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Financial statement fraud, integrity of financial information continue to be front-burner issues.

Last year's financial failures highlighted some of the more egregious examples of corporate fraud. But they also brought to mind another concern: aggressive accounting. The entrepreneurial spirit of many fast-growing companies of the 1990s led some of them to use aggressive accounting, but in some cases, these methods clearly crossed the line. The result has been damaging, not just to the companies themselves but to the accounting profession, investors and the American economy.

In its continuing efforts to combat fraud, the AICPA is sponsoring a series of Webcasts to explore the difference between aggressive accounting and financial fraud (see "Fraud Webcast Series"). One issue to be discussed is improper revenue recognition, which accounts for roughly half of all financial statement fraud. Following are several of the more significant revenue recognition issues, some of which were discussed by Securities and Exchange Commission staff at the AICPA's recent SEC Conference.

* Recognizing revenue prematurely. Revenue generally should be recognized when title and risk of ownership have passed. Common fraud techniques include certain "channel stuffing" (for example, shipping inventory in excess of orders, or providing special incentives to customers to purchase more inventory than is now needed, in exchange for future discounts and other benefits), reporting revenue after goods are ordered but before they are shipped, improper year-end cutoff procedures, reporting revenue when significant services are still to be performed or goods delivered, and improper use of the percentage-of-completion method.

* Recognizing revenue that may not be earned. Common fraud techniques include reporting sales for bill and hold transactions, consignment sales and sales subject to other contingencies, sales with guarantees against losses and right of return, sales coupled with future purchase discounts or credits, and other side agreements that affect the substance of the transaction.

* Reporting sales to fictitious or nonexistent customers. This may include falsified shipping and inventory records.

* Sales to related parties in excess of market value.

* In exchanges of non-monetary assets, reporting revenue in connection with exchanges of certain similar non-monetary assets, such as indefeasible right to use (IRU) capacity swaps consisting of exchanges of leases, with no business purpose, and reporting exchanges of non-monetary assets at inflated fair values.

* Reporting peripheral or incidental transactions, such as certain nonrecurring gains, as sales revenue.

The AICPA urges its members in both public practice and industry to be mindful of these revenue recognition issues in carrying out their professional responsibilities, including performing their duties in accordance with generally accepted auditing standards (such as SAS No. 99) and complying with the Sarbanes-Oxley Act. Members should refer to the AICPA's new Antifraud and Corporate Responsibility Resource Center at, where they will find links to practice aids and additional fraud prevention information.

RELATED ARTICLE: Fraud Webcast Series.

To help CPAs in their fraud prevention efforts, the AICPA is developing a four-part Webcast series exploring how aggressive accounting issues can cross over into fraud. Planned for Apr.-July, topics include:

* Revenue Recognition: The Games People Play, covering such issues as channel stuffing and fictitious entries.

* The Games Continue: Expenses, Liabilities, Valuation and Journal Entries

* Stopping the Game: How to Set Up Fraud Prevention Programs and Controls

* In-Depth Study of New SAS 99 Requirements, discussing interview and brainstorming techniques, professional skepticism, tests of journal entries, and risks of management override.

For more information about these Webcasts, visit the AICPA's antifraud resource center at Participants will receive free fraud-related resources.

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Title Annotation:American Institute of Certified Public Accountants webcast series
Publication:CPA Letter
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Feb 1, 2003
Previous Article:Special Committee on State Regulation established.
Next Article:SEC proposals on auditor independence, non-audit services affect tax practitioners.

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