7 FEC Reporting Errors to Avoid

August 8, 2016 | Vicky Schumacher

Whether you’ve been filing reports for years or dealing with the FEC for the first time, the crucial role that filing software plays in making sure the numbers always come out right (and you get to go home on time) is clear.

We asked Vicky Schumacher, NGP VAN compliance pro, for some tips on how to avoid the most common, annoying filing pitfalls + the ways that you can leverage NGP into an advantage at reporting time.

Filing new reports before past amendments

The first rule to a successful filing: always, always, always amend past reports once you recognize an error and before filing a new report.

Why is this so important? Because, as all finance and compliance professionals can attest, amendments are the worst and, with every report you file without correcting an error, you’ll have increasingly more opportunities to make a mistake, which will (of course) require further amendments.

NGP Pro Tip: Use NGP’s Disclosure Center to easily view + amend previous reports so you can avoid more errors in the amendment process.

Failing to reconcile

Plain + simple: reconcile early and often, and always keep a backup record of transactions.

The biggest source of reconciliation woes is credit card vendors that don’t sync:

  • Credit card vendors don’t care about the difference between contribution dates + when funds hit your PAC’s bank account. Thankfully, NGP credit card contributions hit the bank quickly with handy transaction ID numbers to help identify issues when they arise.
  • Without a batch management structure, one little mistake can mean massive frustration when it’s time to reconcile. Your reporting software should allow you to easily batch, organize, and lock deposit batches.

Knowing which deposits are pending or which checks are outstanding can prevent the headache of realizing that your numbers don’t match right before a filing.

Forgetting your password and losing access to the FECFile database

The person responsible for filing at the end of each reporting period is likely the only one who:

  1. understands how to file the reports and/or use the software,
  2. receives the bank statements + reconciliations delivered monthly,
  3. has the .dcf file saved on their computer (FECFile databases are still saved on individual machines), and
  4. has the filing password scribbled in some notebook somewhere.

But, if for some reason that person is unavailable, there should be someone else on your team that is also trained on your software who can step in + file in time for the deadline because, as we all know, the FEC doesn’t give extensions. Period.

NGP Pro Tip: Use NGP’s password saving function to store your FECFile password. That way your team members will be able to access the system in the case of unexpected absences due to illness, personal emergency, or simple bad luck.

Forgetting to de-dupe your records

Charles Smith and Chuck Smith are the same person and live at the same address – and if you don’t adjust your records to reflect that, you’re in trouble. Keep an eye out for duplicate contributors like these in your database, which will greatly impact your year-to-date figures.

Be sure to address the potential duplicate records regularly (NGP users can find them flagged on their Dashboard). That way you can prevent a frantic scramble to de-dupe your records at the last minute when it comes time to file.

NGP Pro Tip: NGP uses a clever algorithm for finding them, and deduping them. Were it not for this feature, the FEC might catch these oversights for you, and then there might be a Request for Additional Information (RFAI) coming your way… not good.

Losing track of contribution limits

If properly set up, NGP will let you know when someone has exceeded their contribution limits, or if you have exceeded your contribution limits to an organization.

Make sure you’re properly set up and aware of these limits – don’t wait until just before filing to look for these excesses! Your reports will be cleaner and easier to manage (not to mention more compliant) if you are able to issue any necessary refunds during the same filing period the excess funds were received.

Waiting until the deadline to file

For some cosmic reason, filing deadline days are also days when life’s unexpected emergencies come up: a sick child, internet connectivity issues, a last-minute fire to put out, etc.

Instead of getting stressed out, plan to file at least 5-10 days before the deadline. If you’re waiting until the due date to file for strategic reasons, it’s still a good idea to have the filing prepared well ahead of time.

Run a copy of your report as soon as possible after the data from the previous period is entered. The FEC’s native validation process will catch some mistakes you might not have noticed (missing dates, addresses, etc.), and NGP will add an additional layer of validation for other issues such as too many missing employer/occupation data points etc.

Trying to get hold of support at the last minute

Another reason to avoid filing close to the deadline is simply the fact that many people do + that could mean a long wait on hold for customer service.

Before major filing deadlines, NGP VAN will send you an email with details of our extended filing hours. We’re always around to help – but if you’re worried about stress and last minute issues, get started early so we can help you through the process!

All GIFs courtesy of GIPHY