The Value of the Clarification Form & the Calculation Sheets (or Calculator Tape)
Written by Wil Whalen, Spectrum Enterprises
As a compliance monitor, I have audited thousands of files. I’m often asked at a property what can be done to make the files better. For some properties, this becomes a long conversation about understanding the program, attention to detail and consistency. For others, it’s a much simpler answer: Clarification Forms & Calculation Sheets. The presence of these two forms in a file can make an auditor’s job much easier if they’re used correctly.
When auditing a file, I will often come across a page in the file that raises a question. The best way to provide the answer to this question is with the use of a clarification form. The most common type of clarification form is the telephone clarification form. This comes in handy when third party verifications and affidavits come back incomplete (i.e. bank verifications, employment verifications, financial aid verifications, etc.). After noticing the missing information, call the source and ask the pertinent questions and record the findings on the telephone clarification sheet. Before ending your telephone conversation, be sure that all of your questions have been answered. Another opportunity to use a clarification form is when a tenant has listed some confusing or contradictory information on a form, application or affidavit. Instead of having the tenant cross out the information or you trying to squeeze an explanation into the margin, simply fill out a clarification form with the corrected information. The clarification forms should always follow the form or affidavit in which they provide clarification. It is very frustrating for an auditor to have to thumb back and forth through a fifty page file trying to find something that may provide some clarification for an issue.
Calculation sheets are becoming more common in files. However, often I find they aren’t being used correctly. First and foremost, every income amount in the file needs to be supported by a calculation. The auditor needs to be able to see how you came up with your income totals. Some properties attach calculator tape, others provide calculation forms. Easy enough, right? Not always. Often one employment verification will have several calculator tapes attached to it, but none contain the income amount used on the TIC. If you’re going to use calculator tape, it’s very helpful to label them so we know which one supports the hourly, year to date, etc. Believe it or not, it’s not always easy to ascertain from just glancing at the provided calculator tape. Calculator tapes are only helpful if they provide an obvious and clear supporting calculation for the income amounts listed on the TIC.
My personal preference for listing the supporting income calculations is with the use of a calculation sheet. It’s very simple and easy to use and even easier to audit. It asks what type of income, how much, how often and the total. For instance, Fry cook earns $8.00 per hour and works 25 hours a week at 52 weeks a year. With this spelled out on a calculation sheet it’s very easy to understand how you came up with the total listed on the TIC. This sheet really comes in handy when you need to compare various types of calculations such as hourly employment to year to date. List all calculations and just circle or highlight the one used on the TIC. Another example is when you need to add COLA to Social Security or even a pension. You can list the regular amount and then the COLA in a separate calculation and add the two amounts together. What is NOT helpful is when I find a calculation sheet that just has the total income used multiplied by one ($25,000 X 1 = $25,000). This doesn’t tell the auditor anything at all and it basically negates the use for the calculation sheet. In this case, the auditor still has to sift through the file to find the supporting calculations.
In regard to which method your property should use to show the supporting calculations, contact your compliance manager. Remember that well organized files make my job easier. The fewer questions I have, the quicker I finish the files and the quicker you can get back to work.