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User Acceptance Testing: A plan for successful software implementation

05.20.20

Read this if you are planning for, or are in the process of implementing a new software solution.

User Acceptance Testing (UAT) is more than just another step in the implementation of a software solution. It can verify system functionality, increase the opportunity for a successful project, and create additional training opportunities for your team to adapt to the new software quickly. Independent verification through a structured user acceptance plan is essential for a smooth transition from a development environment to a production environment. 

Verification of functionality

The primary purpose of UAT is to verify that a system is ready to go live. Much of UAT is like performing a pre-flight checklist on an aircraft. Wings... check, engines... check, tires... check. A structured approach to UAT can verify that everything is working prior to rolling out a new software system for everyone to use. 

To hold vendors accountable for their contractual obligations, we recommend an agency test each functional and technical requirement identified in the statement of work portion of their contract. 

It is also recommended that the agency verify the functional and technical requirements that the vendor replied positivity to in the RFP for the system you are implementing. 

Easing the transition to a new software

Operational change management (OCM) is a term that describes a methodology for making the switch to a new software solution. Think of implementing a new software solution like learning a new language. For some employees, the legacy software solution is the only way they know how to do their job. Like learning a new language, changing the way business and learning a new software can be a challenging and scary task. The benefits outweigh the anxiety associated with learning a new language. You can communicate with a broader group of people, and maybe even travel the world! This is also true for learning a new software solution; there are new and exciting ways to perform your job.

Throughout all organizations there will be some employees resistant to change. Getting those employees involved in UAT can help. By involving them in testing the new system and providing feedback prior to implementation, they will feel ownership and be less likely to resist the change. In our experience, some of the most resistant employees, once involved in the process, become the biggest champions of the new system.  

Training and testing for better results

On top of the OCM and verification benefits a structured UAT can accomplish, UAT can be a great training opportunity. An agency needs to be able to perform actions of the tested functionality. For example, if an agency is testing a software’s ability to import a document, then a tester needs to be trained on how to do that task. By performing this task, the tester learns how to login to the software, navigate the software, and perform tasks that the end user will be accomplishing in their daily use of the new software. 

Effective UAT and change management

We have observed agencies that have installed software that was either not fully configured or the final product was not what was expected when the project started. The only way to know that software works how you want is to test it using business-driven scenarios. BerryDunn has developed a UAT process, customizable to each client, which includes a UAT tracking tool. This process and related tool helps to ensure that we inspect each item and develop steps to resolve issues when the software doesn’t function as expected. 

We also incorporate change management into all aspects of a project and find that the UAT process is the optimal time to do so. Following established and proven approaches for change management during UAT is another opportunity to optimize implementation of a new software solution. 

By building a structured approach to UAT, you can enjoy additional benefits, as additional training and OCM benefits can make the difference between forming a positive or a negative reaction to the new software. By conducting a structured and thorough UAT, you can help your users gain confidence in the process, and increase adoption of the new software. 

Please contact the team if you have specific questions relating to your specific needs, or to see how we can help your agency validate the new system’s functionality and reduce resistance to the software. We’re here to help.   
 

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    Government
    T 207.541.2294

BerryDunn experts and consultants

Read this if you support State Medicaid Program Integrity efforts.

Recently, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) released updated guidance on how states should handle their Third Party Liability (TPL) claims and ensuring that all insurances pay prior to the State Medicaid Agency (SMA) paying any claims. Before we get into the updated guidance, let’s discuss the basics of TPL and what your SMA needs to know.

TPL Basics

There are several different types of healthcare liabilities:

  • Health insurers – Coordination of benefits and primary payers; this can be through group insurances or employer/member paid insurance.
  • Government programs – Public health programs, such as the Breast & Cervical Cancer Screening or the Vaccines for Children Program.
  • Other people or entities – Automobile insurance, product liability, or medical malpractice. The main thing to remember is that Medicaid will not pay if someone else is responsible.
  • Awards through courts or casualty/tort claims – This would be if a payment is made in a settlement, Medicaid can claim off of that award for Medicaid covered services that do not exceed what has already been paid out.

Again, the main thing to remember is Medicaid is the payer of last resort! There are few exceptions to this rule, including:

  • Indian Health Services (IHS), where Medicaid pays first and IHS covers the remaining services covered for this population.
  • Members who have Veterans Assistance (VA) coverage. Medicaid is the second payer to VA benefits except for in nursing homes and emergency treatment cases outside of VA facilities.

Agencies have data use agreements that describe how the data will be collected, transmitted, and used. But where does the data come from? 

