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Accounting Best Practices, Fifth Edition by Steven M. Bragg Englewood, Colorado

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5–17. Preload Budget Line Items

The traditional way to create budgets at the department level is to send each department manager a copy of the year-to-date department financials, and a blank budget form for the next year, with a detailed procedure for how to fill out the budget form for every line item in the department’s budget. By doing so, department managers are taken away from their operational duties for an extended period of time, while they read through the procedure and make a series of educated guesses about what their revenues and expenses will be for the upcoming year. The considerable amount of time taken up by budgeting activities is one of the main reasons why the budgeting cycle is roundly detested by many managers.

This level of aversion can be mitigated by having the accounting staff preload many of the budget line items. Most expenses are relatively fixed from year to year, or are easily linked to key drivers, such as head count. Consequently, the accounting staff can probably arrive at more accurate budget numbers than a department manager for most line items. This approach leaves only a few of the larger and more variable accounts for managers to enter in the budget form. In some cases where a department is anticipating no major changes for the next budget year, it may even be possible for the accounting staff to create the entire department budget, so the department manager only has to make revisions to it. However, total preloading tends to shift responsibility ...

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