There are three functions of the accounting process that should be performed by different individuals: the recording of transactions, the authorization of transactions, and the custody of assets. As an example, when writing a ministry check, the functions of printing the check (recording), signing the check (authorization), and reconciling the bank statement (custody) should be separated. If the same person fulfills all three tasks, the ministry is set up for criticism at best and misappropriation of funds at worst.
The primary reason churches do not separate these duties is because of a lack of manpower. Here are a few strategies to involve more people in the process. First, spread out the duties among the existing church staff. If you have a secretary who primarily answers phones, she could also reconcile the bank statement once a month.
The second strategy is to involve member volunteers. For members with the time, ability, and character, this is a great opportunity to serve. The treasurers in many churches are unpaid volunteers. As part of their responsibility, they could come in a couple of times a week to sign checks. It is a great way to move one of those three functions to another person.
Finally, setting up dual control of assets is vital for safeguarding the ministry. This is primarily for liquid assets such as bank accounts and undeposited cash—assets most susceptible to problems.
For bank accounts, there are a couple of ways to exercise dual control. Requiring two signatures on checks is simple. Fill out a form with your bank to require every check to have two approved signatures. Even online banking can be set up with dual controls. One person creates the transaction, and then someone else must separately authorize the transaction.
All of these practices which enhance security and accountability require a willingness to change.
Clergy Financial Resources serves as a resource for clients to help analyze the complexity of clergy tax law, church payroll & HR issues. Our professionals are committed to helping clients stay informed about tax news, developments and trends in various specialty areas.
This article is intended to provide readers with guidance in tax matters. The article does not constitute, and should not be treated as professional advice regarding the use of any particular tax technique. Every effort has been made to assure the accuracy of the information. Clergy Financial Resources and the author do not assume responsibility for any individual’s reliance upon the information provided in the article. Readers should independently verify all information before applying it to a particular fact situation, and should independently determine the impact of any particular tax planning technique. If you are seeking legal advice, you are encouraged to consult an attorney.
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