Surviving a Church Financial Audit
Surviving a Church Financial Audit
Field-tested tips from a CPA.

Audit. It's a dirty word among some church administrators. And we're not even talking about an IRS tax audit, which conjures up images of intimidating government agents whose sole mission is to uncover your financial misdeeds. We're talking church financial audits, the kind that provides invaluable feedback on the financial integrity of your organization. So why, if a financial audit is a good thing, do so many financial administrators dread the annual audit more than any other aspect of their jobs?

Certified Public Accountant Vonna Laue of Capin Crouse LLP, explains. "When we think of audit, we think of a process where someone is trying to catch you doing something wrong, like the IRS audit. While the word audit has negative connotations, we try to help churches understand that we're there to help them do their ministry the best they can while at the same time maintaining our professional skepticism."

Different from a tax audit, Laue's job is to assess organizations' accounting practices, procedures, and reporting. While her services are invaluable to the churches she serves, her presence is a double-edged sword. "Audits are a disruptive process," says Laue. "Most church staffs are limited, and we're asking them to do more work. An audit is more of a frustration or hassle rather than a fear. Unfortunately, as an auditor, nobody's happy to see you come, and everyone's glad when you leave!"

Michael Miles, financial administrator at Wheaton Bible Church, a 2,500-member suburban Illinois church, has been involved in audits at his church for the past 10 years. "First you meet with the outside auditor, and they ask for a number of schedules," he says. "Preparing schedules takes a lot of time because usually it's for areas you only think about once a year, so you always have to stop and think about how you did it last year. Plus, the burden of creating these schedules is on top of our extra workload."

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