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5 tips for a successful Return-to-Accrual

Roelf Kloen

The Return-to-Accrual (RTA), also known as True-up of Return-to-Provision, is the ultimate test for the correctness of the year-end figures/performance. This makes it an important part of the annual tax reporting cycle. What makes an RTA successful? Roelf Kloen shares 5 tips from experience.

During this holiday period I am already thinking ahead towards the Quarter 3 closing: planning, mobilizing people, sending out tax packs, preparing reports and collecting information. One of the most important items to check in this preparation towards quarter-end is whether entities have submitted their tax return. If that is the case then I know I should be expecting a return-to-accrual (‘RTA’) in the Q3 tax package.


The purpose of the RTA, also known as True-up or Return-to-Provision, is to equalise the difference between the last year’s tax return and the year-end position. It is therefore an important part of the annual tax reporting cycle. It is the litmus test of the correctness of the year-end figures. Large differences may mean that errors have been made during the year-end process and that can lead to difficult questions during an audit.

Therefore, here are five tips for a successful RTA:

1. Completeness

The RTA does not only impact (current) tax to be paid. In many cases the total effect of the RTA will be levelled out by the effect of the deferred taxes. So, make sure the calculation also includes temporary differences, losses and other positions.

2. Tools

In practice, I see several organizations that use a full tax pack for the RTA, whereas in other organisations merely renew their book to tax reconciliation. If your current software or tax pack does not provide for this, it is recommended to keep this format as close to the current book-tax reconciliation as possible. This benefits an adequate comparison.

3. Documentation

Because year-end figures are mostly based on estimates, small differences compared to the tax return are inevitable. When preparing the actual reconciliation also make sure that you analyse any material differences. For example there could have been new insights or new information in the period between the year-end closing and the tax return. Don’t forget to document why this insight or piece of information wasn’t available at year-end. Using these reasons too easy, without valid arguments, could lead your auditor to re-examine your tax processes.

4. Timing

As for timing bear in mind that most tax returns are filed during Q2 and Q3. It is possible to carry out the entire RTA process for the entire company at once, for example in the third quarter. When doing so, always take the effect of material declarations submitted in other quarters into account.

5. Proces

The RTA is an annually recurring item. Create a sound process in which the tasks, responsibilities and timing are clearly described. The person – from the company – who is closest to the tax return process, is probably the most suitable to make the first analyses, possibly with the aid of the person who is preparing the tax return. But be aware, some tax return preparers tend to look solely at current tax.

I hope that these tips will motivate you to take a fresh look at this part of the tax reporting process. For now I wish you a nice holiday period and good luck in the preparation and implementation of Q3!