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Building Bonding Capacity from a CPA’s Perspective

If you have established some form of bond capacity with your construction business, your bonding agent may have suggested you consider working with a construction-oriented CPA. 

“My CPA has saved me thousands on my taxes every year, why would I consider working with someone else?” You might ask.

Your current CPA may be helping you avoid paying Uncle Sam, but believe it or not, saving money on taxes and building bonding capacity aren’t always in sync.

Below are some common questions from contractors surrounding their finances and building their bonding capacity.

Q:         Why do I need to use a construction-oriented CPA?

A:         As you organization grows, your need for additional services will inevitably increase.  A construction-oriented CPA is best suited to analyze, discuss and address these needs.  Several “hot topics” in the construction industry include: the various tax methods and strategies available to contractors, indirect cost allocations, payroll and equipment burden, the cost-to-cost method of revenue recognition, tracking and analysis of key performance indicators and contractor specific software analysis and implementation support, to name a few.  

Q:         The last bond I got was under $1 million, and all I had to do was provide a tax return/Quickbooks financials.  Can’t I just provide tax returns for bonding?

A:         There are options for bonding support in the $1 million range with quality internal financial reports, however, as you grow the need for US GAAP (generally accepted accounting principles in the United States of America) basis financial reporting becomes imperative to provide creditors the relevant information they need to grow with you.  There can be vast differences between tax basis and GAAP basis reporting.  It is important to prepare for where you want to go, not where you currently are.

Q:         Can I still use my current bookkeeper and work with you all?

A:         A construction-oriented CPA will assist and train you and your team to view and analyze your financial reports through an objective lens.  A willingness to learn and a positive attitude is the recipe for a successful when facing change.  A construction-oriented CPA has the knowledge and experience to walk through proper job costing, the conversion to GAAP basis revenue recognition, evaluating and comparing the current estimating process with the true cost of construction (indirect costs), etc.

Q:         What’s the main difference between my accountant and you all?

A:         Often, a small business CPA/tax accountant will give you advice to minimize your tax burden, which involves purchasing equipment, taking money out of the company, etc.  What that does, however, is limits your bonding program as bonding companies base their approvals off of company profitability and liquidity within the company.

Q:         My current CPA can prepare a GAAP basis report  – is that good enough?

A:         It depends, will the statement have the proper disclosures and footnotes that are standard for the construction industry?  Are you interested in getting by with the bare minimum that is needed to secure the bond, or are you interested in value added services and building for the future?  These are questions that should be discussed with your agent and CPA.

Q:         What are some accounting pitfalls to watch out for as I want to grow my bond capacity?

A:         Two key ratios come to mind, net working capital and debt to equity.  Cash becomes lean when an organization is in growth mode.  It is critical that cashflow be monitored and forecasted.  One common blunder is acquiring property and equipment with cash, as opposed to traditional financing, this could have a significant impact on your net working capital, taking a current asset  (cash) and trading it in for a long-term asset (property and equipment).  Maintaining sufficient equity in the organization is critical as well, retaining earnings within the organization  and being selective and diligent with taking distributions, will boost your equity position and overall financial health.

            Other pitfalls would include knowing the true cost of construction (direct and indirect) and aligning true costs with way projects ad bid/estimated, proper revenue recognition, accounting for retainage and proper cut off of expenses, to name a few.

Q:         How much is this going to cost me?

A:         Transitioning to an audit, review or compilation comes with a cost, however, and more importantly, it should come with value.  Selecting a trusted advisor, that knows and understands your industry, is the first step in realizing and understanding that value.  Another factor to consider and discuss with your agent is the potential impact that the level of engagement (audit, review or compilation)  and quality of the financial report will have on the bond rate.  You may be surprised to find that a quality financial report can “pay for itself” depending on your level of bonded projects.

About the Authors

Matt Smith, CPA, CCIFP, YHB Principal

Since his start at YHB in 2008, Matt has focused his efforts on providing assurance and consulting services to private companies in the construction and real estate industries. Matt has a strong understanding of accounting issues that are unique to the industries he serves.

Joshua Etemadi & Edin Zukanovic, Owners of District Bonding

District Bonding was founded under a simple principle: build trust with our clients through sound advice and education. In doing so, we will help our clients grow their bond capacity and in turn, achieve their business goals, whatever they may be. Learn more about District Bonding