The Risks Of Commingling Personal Funds

Commingling personal funds with your business finances is a ticking time bomb. Before you get into trouble, we want to provide you with the dangers and practical steps for safeguarding your finances. This extends beyond basic bookkeeping; it’s about protecting you, your family and your business!

Understanding the Legal Risks of Commingling Funds

Commingling funds—mixing personal and business finances—can jeopardize the corporate liability shield. This “shield” is a layer of legal protection that separates your personal assets from your business debts and liabilities. Legally speaking, the shield becomes weaker when personal and business finances are not separated. 

In case of a lawsuit, owners who co-mingle funds can become personally liable for the actions of the company.  This is what is commonly referred to as “piercing the corporate veil.” If someone sues you and your business is not its own entity, your personal assets may be used as payment for your business’s debts.

So, if an employee is driving a delivery truck and runs over a child, the parents sue the company AND the company’s owner(s).  If the shield is strong, the owner might walk away.  If the shield is weak, the owner could end up forfeiting cash and assets (like her house!) to make good on a legal judgment.

The Impact on Financial Statements and Company Valuation

Besides creating a potential legal nightmare, commingling can also obscure the true financial health of your business. It complicates financial statements, making it challenging to assess and value the company’s performance accurately. 

This lack of clarity makes business management more difficult, and could even impact the valuation of your company at a sale or exit.  Why?  Because a buyer is unlikely to give you credit for dozens of miscellaneous “personal” expenses. So by using the company’s coffers as your own, you’ve unwittingly lowered your profitability and thus your sale value.

Here are some ways to prevent this from happening. 

Practical Steps For Separating Personal and Business Finances

  • Open a Separate Business Bank Account: This is the first and most important step in establishing a clear boundary between personal and business finances.
  • Implement Strict Expense Policies: Define and adhere to what qualifies as a business expense. Keep all of your personal expenses separate.
  • Use Dedicated Accounting Software: This helps in tracking business transactions efficiently. Also, accurate accounting is legally required.
  • Regular Financial Reviews: Conduct monthly or quarterly reviews to ensure no commingling has occurred.
  • Educate Yourself, Your Family and Staff: Awareness of the importance of financial separation is key.
  • Hire a Professional Bookkeeper: They can ensure adherence to best practices, and provide an important outsiders perspective on your use of business funds.
  • Document All Transactions: Maintain detailed records, including receipts.
  • Establish a Regular Salary for Yourself: Avoid random withdrawals from the business by paying yourself regularly and evenly.
  • Separate Credit Cards and Loans: Use different credit accounts for personal and business needs.
  • Regularly Update Financial Statements: It’s crucial for accurate financial reporting.
  • Prepare for Taxes Efficiently: Having separate accounts simplifies tax planning and compliance.

To give you a better idea of the dangers of not taking these steps, let’s look at the following fictitious (but possible) scenario. 

Case Study: ConstructRight, LLC

Consider the story of ConstructRight LLC, a successful home builder. John, the owner, regularly used his personal credit card for business expenses and used the business ATM card to withdraw cash for personal use. He drove a company car, even when not working, and had his crew perform maintenance on his personal property.

As ConstructRight expanded, these practices created significant problems.

John faced difficulties in securing loans. Lenders were hesitant due to the muddled financial statements that couldn’t clearly distinguish between personal and business expenditures. This ambiguity in financial reporting made it challenging for financial institutions to determine the company’s true financial health and creditworthiness.

The real impact of John’s financial practices hit hard when he decided to sell ConstructRight. The business valuation came in substantially lower than he expected. The reason? Potential buyers were deterred because they could not determine the business’s true profitability and operational efficiency. 

But the consequences didn’t end there. John’s personal assets, including his home, were put at risk. Since he had misused company funds for personal purposes, this blurred the legal distinction between his personal and business “entities”. When ConstructRight faced a lawsuit from a customer, John’s personal assets were no longer protected by the corporate liability shield. They became fair game in the legal battle, and when he lost the legal fight, he also lost his home and savings.

The example of ConstructRight LLC highlights the importance of maintaining a clear boundary between personal and business finances. Not only does this financial separation ensure legal protection and more accurate financial reporting; it also preserves the integrity and valuation of the business.

The Role of Professional Advice

Financial advisors possess in-depth knowledge of best practices in financial management. They can guide you through the intricacies of financial planning, helping you avoid common pitfalls like commingling funds. They provide an unbiased perspective on your business finances. This objectivity is crucial for making sound financial decisions untainted by personal bias or emotional attachment.

Companies like FuseCFO can provide a disciplined approach to your accounting and finance. Then, with an accurate and clear financial picture of your business, a great finance team can help you formulate strategic plans for your business’s future. 

Want more?Separating your personal finances from those of your business is a best practice and a form of protection. It isolates your personal and family assets while allowing your company to grow. To continue this conversation with a small business financial advisor, schedule a free business analysis with us.

Quiz: Are you inviting Fraud & Embezzlement in your Business?

There are only two kinds of small businesses in the world.  Those that have been ripped off by employees, and those that will be ripped off by employees.

In fact, the average business loses 5% of revenue to fraud each year. A typical fraud case causes a loss of $8,300 per month and lasts 12 months before detection.  That’s a loss of nearly $100,000. (source: ACFE Report)  Can your small business withstand that kind of loss?

The good news is that you can make your company less vulnerable to fraud. Take the quiz below to find your vulnerabilities.

Fraud Prevention Quiz

1.) What is one recommended action to prevent financial fraud?

a) Change financial access credentials every year

b) Change financial access credentials every three to six months

c) Never change financial access credentials

d) Change financial access credentials every week

2.) Why is it important to periodically rotate employees through different financial roles?

a) To enhance an employee’s skill set

b) To give an employee wider access to detect fraud

c) To prevent familiarity-based fraud

d) To increase productivity while also protecting sensitive information

3.) What should businesses do before assigning financial responsibilities to employees?

a) Conduct background checks and credit checks

b) Give them a raise to relieve them of any financial pressures

c) Review the company’s financial position with them personally

d) Send them to an ethics class, or administer an ethics quiz

4.) Which option is an effective strategy for limiting access to financial information?

a.) Provide annual training so every employee can protect vital information

b.) Allow employees only to access financial information ​​in a secured, physical location.

c.) Restrict access to sensitive financial information to only those employees who need it 

to perform their jobs

d.) Assign financial roles only to owners of the company

5. What is a recommended practice for detecting missing checks and preventing check 


a) Avoid using checks whenever possible

b) Use sequentially numbered checks and regularly account for all numbers

c) Write checks with a gel-pen that is harder to “wash”

d) All of the above

6. How can businesses help detect unauthorized transactions and maintain financial security?

a) Keep all your accounts with a single bank

b) Outsource the review of financial statements to a third party

c) Use credit cards exclusively to avoid the need for bank statements

d) Personally review bank statements each month

7. How should businesses manage petty cash effectively and maintain financial control?

a) