Construction accounting exists to provide two key financial points of information to contractors and the management team of a construction company. The first and most important financial point is field production profit. This particular profit measurement is commonly referred to as job profits. It is essential contract revenue less direct (hard) costs of construction. The secondary and almost as important as the primary key financial point is the company’s net profit after taxes. This particular key financial point is the customary financial profit of the company. The first financial point is tied to job costing and therefore, construction accounting is comprised of two different accounting systems. The two systems are job costing and traditional financial GAAP (Generally Accepted Accounting Principles) reporting.
A type of accounting used to identify costs associated with the physical costs of building residential homes or additions. Construction accounting utilizes either the completed contract or the percentage of completion to accurately report financial results.
Financial success in construction is tied directly to job costing. Without job cost accounting, financial wellness is likely a product of coincidence than authority within this industry. Implementing job costing in construction is the absolute best financial control a contractor can do to ensure success. Tie cost accounting to the estimating process, and prosperity is all but certain. Rarely does any contractor fail when they implement job cost accounting.
Estimates are a controlling tool to guide the construction management team towards improved profitability. Estimates by themselves do not generate profits; actual performance creates profitability for the contractor. Estimates act as the technical manual for the project. Once the project is completed, the contractor must compare the actual results against the estimate’s values. In effect, the financial outcomes are evaluated against the originally estimated hard costs. The information gleamed from this evaluation educates the construction management team with what works and any failures. Then end goal, identify poor performance. It is then up to the management team as to how to properly address this issue eliminating this type of mistake in future work. The long-term results are improved profits, higher quality performance, improved customer satisfaction and most importantly, the esprit de corps that comes with team success.
The best internal control tool to maximize profit in construction is an estimate. Estimates act similar to a dashboard of critical information necessary to evaluate overall performance. In insolation, they serve the purpose of determining the minimum core price to charge the customer in order to deliver enough contribution margin to offset that project’s share of indirect and overhead costs. Any value in excess of this core price adds to the company’s bottom line. If properly set up, administered, monitored and evaluated upon completion; estimates are a critical element of the accounting feedback loop. This one internal control tool delivers more value to owners and management in construction than any other control device.
‘Billings in excess’ is a construction industry financial term referring to the dollar value of charges to customers in excess of the costs and profits earned to date. It is reported on the balance sheet in the current liabilities section. It is in effect, the dollar value the contractor owes back to the customer for incomplete work.
For financial purposes, this amount is important for the contractor to understand. It is a contractual dollar value owed. If not monitored and addressed, financial backers (banks and investors) and the bonding agency may withdraw their support forcing the company into bankruptcy. Therefore, it is important to understand how the amount is calculated, monitored and resolved.
If you are a contractor or the accountant, you must learn how to calculate this value, report the amount and control its financial impact. The following sections educates the reader by first explaining what the term means and how it is calculated. The next section illustrates how the accountant enters the value into the books of record along with reporting systems. Finally, this article offers some advice with tools to control and maintain a reasonable dollar value for a contractor.
A common problem for contractors is setting up item codes in their accounting software. Most accountants and bookkeepers fail to fully understand the concepts behind item codes and how it works with the construction industry. This article is designed to explain to you the underlying concepts and how to set up item codes for contractors.
The contractor’s chart of accounts is significantly different than the traditional chart of accounts. First off, the layout is more dependent on the balance sheet than the income statement (profit and loss) accounts. Furthermore, the income statement accounts are laid out to present a resource based costing presentation than a job costing format. To add another layer of complexity, the chart of accounts is somewhat oriented to the method of accounting selected by the contractor.
In the construction industry, remodelers face a different set of criteria than your traditional new home builder. Because of these issues the markup percentage on costs is generally much higher than other forms of construction. If you are a remodeler, you need to understand the impact of these issues and how to properly markup your job to cover all your indirect and overhead costs.