  • Caseworkers can collect information directly from the member at the time of enrollment or re-enrollment.
  • Eligibility system(s) and the TPL vendor can access both state and federal data exchanges, which can then be shared with the Medicaid Management Information System (MMIS).
  • Medical, dental, vision, and pharmacy claims are a great source of data because this information comes from the provider who collects it from the member.
  • Data exchanges are also an important part of data gathering:
    • State Wage Information Collection Agencies (SWICA) is a state database that shows if a member or family member is employed allowing the state to inquire about additional coverage through the employers insurance.
    • Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System (DEERS) is related to members of current or former military service who have TriCare insurance coverage.
    • State Verification and Eligibility Systems (SVES) and the State Data Exchange (SDX) work together to verify tax information, employment, eligibility, etc.
      • These systems work for more than just TPL through verifying enrollment but TPL is a component. 
      • This is also where the state can reduce duplicate enrollments—having a member with enrollments in Medicaid in several states and reaping the benefits in each state.
  • Motor vehicle administration and worker’s compensation systems can verify if the claim was the result of an automobile accident or occurred on the job. Once verified in the system, an edit can be included to deny so the TPL vendor knows to go back and review the claim.
  • Payers and health plans share the information with each other and with Medicaid. This allows all payer to use the same database.

TPL checkpoints

Throughout the process of developing a claim, there are many opportunities to check TPL coverage. The member is a great source of information since who else knows more about a person, besides themselves. The member enrollment caseworker and the enrollment application can also provide a lot of information that comes directly from the member. Through Medicaid and CHIP work with the Managed Care Organizations (MCO), it is in the MCO’s best interest to ask a member about TPL coverage during each and every encounter with the member. However, it is important to remember that if TPL is involved, Medicaid is the payer of last resort; but for CHIP, if TPL is involved, typically there is no CHIP coverage. 

The TPL vendor, enrollment broker, and providers are also excellent resources for obtaining member information. The TPL vendor conducts data mining within claims to find external causes of conditions that suggest another person or entity is responsible for payment. When a member calls the enrollment broker to choose their MCO, this is an opportunity to ask the member about any TPL coverage. Finally, the providers can share valuable information that was received from the member.

Claims adjudication process

Up to this point, we have discussed the primary payer information, the accident indicator, and a work related indicator, but there are still a couple more steps in the process to discuss. Your SMA’s should set the edits within your MMIS so that the state can process payments correctly up front to reduce overpayments and the expense of recouping that money. The edits within the MMIS should be regularly reviewed to ensure they are in compliance with state policies (including state plans) and federal guidelines.

Some other areas that should be reviewed to check for TPL coverage is the member age and diagnosis codes. If the member is 65 years of age or older, Medicare should be considered as a source of coverage. Also, diagnosis codes can be an indicator of an automobile accident or injury on the job. Following each of these steps, can prevent the state from overpaying a claim or making a payment in error.

Potential TPL indicators in information received on a claim can vary. For example, CMS and dental codes use the same field names, while the uniform billing (UB) form has defined codes to identify the primary liability. 

CMS-1500     UB-04     Dental
Other Insurance Condition Code Other Insurance
Accident Date Occurrence Code Accident Date
Work Related Injury Diagnosis Code Work Related Injury
Diagnosis Codes Diagnosis Code

Data relationships

The relationship between data sources varies across programs. Medicaid feeds into and/or receives information from all data sources, including CHIP, MCOs, TPL vendor, data warehouse, federal databases, and state databases (such as department of motor vehicles and worker’s compensation). CHIP interacts with Medicaid, MCOs, TPL vendor, and the data warehouse. The TPL vendor exchanges information with Medicaid, CHIP, MCOs, data warehouse, and state databases. The MCOs have a relationship with Medicaid, CHIP, TPL vendor, and the data warehouse. Working together, these programs have access to all of the different data sources; however, sometimes the relationship is indirect and takes multiple steps to complete the transaction. This is why the sharing of data is so important!

TPL data sharing

Working together is the best way to ensure all entities have access to the same and as much information as possible. There typically needs to be a contract relationship between your SMA and all entities that send or receive data. It is a good idea for the SMA to have a data use agreement with each agency that defines how the data will be collected, transmitted, and used. The data can be transmitted in any way, as long as it is secure, and can be stored in the data warehouse which allows all entities that will use the data to have access to the same information.

MCO contracting

The MCO contract between the SMA or the CHIP Agency and the MCO requires the MCOs to conduct TPL activity. In addition, your state should consider including a finder’s keepers clause in their contract with the MCO, which allows the state to collect on overpayments that the MCO chooses not to collect. For example: the MCO can decide that it will cost more to recoup the overpayment than the money recouped so the MCO can choose not to pursue in which case the state can pursue. The state would keep all the money collected.

The contract between your SMA and TPL vendor should include the state and federal data searches as required by regulation. This contract should also include sharing of data with the MCOs that reduces the risk of duplicate expenses for the SMA and the MCOs.

