or partnership, the first thing the tax preparer wants to see is if the previous year’s account balances match what was used on the tax return.    The trial balance simply gives the debit or credit balance for all accounts on the day the report is run. The following picture is an example.

Trial Balance, Quickbooks

Trial Balance Example from Quickbooks


Often times, those balances do not match.  When that is the case, someone needs to make an adjustment to reconcile the differences.

Here are just a few things we have seen that can throw those balances off when working with clients over the past 10 years.

  1. A check that was written, but then voided in a new year because the payee did not cash it.
  2. Checks or deposits that are entered with the wrong date putting that income or deduction in a previous year.
  3. Unreconciled transactions that are later deleted because they were double entered or incorrectly entered.
  4. Going back to edit the details or splits on a deposit or check that changes the accounts that were used.

Trial Balance and Other Year End Action Items

At the end of the year, we recommend three things to archive the records. Continue reading

“Why Do My Accrual And Cash Reports Look Identical?”

Most accounting software programs allow reports to be run both accrual and cash reports.  Often times a client or prospect will ask me why the reports look the same.

In order to show differences, you first have to have a way to show two different dates for the transactions, a cash date and an accrual date. The most simple way most software programs do this is through the use of forms. The general rule of thumb is if you enter a transaction once and are done with it, it will be the same on a cash and accrual report.

The following image is from Quickbooks, but most software follows a similar process.

The red numbers show either a 1 step (cash) process or a 2 step process (accrual) expense transactions. The blue numbers show the same example for income.

By splitting the transaction into two forms, the software is able to split the date of when the transaction occurred from when it was paid, hence cash and accrual reports. Continue reading

Accrual Income Statements – Do You Need Them?

Last night I was reviewing a presentation made by Dale Nordquist at the 2013 National Ag Bankers conference entitled “Shortcuts to Accrual“.  The following items are some highlights that stuck out as I read the presentation.

  • 16 of the 21 ratios endorsed by the Farm Financial Standards Council require accrual adjusted income statements.  Balance sheets are not enough.
  • Cash basis income statements average 41% to 67% difference from accrual adjusted statements.
    • For Farms with over 40% debt levels, that average profit difference has been consistently over 60%.
    • Recent history shows cash statements understating income.  That may change in 2014 and 2015.
  • There are two methods mentioned to calculate accrual income: Schedule F and Earned Net Worth Change.
  • The Schedule F method requires fiscal year end balance sheets.
  • If you don’t have fiscal year end balance sheets to match the tax return, then you need to use the earned net worth change method.
  • Handling depreciation and cost vs. market values on fixed assets correctly is important for accuracy.

I would encourage you to download and review the link. It is a good presentation with several key challenges and issues highlighted.



Accounting From The Tractor Seat

Next week, I hope we can get started planting. I’m already thinking about the type of information I may want to capture to improve my accounting systems.

Today, I’m going to reflect on an exercise I did a few years ago. I wanted to know how much we lost in productivity and increased our costs on a difficult vs. easy to farm field.

Generally, in doing an analysis like this, I will pick my most easiest and most difficult fields to measure.  In order to do that, I simply wrote down 3 numbers for two fields as I was planting those two fields.

1.  Total gallons of fuel used per field / acres planted = gal. per acre.

2.  Total hours to plant (less breakdowns/fill time) / acres = acres per hour.

3.  Total man-hours including the support person who was tendering seed etc.

What I found was the “marginal” field cost considerably more to plant.   At the time we had a 16 row planter and my acres per hour dropped from 25 acres to 15 acres per hour just due to the turning, point rows, etc.   My fuel consumption increased from about .3 to .5 gallons per acre and man-hours went up as well.  When multiplied across every trip in that field, the cost per acre was considerably higher in that field than the nice square quarter I had just finished before that.

I was able to use the final calculation 3 ways.

1.  Would it pay to increase planter size since my tractor could handle a bigger planter?

2.  When multiplied across several trips, how much should I adjust rental rates for various farms?

3.  I created a sliding scale that could be applied to all our fields to allocate cost per acre for planting and eventually for other tillage operations.

In my next post, I’m going to go deeper into how I use that information for other decisions.

This little exercise can be done with any tillage, spray, or harvest operation.    It also creates a benchmark for your own productivity to measure yourself against in the future.





Tax Day 2014

Today seems like the perfect day to launch a new website related to farm accounting.   For most farmers, their tax deadlines seldom fall around April 15th, but it is a great reminder that tax planning is a critical component of farm accounting.   Over the next few weeks, months and years I will share some tips, tricks and traps that I’ve seen working with various clients and tax preparation firms.

We will also explore various accounting related topics like office procedures, use of spreadsheets and general business issues related to the farm.   Thanks for visiting and please be sure to sign up for our free newsletter to keep up to date on the latest posts and material.