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Audit of primary accounting documents: What is the importance of evaluating "primary" documents for a company?

Publication date/update: 10.02.2024
Primary documents are essential for maintaining accounting records and determining the amount of tax payments. The foundation of any accounting operation lies in one or a set of such documents. The quality of accounting as a whole depends on the correctness of their preparation and accuracy. Audit of primary documents helps to identify and avoid errors. We will tell you everything you need to know about these activities.

Composition of primary accounting documents

The primary accounting document is any paper that serves as the basis for accounting entries, revenue or expense recognition in tax accounting. According to the "Accounting Law," each primary document must contain seven mandatory requisites, including the title, date of issuance, company name, reflected facts, monetary (or non-monetary) measurement, stamp, and signatures of the parties, as well as their details.

It is important to note that if one primary document contains several business facts, all of them should be presented. If a document is based on another, it should refer to that document.

It should be emphasized that the absence of primary documents significantly distorts accounting data, so the importance of these documents is sometimes underestimated.

Among the types of primary documents, the following can be distinguished:
  • 1
    Free-form primary documents. Article 9 of the "Accounting Law" does not restrict companies in compiling accounting reports in any convenient form. However, the forms must contain mandatory elements such as document title, date of creation, nature of the transaction, stamp, and signature.
  • 2
    Regulated document forms. In this case, business papers must be drawn up in accordance with all accounting rules. This applies to cash and bank documents, as well as invoices.
All accounting documents are checked before they are submitted to the financial department. It is important that each "primary" form is certified by the signature and seal of the head of one of the company's departments. Before such certification, it is important to verify the correctness of the form completion. This can be done by an employee with the appropriate competencies. The person who signs the document will be responsible for the facts described in it.

However, a more detailed check of the documentation is carried out upon its receipt by the accounting department. Initially, the documents are checked for data compliance. Then it is important to clarify that the documents are drawn up in accordance with all legal requirements. Control is important because not all primary documents are drawn up by accountants or lawyers, which increases the risks of incorrect calculation of the tax base and receiving penalties from regulatory authorities.

As for the main requirements, compliance is important not only with legislation but also with internal regulations, as well as the economic expediency of the documents. In case of any errors found, the document cannot be accounted for. In this case, the accounting employee must inform the company's director about the questionable or incorrectly completed operation, who will issue a written instruction regarding the fate of the document. Thus, the accountant removes responsibility during tax audits of the company.

If there are no suspicions that the document will be problematic, it is only checked for correctness. It is important that it corresponds to all approved forms. As for the documents developed by the company itself, during the verification, it is important to rely on Article 9 of the "Accounting Law."

Verification of financial data is carried out immediately before the "primary" document is accepted for accounting. Uniform types of primary documents should be grouped and entered into accounting registers. It is important to check the total for each form and for transactions as a whole.

It is important to note that control is maintained even after the "primary" document is accepted for accounting. This is precisely the verification conducted by audit firms - external organizations that formulate an independent opinion. An auditor has the right to check business papers, the term of which covers the period three years preceding the date of verification.

What is included in the primary accounting documentation?
  • 1
    Contract with the counterparty (contract).
  • 2
  • 3
    Payment order.
  • 4
    Cash receipt.
  • 5
    Strict reporting form.
  • 6
    Act of completed work/rendered services.
  • 7

How to work with primary accounting documents?

As it became clear above, working with primary documents requires special care and attention. When drafting and before signing, an employee or another person must:
  • 1
    Specify all necessary details.
  • 2
    Prepare the document in Russian. If the nature of the transaction or service requires a foreign language, the "primary" document must be translated into Russian. This is a mandatory requirement prescribed by the Ministry of Finance. The document can be translated by any person in the company who has the necessary competencies. If working with foreign citizens (LLC), it is preferable to receive primary documents from them in a standard form. In this case, the work will be reduced to translating one standard form. In the future, translating will become easier.
  • 3
    Prepare documentation on paper or in electronic format in compliance with all rules and standards. If it is an electronic document, it is important to have an electronic seal and the signature of an authorized person. If the company is unable to create and store documentation in electronic form, it is necessary to conduct document flow on paper.
  • 4
    Establish all norms and forms of the company's blanks on paper.
  • 5
    Complete the "primary" document at the time of the transaction or immediately after.