TPL policy

It is key for your SMA to align all policies to both state and federal regulations but the more the policies are aligned across programs within your state, the better.

Many TPL policy references can provide all information regarding the federal regulations.

  • Title 42, Chapter IV, Subchapter C, Part 433 – State Fiscal Administration, Subpart D – Third-Party Liability
  • Medicaid Bipartisan Budget Act (BBA) of 2018, Section 53102, Third Party Liability in Medicaid and CHIP
  • Deficit Reduction Act of 2005 (DRA)
  • Coordination of Benefits and Third Party Liability (COB/TPL) in Medicaid 2020 Handbook
    • This comprehensive resource includes all of the references as well as guidance for your SMA.
  • Medicaid.gov TPL 
    • Good resource for updated information in addition to resources and guidance for states.

Now that we have covered the basics of TPL, let’s review some of the updated guidance recently released by CMS.

TPL policy changes

Medicaid BBA of 2018

  • CMS updated the pay and chase guidelines and removed some of the requirements.
    • SMAs are no longer required to pay and chase pregnancy claims. These can now be rejected up front.
  • CMS updated medical support enforcement claims payment to extend the timely filing period.
    • The timely filing period was 30 days but has now been extended up to 100 days.

DRA of 2005

  • The updated regulations clarified that third-parties include:

    • Health insurance
    • Medicare
    • Employer sponsored health insurance
    • Settlements from liability insurer
    • Workers compensation
    • Long-term care insurance
    • State and federal programs unless specifically excluded by statute
  • The updated regulations also specified that health insurers should provide the SMA with eligibility data, honor assignment of right to payment, and refrain from procedural denial of Medicaid claims.

COB/TPL in Medicaid 2020 Handbook

  • CMS updated the guidelines to include the pay and chase requirement for Medical Support Enforcement and Preventive Pediatric Services.

On August 27, 2021, CMS released guidance directing SMAs to ensure their state plans are updated and in compliance with federal guidelines by December 31, 2021. 

You can learn more about the updated guidance here

MCO claims

  • MCO encounter claims need to be in the state’s data warehouse to ensure:
    • TPL services are tracked in the data warehouse
    • TPL and MCO paid claims can be differentiated
    • All services are reported within the warehouse

Next steps

There are several things you can do to help ensure your SMA is getting the most out of your TPL data. You can review the following:

  • Medicaid, CHIP, and MCO TPL policies
  • TPL vendor business processes and policies
  • MCO contracts for TPL language
  • TPL vendor contract
  • Claim edits in the MMIS

If you have any questions, please contact our Medicaid consulting team. We're here to help.

Article
Third Party Liability claims: What state Medicaid agencies need to know

Read this if you paid wages for qualified sick and family leave in 2021.

The IRS has issued guidance to employers on year-end reporting for sick and family leave wages that were paid in 2021 to eligible employees under recent federal legislation.

IRS Notice 2021-53, issued on September 7, 2021, provides that employers must report “qualified leave wages” either on a 2021 Form W-2 or on a separate statement, including:

  • Qualified leave wages paid from January 1, 2021 through March 31, 2021 (Q1) under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), as amended by the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021 (CAA).
  • Qualified leave wages paid from April 1, 2021 through September 30, 2021 (Q2 and Q3) under the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARPA).

The notice also explains how employees who are also self-employed should report such paid leave. This guidance builds on IRS Notice 2020-54, issued in July 2020, which explained the reporting requirements for 2020 qualified leave wages.

Employers should work with their IT department and/or payroll service provider as soon as possible to review the payroll system, earnings codes configuration and W-2 mapping to ensure that these paid leave wages are captured timely and accurately for year-end W-2 reporting.

FFCRA and ARPA tax credits background

In March 2020, the FFCRA imposed a federal mandate requiring eligible employers to provide paid sick and family leave from April 1, 2020 to December 31, 2020, up to specified limits, to employees unable to work due to certain COVID-related circumstances. The FFCRA provided fully refundable tax credits to cover the cost of the mandatory leave.

In December 2020, the CAA extended the FFCRA tax credits through March 31, 2021, for paid leave that would have met the FFCRA requirements (except that the leave was optional, not mandatory). The ARPA further extended the credits for paid leave through September 30, 2021, if the leave would have met the FFCRA requirements.

In addition to employer tax credits, under the CAA, a self-employed individual may claim refundable qualified sick and family leave equivalent credits if the individual was unable to work during Q1 due to certain COVID-related circumstances. The ARPA extended the availability of the credits for self-employed individuals through September 30, 2021. However, an eligible self-employed individual may have to reduce the qualified leave equivalent credits by some (or all) of the qualified leave wages the individual received as an employee from an employer.

