The FP&A Checklist for Period-End Closing

  • By Bryan Lapidus and FP&A Advisory Councils
  • Published: 5/9/2024

Period End Close Article HeaderThe FP&A calendar is governed by period-end closing. Months, quarters and year-end closes provide the cadence and rhythm to our work. They drive planning periods with budgets, forecasts and performance management with variance analysis, and they deliver performance results that become the raw materials for our insights.

AFP’s three global FP&A advisory councils studied the varying practices of period-end closing, and, unsurprisingly, there is no single best standard process that can be applied to all processes. For example, some FP&A teams take no action until the books are closed; others provide feedback to accounting before, during and after the close. Some FP&A practitioners make journal entries into the general ledger; others leave all that to accounting.

The best process is the one that is most effective for your finance team to deliver value to the business. That looks different for companies of various sizes, maturities and ownership types (public vs private vs governmental). It also looks different depending on the interactions between FP&A and accounting — and even your role within FP&A. For example, a Senior Financial Analyst at a large company said:

“FP&A’s role in the close depends on your position within FP&A. In a previous role, I had monthly meetings with our business leaders, and I was very involved in the monthly close. I had close trackers and a journal entry checklist; I was checking my prepaid and balance sheet accounts, making sure that I was making the correct reclass and journal entries, all happening in the first three to five days of the month. Now, in my current role on the reporting side of the process, I'm more focused on getting information from the finance teams and consolidating reporting up to our CFO and CEO. I wait until the other teams finish closing the month and then I'm jumping in and pulling reports, getting information.”

With that as background, the checklist below reflects the more common and comprehensive approach from the members of the advisory councils, and all the quotes are from council members. The goal is to provide you with a rigorous, active point of view that you can adapt to your situation. The checklist has five parts:

  1. Pre-close
  2. Reconcile Accounts
  3. Preparation of Financial Statements
  4. Close Finishing Steps
  5. FP&A Analysis and Reporting

1. Pre-close

Accounting Activity

Prepare and plan for the close by setting timelines, assigning responsibilities, and ensuring that all necessary resources are available for the closing process. This usually includes a checklist that communicates expectations of actions, timing and deadlines to the team and partners, and ensuring clarity around financial (external) reporting and management (internal) reporting.

FP&A Activity

  • Run reports, such as P&L by cost centers or operational projects, to look for anomalies and variances, such as missing expenses or period-to-period swings.
  • Prepare business partners by reminding them to submit expense reports and invoices. FP&A should examine contracts to support accruals, and refresh your knowledge of business activities, and prepare management for expected material variances.
  • Prepare accounting partners by discussing anomalies for resolution, e.g., wrong vendor paid, recorded corrections, deferred income, material changes in price or volume that could impact the accrual process.
  • If there has been an acquisition or reorganization, prepare new entity integration into reporting.


“We develop detailed checklists every month and quarter that outline the process so we don’t miss any steps, the assignments to each team, and also the closing calendar. It’s very important to set cutoff dates for financial transactions, to outline critical tasks and deadlines.” — Experienced CFO

“We had weekly meetings where the FP&A leadership and controller would sit down together and work through what are the issues. We developed a partnership or really more trust and a codependency.” — Finance executive, author

2. Reconcile Accounts

Accounting Activity

Review transactions to ensure accuracy and completeness; investigate any discrepancies and identify one-time adjustments (material catch-ups or reversals) that FP&A should exclude from normal run-rate forecasts.

Make accruals and adjustments to ensure that expenses and revenues are recorded in the appropriate period.

Reconcile accounts, e.g., bank reconciliations, AR/AP and other key accounts.

FP&A Activity

  • Test the data. Review expense entries (or lack thereof) related to the top 10-20 vendors.
  • Test the assumptions. Test underlying supporting data for system-based accruals and call out long stretches of non-payment (e.g., a payment that is historically monthly but has not been paid for 3-4 months).
  • Determine the percentages of accruals. Apply accruals to relevant lines, e.g., bonuses, business taxes, performance fees, marketing campaigns. Provide a trended view of operational/financial metrics to assist in accrual validation; run AL models to spot outliers.


“Mostly, I’m checking in on things I don’t understand. Why was I charged with this? What is that? Where did this come from? Can you reverse it before the books close?” — R&D Portfolio Finance Manager, mid-sized company

“I might hear accounting say, ‘As long as it is in the right P&L, who cares which line it is in?’ I care because I can't forecast correctly, and I can’t understand what happened if it's in the wrong place. For me to be the best partner for the business, I need reports that are accurate, understandable and explainable.” — Director of Finance, small company

“To calculate accruals for campaigns that crossed periods, I estimated the percentage of sales received in each month and applied those costs.” — Head of FP&A, small company

3. Preparation of Financial Statements

Accounting Activity

Prepare financial statements in accordance with applicable accounting standards (e.g., GAAP, IFRS).

Review and approve financial statements internally for accuracy and compliance with company policies and procedures; obtain management approval before finalization.

FP&A Activity

  • Analyze results while in process. Prepare segment P&Ls and run reports to study variances and anomalies.
  • Proactively prepare business partners. No one likes surprises; ensure the business partners are aware of any large variances and the causes before reports are shared with management.
  • Be part of management reviews. Assign team members to participate in the management reviews prior to the distribution of month-end results.


“Accounting and FP&A are both doing their reviews at the same time, before the books are closed. This starts our analysis, and sometimes we catch items to fix, and sometimes it waits until next month.” — Sr Director of Finance, large company

“We don’t have the full picture, but we start the analysis, coordinate with the accounting team, and discuss with the business teams before management sees the final results.” — Director of Budgeting and Cost Management, mid-sized company

4. Close Finishing Steps

Accounting Activity

Prepare for external audit (if applicable) with necessary documentation, schedules, addressing requests or queries.