Audit of primary documents: What you need to know

It is important to entrust the audit of primary accounting documents to a professional auditing company. Specialists will be able to check the document flow for inaccuracies and correct any errors found.

To organize and conduct the audit, it is necessary to apply various tools that will ultimately facilitate control and improve the quality of services provided.

Working with primary documents is organized in such a way that the work is centered around checking the registration of documents in the accounting records. This is important to avoid losing business papers during the audit. Overall, the audit consists of several stages:
  • 1
    Preparation for the audit. At this stage, the specialist gathers information about the company, its activities, and the employees of the accounting department.
  • 2
    Document acceptance. It is important to compile a list of papers that are subject to inspection.
  • 3
    Analysis and processing of documents. The auditor reconciles the data and checks the papers for compliance with legislation.
  • 4
    Drawing conclusions and writing the conclusion of the audit. It reflects possible errors and risks of fines. Additionally, the auditor must provide recommendations to prevent contentious situations in the future.
Auditors recommend creating and adhering to a document flow schedule. It will allow for efficient management of a large volume of documentation. It can be formalized and approved as one of the appendices to the accounting policy. For each type of primary document, a responsible person is appointed who is responsible for:
  • 1
    Document preparation and the deadline for its preparation.
  • 2
    The number of document copies.
  • 3
    Document verification and compliance with verification deadlines.
  • 4
    Processing of business papers and compliance with processing deadlines.
  • 5
    Document archiving and transfer deadlines.
It is important to note that auditors document all inaccuracies, errors, and instances of document forgery found. A detailed report on all findings is created at the end of the audit.

Adhering to such an approach will allow the company to be confident that the employees of the accounting department are correctly managing the accounting processes.

Most common errors in primary documents

If an employee makes a mistake when filling out documents, it should be corrected in the same document. It is not allowed to correct inaccuracies in cash documents such as checks or orders. This rule is stipulated in the Bank of Russia's Guidelines "On the Procedure for Cash Operations..." dated March 11, 2014. In case of discovering an error, such a document should be reissued.

Regarding the rules of correction, the following can be said:
  • 1
    In electronic form, corrections can only be made by creating a new document. It is important to note that it is created to replace the previous one.
  • 2
    In paper documents, corrections are made by crossing out incorrect data and making corrections. Then it is necessary to add the inscription "Corrected". It is important to make corrections carefully and without new errors. It is not allowed to erase, cover, or otherwise hide inscriptions.
All corrections must contain the date of correction, the full name of the authorized person who made the corrections, and their signature (either personal or electronic).

It should be noted that if the document reflects bilateral settlements (such as an invoice), the corrected version is also sent to the counterparty after the corrections are made.

If a document with inaccuracies has already been accepted for accounting, the following options for correcting the accounting can be considered:
  • 1
    An additional entry for the lesser amount than required.
  • 2
    Reversal of the entry and input of the correct transaction.
  • 3
    Making changes to the reporting if the entry with incorrect data was made long ago.
The final measures depend on the significance of the error and the incorrectly entered amount.

Responsibility for errors in primary documents

Despite the fact that primary documents may be signed by an accountant or another employee, the responsibility for the accuracy of the data and filling lies with the company's manager. First and foremost, the director should be aware of the nuances of the legislation and ensure their compliance.

For the absence of a primary document, the director may receive a fine of 10,000 rubles. For repeated violations, the fine increases to 30,000 rubles.

If an error in the primary document leads to understating the tax base, the fine will be 20% of the underpaid tax amount, but not less than 40,000 rubles.

Accountants or other ordinary employees practically do not receive such fines except in cases where their malicious intent is proven, including actions with documents to conceal embezzlement.

Can errors be avoided when filling out documentation?

To prepare a primary document and reflect it in accounting without errors, it is important to know several nuances or have good work experience. However, inaccuracies can arise at any stage. To avoid them, you can use specialized automated accounting programs or outsource accounting to professional auditing companies.
DVP | Moscow
ООО „Dr. Voigt & Partner"
Duchovskoy per. 17/10, 115191 Moscow, Russia
+7 495 690 92 62

DVP | Hamburg
DVP Audit GmbH Wirtschaftsprüfungsgesellschaft
Erik-Blumenfeld-Platz 27 b, 22587 Hamburg, Germany
Tel. +49 40 866 6740 Fax +49 40 866 67444