Reporting requirements to claim the refundable tax credits

Eligible employers who claim the refundable tax credits under the FFCRA or ARPA must separately report qualified sick and family leave wages to their employees. Employers who forgo claiming such credits are not subject to the reporting requirements.

Qualified leave wages paid in 2021 under the FFCRA and ARPA must be reported in Box 1 of the employee’s 2021 Form W-2. Qualified leave wages that are Social Security wages or Medicare wages must be included in boxes 3 and 5, respectively. To the extent the qualified leave wages are compensation subject to the Railroad Retirement Tax Act (RRTA), they must also be included in box 14 under the appropriate RRTA reporting labels.

In addition, employers must report to the employee the following types and amounts of wages that were paid, with each amount separately reported either in box 14 of the 2021 Form W-2 or on a separate statement:

  • The total amount of qualified sick leave wages paid for reasons described in paragraphs (1), (2), or (3) of Section 5102(a) of the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act (EPSLA)1  with respect to leave provided to employees during the period beginning on January 1, 2021, through March 31, 2021. The following, or similar language, must be used to label this amount: “Sick leave wages subject to the $511 per day limit paid for leave taken after December 31, 2020, and before April 1, 2021.”
  • The total amount of qualified sick leave wages paid for reasons described in paragraphs (4), (5), or (6) of Section 5102(a) of the EPSLA with respect to leave provided to employees during the period beginning on January 1, 2021, through March 31, 2021. The following, or similar language, must be used to label this amount: “Sick leave wages subject to the $200 per day limit paid for leave taken after December 31, 2020, and before April 1, 2021.”
  • The total amount of qualified family leave wages paid to the employee under the Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act (EFMLEA) with respect to leave provided to employees during the period beginning on January 1, 2021, through March 31, 2021. The following, or similar language, must be used to label this amount: “Emergency family leave wages paid for leave taken after December 31, 2020, and before April 1, 2021.”
  • The total amount of qualified sick leave wages paid for reasons described in paragraphs (1), (2), or (3) of Section 5102(a) of the EPSLA with respect to leave provided to employees during the period beginning on April 1, 2021, through September 30, 2021. The following, or similar language, must be used to label this amount: “Sick leave wages subject to the $511 per day limit paid for leave taken after March 31, 2021, and before October 1, 2021.”
  • The total amount of qualified sick leave wages paid for reasons described in paragraphs (4), (5), and (6) of Section 5102(a) of the EPSLA with respect to leave provided to employees during the period beginning on April 1, 2021, through September 30, 2021. The following, or similar language, must be used to label this amount: “Sick leave wages subject to the $200 per day limit paid for leave taken after March 31, 2021, and before October 1, 2021.”
  • The total amount of qualified family leave wages paid to the employee under the EFMLEA with respect to leave provided to employees during the period beginning on April 1, 2021, through September 30, 2021. The following, or similar language, must be used to label this amount: Emergency family leave wages paid for leave taken after March 31, 2021, and before October 1, 2021.”

If an employer chooses to provide a separate statement and the employee receives a paper 2021 Form W-2, then the statement must be included with the Form W-2 sent to the employee. If the employee receives an electronic 2021 Form W-2, then the statement must be provided in the same manner and at the same time as the Form W-2.

In addition to the above required information, the notice also suggests that employers provide additional information about qualified sick and family leave wages that explains that these wages may limit the amount of the qualified sick leave equivalent or qualified family leave equivalent credits to which the employee may be entitled with respect to any self-employment income.

For more information

If you have more questions, or have a specific question about your particular situation, please call us. We’re here to help.

 1Employees are eligible for qualified sick leave under EPSLA if the employee:

  • Was subject to a federal, state or local quarantine or isolation order related to COVID-19;
  • Had been advised by a health-care provider to self-quarantine due to concerns related to COVID-19;
  • Experienced symptoms of COVID-19 and was seeking a medical diagnosis;
  • Was caring for an individual who was subject to a quarantine order related to COVID-19, or had been advised by a health-care provider to self-quarantine due to concerns related to COVID-19;
  • Was caring for a son or daughter of such employee, if the school or place of care of the son or daughter had been closed, or the child-care provider of such son or daughter was unavailable, due to COVID-19; or
  • Was experiencing any other substantially similar condition specified by the Secretary of Health and Human Services.

Article
IRS guidance to employers: Year-end reporting requirements for qualified sick and family leave wages

Read this if you use QuickBooks online.

There are always more things to learn about the applications we use every day. Here are some tips for expanding your use of QuickBooks Online. 

We tend to fall into the same old patterns once we’ve learned how to make a computer application work for us. We learn the features we need and rarely venture beyond those unless we find we need the software or website to do more. 

