While one of the primary motivations of a business is to make a profit, charities start with a very different purpose. Charities exist for the purpose of making a positive difference in the world. The differences between businesses and charities go far beyond their different purposes. Many of the laws that govern charities are different from the laws that govern businesses, and the tax and accounting rules are very different. Such differences comprise one of the reasons we at BMWL believe that charities should be served by a different kind of accounting firm…one that is singularly focused on serving the nonprofit sector. Many charity leaders have come to BMWL for audit and assurance services because of our strong reputation for helping them make sure the financial bases are covered. They often come to us after working with another accounting firm, and they share with us that they were concerned that their previous firm was not bringing matters to their attention that needed to be addressed. After asking around among leaders in the charity community, they learned that BMWL is well known for just that – taking a comprehensive and highly professional approach to providing services that include communicating important matters to our clients on a proactive and consistent basis.
When a large financial institution was serving as the trustee for a charitable organization and had concerns about certain aspects of its compliance and financial reporting, the financial institution engaged BMWL to assist in identifying and addressing the issues and to audit the financial statements. One of the “Big Four” accounting firms had previously provided services for the organization. Our team identified significant compliance issues requiring attention and proactively assisted the organization in addressing those issues. We serve numerous charities in a similar capacity.
In the tax arena, we have helped many charities reduce their state and local tax obligations by helping them take advantage of exemptions of which they were not fully aware. As a result of our services, a significant number of our charity clients have saved very large sums of money by taking better advantage of their exemptions. Saving our clients money is one of our favorite things to do!
Another key area in which we assist our charity clients is addressing their practices for establishing and documenting executive compensation and related party transactions. It is critically important for charities to handle executive compensation and related party transactions properly. Improper handling of these important matters can result in negative publicity as well as possible (very significant) penalties for the individuals involved. Our BMWL professionals can help your organization successfully navigate the rules related to executive compensation and related party transactions – and reduce the risk to your organization and its leaders.
We assist numerous charities in areas such as budgeting; internal controls; financial management; board governance matters; risk management; foreign grant-making and direct foreign activities; corporate structure analysis; federal, state, and local tax compliance; representation before tax authorities; and much more.
We at BMWL thoroughly enjoy working with organizations that make a difference in the lives of others. Not only do we serve as the accounting firm for many excellent charities, our team members are also involved extensively in charitable service. The fact that all of our clients have as their mission improving the lives of others in some way is a powerful inspirational force for our entire team! Our highly-motivated team has extensive experience serving charities in a variety of ways.
Audit & Assurance Services
Not all audits or auditors are equal. There are big differences.
When selecting an audit firm, it can be difficult to discern the differences among firms. After all, every firm says they are great at what they do, and they promise to provide excellent service. BMWL’s overall approach to serving your organization is very different from that of other firms and involves a unique and exclusive combination of elements:
- A dedicated team with extensive experience providing audit and assurance services for nonprofit organizations.
- A team of tax professionals dedicated uniquely and specifically to serving nonprofit organizations in matters of federal, state, and local taxes of all types.
- Nationally-known expertise and leadership in accounting and tax matters related to nonprofit organizations, including direct involvement in national policy and leadership roles seeking to reduce the risk of inappropriate government intervention in the religious and nonprofit sector…expertise that we bring to you. (For an example of our national leadership in these areas, see www.religiouspolicycommission.org.)
- Services that include obtaining an understanding of your key internal controls over cash transactions and accounting activities sufficient to permit us to assess the risk of material misstatement in your financial statements and otherwise perform the audit engagement.
- Use of computer-aided data extraction analysis to aid in potentially identifying fraud or other audit issues that require attention.
- Obtaining an understanding of key elements of your organization’s tax compliance to help you identify opportunities to take better advantage of exemptions and to reduce your organization’s compliance risk.
- Proactive, clear, and highly professional communication and reporting of audit observations and practical recommendations to your leadership team and governing body.
- An array of helpful resources and education to help your leadership team stay current with respect to financial, tax, and regulatory developments affecting your church or ministry.
We do much more than respond to your questions about issues on your radar screen. We come alongside your team to help you identify important issues that are not on your radar screen. And, we provide clear recommendations for practical solutions to address the issues.
An audit is the highest level of assurance BMWL can provide with respect to an organization’s financial statements. Audited financial statements provide the organization’s governing body with the auditor’s opinion that the financial statements are presented fairly, in all material respects, in conformity with the method of accounting utilized. The opinion offers reasonable but not absolute assurance with respect to the financial statements to which it applies.
