Spreadsheet errors and how to avoid them

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Customs & Excise computer audit consultant Ray Butler offers some basic spreadsheet safety tips based on analysis of thousands of spreadsheet mistakes.

"To err is human. To really foul things up requires a computer." Anon

Ever since spreadsheets were introduced, people have made mistakes as well as calculations with them. Even after debugging, 20-30% of spreadsheets contain mistakes. VAT inspectors find material errors in 70 - 80% of high-risk spreadsheets they test.

AccountingWEB's recent IT Zone survey showed over half of the respondents depended on spreadsheets for budgeting and a significant number used them for tax calculations. Are you sure your spreadsheets don't contain errors?

What mistakes do users make?

1. Design errors First, let's look at underlying busines...

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CT sheet
John. My post was entirely tongue in cheek, I wasn't really offended. Have to start using those ghastly smily things.

However, the sheet you have is seriously out of date and very limited - only works properly if in the relief region. The update also includes exact rounding as used by the IR, and follows order of deductions wrt trading and non-trading profit as CT600, so better for filling that in. If you want an update let me know.

PS Testing, what's that?

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I can take a hint
Like the inclusion of my CT calculator under related topics to 'Spreadsheet errors'.

There is a fully updated version on www.bondriver.co.uk - I know it works because I have a long collection of correction notices to compare it with - practice makes perfect - eventually. But you'll have to download a whole lot of other irrelevent and incorrect crap to get it.

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Quite the reverse, Frank
We included the CT calculator on the assumption that you probably had tested it and validated the results (TaxZone's Gary Mackley-Smith also checked it out for us). It's there so that AccountingWEB users can use a readymade spreadsheet without having to cope with the risks of building one themselves.

Of course, Ray and his team may already be running your CT Calculator through the SpACE analysis program. We'll be crossing our fingers about the results.

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SpACE - the final frontier?
Sorry to be negative but I followed the link to the HM C+E website to find out more about SpACE. There is a page on the methodology and another page about the automated spreadsheet checker. But there doesn't seem any way to download this software or even order it - either free or as an on-line purchase.

All there is is an email address 'for further information'.

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Computer-assisted audit tool

I've tried the SpACE computer-assisted audit tool you recommend, and thought it would be useful to the community to point out that that tool's technology is fairly outdated. I've tried nearly all the tools out there in this category and by far the best one in my opinion is The Audinator (http://www.audinator.com). I'm pretty sure they offer a free trial of the fully-featured version. Hope that helps.

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