QuickBooks Online is no exception. It makes its capabilities known through an understandable system of menus and icons, labeled columns and fields, and links. But do we really see what else it can do? Expanding your knowledge about what QuickBooks Online can do may help you shave some time off your accounting tasks and better manage the forms, transactions, and reports that you work with every day. Here are some tips.

Edit lines in transactions. Have you ever been almost done with a transaction and realize you need to make some changes farther up in the list of line items? Don’t delete the transaction and start over. QuickBooks Online comes with simple editing tools, including:

  • Delete a line. Click the trash can icon to the right of the line. 
  • Reorder lines. Click the icon to the left of the line, hold it, and guide it to the new position. This is tricky. You may have to work with it a bit.
  • Clear all lines and Add lines. Click the buttons below your line items, to the left.


Click the More link at the bottom of a saved transaction to see what your options are.

Explore the More menu. Saved transactions in QuickBooks Online have a link at the bottom of the screen labeled More, as pictured above. Click it, and you can Copy the transaction or Void or Delete it. You can also view the Transaction journal, which displays the behind-the-scenes accounting work, and see an Audit history, which lists any actions taken on the transaction. 

Create new tabs. Do you ever wish you could display more than one screen simultaneously so you can flip back and forth between them? You can. Right click on any link in QuickBooks Online, like Sales | Customers, and select Open link in new tab

Use keyboard shortcuts. Not everyone is a fan of these, mostly because they can’t remember them. Hold down these three keys together to see a list: Ctrl+Alt+?. Some common ones include those for invoices (Ctrl+Alt+i) and for expenses (Ctrl+Alt+x).

Modify your sales forms. Do you need more flexibility than what’s offered in your sales forms? It may be there. Click the gear icon in the upper right and select Account and settings under Your Company. Click the Sales tab. In the section labeled Sales form content, notice that you can add fields for Shipping, Discounts, and Deposits by clicking on their on/off switches. You can also add Custom fields and Custom transaction numbers.

Add attachments. Sometimes it’s helpful to have a copy of a source document when you enter a transaction. To attach a receipt to an expense, for example, look in the lower left corner of the transaction. Click Attachments and browse your system folders to find the file, then double click on it.


Record expenses made with credit cards. Who doesn’t use credit cards for expenses sometimes? You can track these purchases in QuickBooks Online, as pictured above. Click the gear icon in the upper right and select Chart of Accounts under Your Company, then click New in the upper right. Select Credit Card from the drop-down list under Account Type. Enter Owner Purchase in the Name field and then Save and Close. When you create an expense, select Owner Purchase as the Payment account

Previous Transaction Button. Are you trying to find a transaction that you entered recently but don’t want to do a full-on search? With a transaction of the same type open, click the clock icon in the top left corner. A list of Recent Expenses will drop down. Click on the one you want.

Whether you’re new to QuickBooks Online or you’ve been using it for years, there’s always more to explore. We’d be happy to help you expand your use of QuickBooks Online by introducing you to new features, building on what you’re already doing on the site to improve your overall financial management. Contact our Outsourced Accounting team to schedule some time.

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Eight QuickBooks online tips

Read this if you use QuickBooks. 

Want to break up an estimate into multiple invoices? QuickBooks Online supports progress invoicing.

If you do large, multi-part projects for customers, you may not want to wait until absolutely everything is done before you send an invoice. This can be especially problematic when you have to purchase a lot of materials for a job that will eventually be billed to the customers.

QuickBooks Online has a solution for this: progress invoicing. Once you’ve had an estimate approved, you can split it into as many pieces as you need, sending partial invoices to your customer for products and services as you provide them, rather than waiting until the project is complete. If cash flow is a problem for you, this can be a very effective solution. You might be able to take on work that you otherwise couldn’t because you’ll be getting paid periodically.

Setup Required

Progress invoicing requires some special setup steps. First, you’ll need to see whether QuickBooks Online is prepared for the task. Click the gear icon in the upper right and select Account and settings under Your Company. Click the Sales tab and scroll down to Progress Invoicing. It may just say On to the right of Create multiple partial invoices from a single estimate. If it doesn’t, click the pencil icon to the right and turn it on. Then click Save and Done.

You’ll also have to choose a different template than the one you use for standard invoices. Click the gear icon and select Custom form styles. Click New style in the upper right and then click Invoice. Enter a new name for the template to replace My INVOICE Template, like Progress Invoice. Then click Dive in with a template or Change up the template under the Design tab. Select Airy new by clicking on it. This is the only template you can use for progress invoicing.

When you’re creating a template for your progress invoices, you’ll have to select Airy new.

Now, click on Edit print settings (or When in doubt, print it out). Make sure there’s no checkmark in the box in front of Fit printed form with pay stub in window envelope or Fit to window envelope. Then click on the Content tab. You’ll see a preview of the template (grayed out) to the right. Click the pencil icon in the middle section. Select the Show more activity options link at the bottom of the screen.