In an audit, BMWL obtains an understanding of the organization’s internal control and assesses fraud risk as it relates to the financial statements. We also corroborate the amounts and disclosures included in the financial statements by obtaining audit evidence through inquiry, physical inspection, observation, third-party confirmations, examination, analytical procedures and other procedures. An audit engagement performed by BMWL also includes an assessment of certain aspects of tax compliance by the organization.
In obtaining an understanding of internal control, BMWL typically focuses significantly on the cash processing activities of an organization, including the processes for receiving cash (whether in currency, check, or electronic form), the processes for accounting for cash, and the processes for disbursing cash either to suppliers or employees.
An audit performed by BMWL typically results in the following reports:
- BMWL’s opinion on the financial statements
- Financial statements and related disclosures
- BMWL’s Report on Internal Control
- BMWL’s Report on the Audit Process
Reviewed financial statements provide the organization’s governing body with comfort that, based on BMWL’s review, we are not aware of any material modifications that should be made to the financial statements for the statements to be in conformity with the method of accounting utilized. A review is substantially less in scope than an audit, and does not require obtaining an understanding of internal control, assessing the risk of fraud, or testing the organization’s records.
In a review engagement, BMWL performs procedures (primarily analytical procedures and inquiries) that will provide a reasonable basis for obtaining limited assurance that there are no material modifications that should be made to the financial statements.
A review performed by BMWL typically results in the following reports:
- BMWL’s review report expressing limited assurance on the financial statements
- Financial statements and related disclosures
A compilation represents the most basic level of service BMWL provides with respect to an organization’s financial statements. In a compilation engagement, we assist management in presenting financial information in the form of financial statements without undertaking to obtain or provide any assurance with respect to the financial statements. In a compilation, BMWL complies with applicable regulatory standards, which require us to have an understanding of the industry in which the client operates, obtain knowledge about the client, read the financial statements, and consider whether the financial statements appear appropriate in form and free from obvious material errors.
A compilation does not contemplate performing inquiry, analytical procedures, or other procedures ordinarily performed in a review; or obtaining an understanding of the organization’s internal control; assessing fraud risk; or testing of accounting records. Compiled financial statements may be prepared without disclosures (notes to the financial statements). The compilation report provides no assurance with respect to the financial statements.
A compilation performed by BMWL typically results in the following reports:
- BMWL’s compilation report expressing no assurance on the financial statements
- Financial statements and (if applicable) related disclosures
BMWL offers advisory services to assist an organization’s management in identifying internal control vulnerabilities as well as tax compliance risks and opportunities. Each such engagement is tailored specifically to the needs of the organization we are serving, and is designed to offer practical and helpful recommendations for reducing risk or for taking advantage of untapped opportunities.
In performing an internal control and tax compliance advisory services engagement, BMWL’s team makes inquiries of appropriate members of an organization’s management and staff and inspects documents and records as deemed appropriate for the specific engagement. Internal control and tax compliance advisory engagements address many of the types of internal control and tax compliance matters that BMWL would typically address in an audit engagement. The report issued in connection with an advisory services engagement is not an opinion – rather it is a summary of observations and practical recommendations.
The unique array of tax services we offer to nonprofit organizations is among the most extensive available in the United States. Our highly-experienced team of leaders with nationally-known expertise will professionally and efficiently help you with such matters as:
- Protecting your exempt status
- Professional representation before the IRS and other tax authorities
- Compliance with political activity restrictions
- Unrelated business income issues
- Use of subsidiaries and limited liability companies (LLCs)
- Executive compensation-setting practices
- Properly handling conflicts-of-interest
- Safely engaging in transactions with related parties
- Tax implications associated with intellectual property matters
- Proper acknowledgment and receipting of charitable contributions
- Quid pro quo contributions (banquets, golf tournaments, auctions, etc.)
- Charitable gift annuities
- Charitable remainder and lead trusts
- Donor-advised funds
- Clergy-specific tax matters, including payroll reporting, housing, etc.