Make closing entries to transfer temporary account balances (e.g., revenue and expense accounts) to permanent accounts (e.g., retained earnings).

Document and archive the close process and supporting documentation.

Conduct a post-close review to evaluate process effectiveness and identify improvements.

FP&A Activity

  • Review documentation and support audit prep by explaining large transactions (year-end close) and reviewing accounting memos for large transactions presented properly.
  • Look for improvements in process and automation to get to the trial balance quicker.


“Small, privately held companies do not always have external audits. Internal audit is important.” — Fractional CFO to small companies

“We may help create accounting memos for large transactions or acquisitions. Maybe FP&A was heavily involved and knows the details more accurately. Maybe it is just another set of eyes to check, but eventually, these memos land on the CFO's desk, and sometimes on shareholders' desks, for signoffs. We want to make sure the memos portray the information properly.” — Group Finance Manager, large company

Each month, as soon as closing is over, FP&A and accounting get together and ask, ‘What are the pain points? How can we avoid XYZ going forward?’” — Sr Director, FP&A, large company

5. FP&A Analysis and Reporting


Turn close data to information to insight by providing strategic alignment, decision support and capital allocation.

FP&A Activity

  • Create management reporting. Prepare variance reports (comparisons to budget, prior year, prior forecast, etc.); ensure data foots across reports. A well-defined KPI framework complements these financial statements.
  • Update the forecast by incorporating actual results and creating rolling pro forma (i.e., 3+9, 6+6, 9+3); add the next period to the rolling forecast.
  • Conduct ad hoc analyses on various items observed in the close; look for ways to improve the business.


“The FP&A reports post-closing is strategic rather than transactional recording. We have a future-focused role to create insights based on the financial data to help a company’s decision-making process.” — Experienced CFO

“We add value through our questions: How did we do? What needs to change? What do we need to do in the next period or next coming periods to ensure that we adjust any diversions against the plan? Do we need to raise or escalate any risks associated with delivering the targets?” — Regional Finance Director, large company

The Relationship Between FP&A and Accounting

The advisory councils had interesting and sometimes contradictory opinions on the relationship between FP&A and accounting:

FP&A has a different goal than accounting in the close process. There is definitely some friendly friction in the partnership. Our accounting team has a goal to close fast and accurately; they want to make sure the books are accurate at the highest level with total revenue, COGS and earnings. FP&A is asking for more specificity in sub-ledger-type details and, with our metadata management in the EPM, we are in the lower-level data during the close process. We are often calling up accounting, saying, ‘Hey, revenue is in the wrong place,’ or ‘Why are you off here?’ In larger companies, this separation grows larger.” — Sr. Director of Finance, large company

 “Our FP&A team is pushing the accounting team to close on time because we are the ones who are the spokespeople for management, and they are expecting us to provide business insights on a monthly basis through monthly presentations, which include many slides.” — Director of Budgeting and Cost Management, mid-sized company

“I've seen where FP&A are completely separate, and there's a lot of friction, and then I've also seen where two are very collaborative. I would say that when it's collaborative, the results are better because everybody gets the piece that's more important to them. Accounting will care about the pennies and if everything ties out whereas FP&A says what is ‘good enough’ for decision support.” — CFO, small company

“I am constantly coordinating the communication across teams. If accounting is booking a journal entry right after we pull the numbers, then all of a sudden, our numbers don't match anymore. I know what day AP is closing. They might say revenue is taking longer. Okay, then I’ll start reviewing expenses. I understand the process and break it down into what can be done first, so then my team can start.” — Director of Finance, small company

Communication and coordinating between finance and accounting are key. For us, those teams roll up to different VPs, who then both report to our CFO. The roles are defined and different: Accounting closes the books, and FP&A then reports on that to the business partners and has more of a relationship with the business. What accounting does impacts our budget and what we communicate to our partners; we need to communicate and understand what the other group is doing.” — Sr. Finance Manager, large company

Overcoming Key Challenges

The advisory councils also had wide-ranging perspectives on overcoming key challenges during period-end closing:

“We had a historical problem of approximately 160 different fiduciary systems globally, largely due to acquisitions as we grew, and this led to a lot of manual consolidation, manual chasing of accruals. Some regions can close the books within four days; others begin about the twentieth of the month and continue until the sixth of the next month. We have been working on a process of consolidating all these systems into one data analysis globally to speed up the process.” — Data & Technology Leader (Strategic Insights Group), large company

“In my previous company, it used to take us around three days just to do the analysis. We would bring the trial balances in from the accounting system and then take the budgets from another system (or spreadsheets) to run the variances and then begin our analysis. We might have to go back into the trial balance and add an accrual. Using Power BI, we shortened this to around one day because, as people are posting, we could see the results.” — Group Finance Manager, large company

Closing promptly is about behaviors and processes. An example: A lot of us face challenges getting approvals in a timely and accurate manner, and that requires people to be good at receiving procure-to-pay system. We are trying to get a lot of the purchases on a purchase order basis. It is important that finance educates and communicates and makes sure that people understand their role in these processes. — Vice President of Finance Transformation, large company

“Over the years, there's been a lot of business partnering to make sure that everyone knows what to expect. About two days before month end, we are going to come up and ask project managers and others about accruals and prepayments so we can start processing journals.” — Director of Budgeting and Cost Management, mid-sized company

The expectation for the finance team is crucial. A public company has public investors, and so the CFO needs to be prepping for an earnings call within 15 days after the quarter-end close. There are different levels of expectations for a private company. — CFO, small company

I focus more on the quarterly closing than the monthly closings because those reports drive our board meetings and cross-departmental management meetings.” — Experienced CFO

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