If you want to Group activity by (Day, Week, Month, or Type), check that box and select your preference. Go through the other options here and check or uncheck the boxes to meet your needs. Then click Done. You’ll see your new template in the list of Custom form styles.

QuickBooks Online allows you to designate one form style as the default. This is the form that will open when you create a new invoice or estimate template. If you plan to send a lot of progress invoices, you might want to make that the default. To do this, find your new template in the list on this page and click the down arrow next to Edit in the Action column. Click Make default. If you leave your standard invoice as the default, you can always switch when you’re creating an invoice by clicking the Customize button at the bottom of the screen.

Creating a Progress Invoice


You can see what your options are for your progress invoice.

Invoice and estimate forms in QuickBooks Online are very similar. The only major difference is that estimates contain a field for Expiration date. To start the process of progress invoicing, select an estimate that you want to bill that way. Click the Sales tab and select All Sales. Find your estimate and click on Create invoice in the Action column. A window like the one in the above image will appear.

You can bill a percentage of each line item or enter a custom amount for each line.  If you choose the latter, the invoice that opens will have zeroes in the Due column. You can alter the amount due for any of these by either a percentage or an amount and/or leave them at zero if you don’t want to bill a particular product or service. Either way, the Balance due will reflect your changes. When you’ve come to the last invoice for the project, you’ll check Remaining total of all lines.

Once you’ve chosen one of these options, click Create invoice. Double-check the form and then save it. You can now treat it as any other invoice. To see a list of your progress invoices, run the Estimates & Progress Invoicing Summary by Customer report.

As you can see, there are numerous steps involved in creating progress invoices. Each has to be done with precision, so the customer is billed the exact total amount due at the end. We can help you accomplish this. We’re also available to help with any other QuickBooks Online issues you have. Contact our Outsourced Accounting team to set up a consultation.

Article
How does progress invoicing work in QuickBooks Online?

Read this if you are a plan sponsor of employee benefit plans.

This article is the ninth in a series to help employee benefit plan fiduciaries better understand their responsibilities and manage the risks of non-compliance with Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) requirements. You can read the previous articles here

Employee benefit plan loan basics 

If your plan’s adoption agreement is set up to allow loans, participants can borrow against their account balance. Some participants may find this an attractive option as the interest they pay on the loan is returned to their retirement account as opposed to other loans where the interest is paid to the lender. 

Additionally, while interest is charged at the market rate, it may be lower than other options available to the participant, such as a credit card or other unsecured debt. Unlike hardship distributions, there are no restrictions on the circumstances under which a participant may take a loan. A potential downside is that if the borrower defaults on the loan or ends their employment and cannot repay the loan in full, it converts from a loan to a deemed distribution, potentially incurring taxes and penalties.

If a participant decides that an employee benefit plan loan is their best option, they will apply for the loan through your plan administrator. Loans are limited in both size and quantity. Participants may take loans up to 50% of their vested account balance with a maximum loan of $50,000. The provisions of a plan determine how many loans an employee may have at once; however, the combined loan balances cannot exceed 50% of the employee’s vested balance or $50,000. Furthermore, the $50,000 loan maximum must also consider payments made on loans within the previous 12 months.

Repayment of employee benefit plan loans

Repayment of employee benefit plan loans may be done through after tax payroll contributions, making it a relatively easy process for the participant. If a plan sponsor elects to provide this repayment option, they must ensure that repayments are remitted to the plan in a timely manner, just as they must with other employee funded contributions. The term of the loan is typically limited to five years and must be repaid in at least quarterly installments. However, a loan can be extended to as long as thirty years if specified within the plan’s loan policy. If the loan term is for longer than five years, the loan proceeds must be used to purchase a primary residence.

Like any source of debt, there are pros and cons to taking out an employee benefit plan loan, and it remains an important option for participants to understand. The benefits include the ease of applying for such a loan and loan interest that is then added to the participant’s retirement account balance. Potential pitfalls include lost earnings during the loan period and the risk of the loan becoming a deemed distribution if the participant is unable to repay within the allotted time. 

If you would like more information, or have specific questions about your specific situation, please contact our Employee Benefits Audit team.

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Retirement plan loans: A brief review

Read this if you have a blended workforce with both in-office employees and remote workers.

It is hard to believe it has been nearly a year and a half since we started our remote work journey. At the time, many thought the move to working remotely would be short term. Then, a couple of weeks turned into a month, a month into another month, another month into a year and, some employers are now finally considering re-opening their offices.

Back in April 2020, we provided some internal control challenges, and potential solutions, faced by working in a remote environment. These challenges included exercising appropriate tone at the top, maintaining appropriate segregation of duties, and ensuring timely review, amongst others. Although these challenges still exist, there are new considerations to address as we transition into (hopefully) a post-pandemic world.