- Tax compliance implications of foreign grants and activities
- Mission trips and support-raising activities
- Benevolence activities
- Qualified tuition reduction benefit programs
- Proper worker classification (employee v. contractor)
- Accountable plan expense documentation requirements
- Payroll tax compliance and reporting
- Preparation of required tax forms and returns
- State and local tax matters
- Identifying and obtaining state and local tax exemptions
- Identifying and obtaining Form 990 filing exemptions
- Applying for recognition by the IRS of your tax exemption status
- And much, much more!
The BMWL team offers you an abundance of expertise to help you address important management and financial operations. Our professional team can advise you in key aspects of your administration, including:
- Comprehensive risk management strategies
- Strategic budgeting for improved financial position
- Board member education and orientation
- Board governance and operations
- Policies and procedures
- Executive compensation
- Corporate structure and related risk analysis
- Financial staffing guidelines
- Improved efficiencies in financial operations
- CFO consulting services
- And much more!
BMWL’s partners are highly experienced in serving nonprofit organizations and are frequently sought out by nonprofit leaders across the country to assist them in addressing some of the most challenging issues facing their organizations. Our team has the privilege of serving some of the largest and most well-known nonprofit organizations of their types in the United States. Our team’s professional writings have been published by numerous national media outlets.
Mike Batts, our managing partner, is nationally known as a thought leader in the nonprofit sector. Mike’s input on technical matters has been directly requested by members of Congress and state legislators, a state cabinet member, FASB staff, national associations of nonprofit organizations, national media, and others. Mike has briefed individual members of Congress at their request (both House and Senate) on legislative matters related to nonprofit organizations, has provided commentary to state legislative committees, and has successfully drafted and lobbied for legislation favorably affecting nonprofit organizations.
Mike has served as an expert witness with respect to matters involving technical issues for nonprofit organizations. His experience includes providing expert opinions, court testimony, and depositions in legal cases. Other partners of the firm have supported Mike’s expert witness service and also have strong capabilities in this area.
We carefully evaluate each request for expert witness services to determine if the services required are a fit for our firm. Potential areas of expert witness services we may provide include:
- Tax issues and controversies involving nonprofit organizations
- Accounting and auditing matters involving nonprofit organizations
- Professional practice by attorneys or CPAs in the areas listed above
In addition to the extensive professional services available to you, as a client of BMWL, you will have access to our exclusive and proprietary array of educational opportunities and resources created just for churches and ministries like yours. The BMWL team is constantly on watch for new developments and information that could be important to our clients. When new developments and information arise, we share the relevant aspects with you in our unique style – emphasizing concise, complete, practical, and plain-language explanations. Each of the resources we make available to you are truly one-of-a-kind, created by our dedicated team with the sole purpose of helping you. They include:
- BMWL Nonprofit OnPointSM – our feature articles that provide perspective on issues impacting nonprofits and their leaders.
- The BMWL National Nonprofit Conference – For more than 25 years, our team has conducted a top-drawer national nonprofit conference attended by hundreds of nonprofit leaders from across the United States. Leading a nonprofit organization isn’t easy. Laws change. Regulations evolve. What worked yesterday might not work today. And what works perfectly today might not serve your organization very well tomorrow. With so much in flux, it can be difficult to keep up. At the BMWL National Nonprofit Conference, you have the opportunity to catch up on legal, tax, financial, and accounting issues that affect your organization. Through one full day of focused learning led by industry leaders, you will walk away with the ability to lead your organization more effectively and in compliance with laws and regulations. For more information about the BMWL National Nonprofit Conference, please reach out to [email protected].
- BMWL Nonprofit Special AlertsSM – timely email alerts that convey important time-sensitive developments affecting nonprofit organizations.
- BMWL Web Briefings – web-based executive briefings covering topics that are important to nonprofit leaders.
- Published Books – we offer at no charge to our clients published books covering key topics affecting nonprofit organizations. These practical, easy-to-read books have been used by hundreds of nonprofit leaders to improve their organizations. They are available for purchase by non-clients on Amazon.com. The books currently include:
- Church Finance: The Church Leader’s Guide to Financial Operations
- Nonprofit Finance: The Field Guide for Financial Operations of Ministries, Schools, and Other Public Charities
- Nonprofit Financial Oversight: The Concise and Complete Guide for Boards and Finance Committees
- Board Member Orientation: The Concise and Complete Guide to Nonprofit Board Service
- BMWL Sample Policies, Whitepapers, and Other Resources – We offer a growing assortment of sample policies, whitepapers, and other resources to help you more effectively administer your organization.
To learn more about our various resources, please visit News & Resources.