Understanding the Representation Letter
Written by David T. Schwindt, CPA
What is a Representation Letter?
As a Board member or manager of a community management company, you may be asked to sign a representation letter at the conclusion of an audit or a reviewed financial statement engagement. Although the letter is from the Association/management company to the CPA, the CPA will generally draft the letter on behalf of the Association. The letter includes certain assertions about the Association during the period covered by the financial statements. Those assertions include but are not limited to the following:
- The Association/management company has provided the CPA with all requested financial information.
- The Association/management company has disclosed all related party transactions.
- The Association/management company has disclosed all existing and potential litigation.
- The Association/management company has disclosed any knowledge of fraud or financial irregularities.
- The Association takes responsibility for the design and implementation of a system of internal controls. These controls include but are not limited to safeguarding assets, approving transactions and minimizing the risk of someone perpetrating a theft of money or information and not being discovered in a reasonable amount of time. Although the Board is ultimately responsible for this activity, it is common that Boards rely upon the management company to assist in this responsibility.
In some instances, the management company may sign a different representation letter because the responsibilities are slightly different.
Why is the Representation Letter necessary?
The American Institute of Certified Public Accounts has determined that those charged with governance (the board of directors and the community management company) should take responsibility for the assertions in the representation letter. CPAs are mandated to obtain the signed representation letter before issuing the final financial statements.
Who should sign the representation letter?
Most often, the Board Chair, Board Treasurer and community manager signs the letter.
When does the Representation Letter need to be signed?
The letter needs to be signed at the end of the engagement generally after a draft of the financial statements are issued. Schwindt & Co combines the representation letter with the management letter comments and proposed adjusting journal entries for ease of review. When the signed document is received by our office, we are then able to issue the final financial statements.
Should a new Board member or community manager who was not involved with Association management or governance during the period under audit or review be hesitant about signing the representation letter?
This is a common question and the answer is simple. No! The first paragraph of the representation states that whoever signs the letter does so based on the best knowledge and belief of the person signing. This means that even though you may be new to the Board or management company, it is perfectly fine to sign the letter because you will only be asserting to issues that you have knowledge. It is very common for Board members/managers to sign a representation letter even though they were not involved during the period being audited or reviewed.
- Representation letters are normal and required before the issuance of audited/reviewed financial statements.
- Board members are only asserting to issues that they are aware of and new board members and managers frequently are required to sign representation letters.
- The Board Chair, Board Treasurer and community manager are generally required to sign the representation letter.
Questions regarding this article may be directed to David T. Schwindt, CPA at Schwindt & Co. (503) 227-1165.