Food for thought: Financial data accuracy and your annual report

Apr 13, 2022

You've heard the old adage that good food comes from quality ingredients. The same could be said about your government's annual report: it's only as good as the data that goes into it. As you prepare to file your annual report this year, remember that there are many consumers of your financial data and its accuracy is important.

Bad data can be hard to swallow

Poor-quality financial data comes in many forms. Errors and omissions are obvious examples, but using inconsistent Budgeting, Accounting and Reporting System (BARS) accounts can also lead to less reliable data. It's important that data quality is not a secondary objective to filing your reports on time.

We know you have a lot on your plate, so we created a checklist to help you quickly identify common data issues and boost your confidence in the data you submit in your annual report. If you want to learn more about the types of data issues we see, check out this blog post from August 2021.

It's worth your salt to use our Data Quality Checklist

Answering the questions posed in the Data Quality Checklist lets you see how the public views your data in our Financial Intelligence Tool (FIT). If you're a government that files using the cash basis accounting method, FIT mirrors how your financial statements are presented. Don't worry, GAAP governments, the checklist has a specific section just for you that asks you to compare certain accounts to your basic financial statements.

Check it twice

First, use the checklist before you file by comparing this year's data to your last year's data in FIT. Your current year's annual report builds on what you reported last year. This may include the BARS accounts you selected, the funds you reported and more. Plus, you can correct an error from a previous year so you don't carry it over to your current submission.

Next, use the checklist after you submit your fiscal year 2021 annual report. BARS includes a requirement to resubmit corrected annual report data if issues are identified after you submit. This checklist can help you identify possible data quality issues and correct them prior to your next audit.

From soup to nuts: Other tools to help you prepare your annual report

SAO offers other tools to help with your year-end process for reviewing financial statements, notes and supplemental schedules.

Have questions about your annual report or need to make corrections? Contact SAO at or via the SAO HelpDesk.