Blended workforces

As we mentioned in that article, since people have now been forced to work in a remote environment, they will be more apt to continue to do so. For some employees, the perks of ditching that long commute outweighs the free coffee they receive in the office. Employers have a decision to make—do we allow our employees the option to continue to work from home or, do we require employees to work from the office, as was standard pre-pandemic? Now that employees have exhibited the ability to work from home efficiently and effectively, it may be difficult to move all employees back into the office. Requiring all employees to return to the office could result in employees seeking employment elsewhere, and the option to work remotely is a selling point for many recruiters. Furthermore, disallowing remote work could cause employees to feel distrusted or undervalued, possibly leading to less efficient and effective work.

However, remote work comes with many challenges. Although video chat has been instrumental in navigating the remote work environment, it still has limitations. Nothing can beat in-person conversations and the relationships they help build. Nearly every video chat has a purpose, and unfortunately, you can’t just “run” into somebody in a video chat as you can in the office. Building camaraderie and instilling your company’s culture is difficult in a remote environment. And, if your workforce is blended, with some working in the office while others work remotely, building culture may be even more difficult than if your entire workforce was remote. Employees in the office may be less apt to communicate with remote colleagues. If you have a task you wish to delegate, you may think of giving the assignment to someone in the office prior to thinking of your remote co-workers that may be just as able and willing to complete the assignment. It will be important to ensure all employees are provided with equal opportunities, no matter of where they work.

Remote work policy

Regardless of your company’s decision to allow employees to work remotely or not, we recommend developing a remote work policy addressing expected behaviors. When developing such a policy, consider:

  •  Will the policy’s provisions apply to the entire company or will there be different provisions by department? If the latter, consider what the implications may be on employee morale.
  • Will there be a minimum amount of days per week that must be spent in the office?
  • If employees are allowed to work remotely, do they need to work a set schedule or can the frequency, and which days they work remotely, change from week to week?
  • Who should the employee communicate their decision to? How will this information then be shared company-wide?
  • How do remote employees address document destruction? If they are handling sensitive and confidential documents, how should they dispose of these documents?
  • Similarly, what are the expectations for protecting sensitive and confidential information at home?
  • Are employees allowed to hook up company-provided equipment to personal devices, such as personal printers?
  • If an employee is customer/client facing, what are the expectations for dress code and backgrounds for video chat meetings?
  • What will staff development look like for individuals working remotely? Alternatively, what will their involvement look like in onboarding/developing new employees?
  • What are the expectations for meetings? Will all meetings be set up in a manner that accommodates in-person and remote attendees? Are there meetings where in-person attendance is mandatory?

The importance of these considerations will likely differ from company to company. Some of these considerations may be addressed in other, already existing policies.

Are your internal controls “blended workforce” ready?

If your company plans to allow employees to work remotely, you will need to assess if your internal controls make sense for both in-office and remote employees. Typically, internal controls are written in a manner irrespective of where the employee resides. However, there may be situations that require an internal control be re-worked to accommodate in-office and remote employees. For instance, do you have an internal control that references a specific report that can only be run in-office? If the control owner plans to transition to a hybrid work schedule, does the frequency of the internal control need to change to reflect the employee’s new schedule? Alternatively, does it make sense to transition this internal control to someone else that will be in the office more frequently?

Internal control accommodations

The transition to a remote environment was expeditious and many thought the remote environment would be over quickly. As a result, there may have been modifications to internal controls that were made out of necessity, although they were not ideal from an internal control standpoint. The rationale for these accommodations may have been the expectation that the remote environment would be short-lived. Although these accommodations may have made sense for a short amount of time, and posed little to no additional risk to your company, the longer these accommodations remained in effect, the greater the chance for unintended consequences. 

We recommend reviewing your internal controls and creating a log of any internal control accommodations that were made due to the pandemic. Some of these modifications may continue to make sense and, after operating under the new internal control for an extended period of time, may even be preferable to the previous internal control. However, for those modifications that do appear to have increased control risk, control owners should assess if the length of the pandemic could have resulted in inadequately designed internal controls. And, if so, what could the consequences of these poorly designed internal controls have been to the company?

Internal control vs. process

While reviewing your company’s internal controls, it will also be a good time to ensure your internal control descriptions actually describe an internal control rather than simply a process. Although having well-documented processes for your company’s various transaction cycles is important, a good internal control description should already incorporate the process within it. Think of your internal control descriptions as writing a story—the “process” provides background information on the characters and setting, while the “internal control” is the story’s plot.

For example: The Accounting Manager downloads the market values from the investment portfolio accounting system and enters the market values into the general ledger on a monthly basis. Once the journal entry is entered, the Accounting Manager provides the market value report and a copy of the journal entry to the Controller.

Although a savvy reader may be able to identify where the internal control points are within this process, it could easily be modified to explicitly include discussion of the actual internal controls. The text in bold below represents modifications to the original:

The Accounting Manager downloads the market values from the investment portfolio accounting system and enters the market values into the general ledger on a monthly basis. Once the journal entry is entered, the Accounting Manager provides the market value report and a copy of the journal entry to the Controller via email. This email serves as documentation of preparation of the journal entry by the Accounting Manager. The Controller then reviews the market value report against the journal entry for accuracy. Once approved, the Controller posts the journal entry and replies to the email to indicate their review and approval. The Accounting Manager saves the email chain as auditable evidence.

The text additions in bold font help provide a complete story. A new employee could easily read this description and understand what they need to do, and how to appropriately document it. Most importantly, the internal control is both in-office and remote environment friendly.

Transitioning back to the office has resulted in a mixture of excitement and anxiety. Routine office norms, such as shaking hands and having a spontaneous meeting over a cup of coffee need to be relearned. Likewise, policies and internal controls need to be revisited to address the changing landscape. The more proactive your company can be, the better positioned it will be to accommodate its employees’ demands, while also maximizing the effectiveness of its internal controls. Please contact David Stone or Dan Vogt if any questions arise.

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May the "blended workforce be with you": Policy and internal control considerations for a new era

Read this if you are an organization that received federal funding subject to the Uniform Guidance. 

We are excited to announce the OMB released the 2021 Compliance Supplement late last week. This long-awaited release is effective for audits of fiscal years beginning after June 30, 2020 and supersedes the 2020 supplement and subsequent addendum. We are continuing to evaluate the changes to the supplement, but a few things to note from our early look:

  • There will be an addendum to this supplement, to address certain COVID-related relief funding with changing regulations that were not in place in time for this supplement. 
  • Good news for higher education: Part 4 of the supplement related to the Higher Education Emergency Relief Funds (within assistance listing 84.425, section 2) is not expected to be amended by the addendum.
  • The supplement is making the formal shift away from the “Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance” (or CFDA) language to the term “Assistance Listing” in describing the number used for each program.
  • To evaluate the changes in the supplement from the prior year, consider checking out the Matrix of Compliance Requirements in Part 2 and Appendix V.

The timing for the release of the anticipated addendum has not yet been confirmed, but your audit teams are excited to get started with the new supplement. If you have any questions or need help making sense of it all, contact our Single Audit team. We’re here to help.

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OMB 2021 compliance supplement released

Read this if you are a plan sponsor of employee benefit plans.

This article is the eighth in a series to help employee benefit plan fiduciaries better understand their responsibilities and manage the risks of non-compliance with Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) requirements. You can read the previous articles here

The Department of Labor regulations regarding service provider fee disclosures clarify that plan fiduciaries are responsible for assessing the reasonableness of fees charged to plans in relation to services performed. 

Before a plan fiduciary is able to assess the reasonableness of plan fees, the fiduciary has to receive required fee disclosures from their covered service provider. A covered service provider is considered a party that enters into an agreement with a covered plan to provide certain services. The range of services provided generally include recordkeeping services, investment adviser services, accounting services, auditing services, actuarial services, appraisals, banking, consulting, legal services, third party administration services, or valuation services provided to the plan.

In general, the covered service providers are required to provide the plan fiduciary a disclosure of the following information:

  • All expected services and fees, and
  • All direct and indirect compensation
    • Direct compensation are fees paid to the service providers from the plan
    • Indirect compensation are fees paid to the service providers from sources other than the plan, the plan sponsor, the covered service provider, or an affiliate 

Once the service provider fee disclosures are received, the responsible plan fiduciary must assess the reasonableness of the fees in relation to the services provided. There are numerous ways a plan fiduciary can determine if the fees are reasonable. The following are some of the most common ways to determine if the plan expenses are reasonable:

  • Complete a Request for Proposal (RFP) or Request for Information (RFI) process that compares at least two vendors.
  • Complete a plan “benchmarking” project. The responsible plan fiduciary can have an independent organization compare the fees charged to the plan to plans of similar size and characteristics. Failure to determine the reasonableness of the fees charged can result in a prohibited transaction. The responsible plan fiduciary should determine and document whether the fees are reasonable. Documentation should also include the steps taken to make this determination.

It is important to remember that failure to assess the reasonableness of the service provider fees can result in a prohibited transaction. Documentation of the assessment process, including steps taken to make a determination on fee reasonableness, is the best way to avoid having a prohibited transaction.

If you have any questions while assessing your service providers’ fees, please contact our Employee Benefits Audit team.
 

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Service provider fee disclosures: Understanding the process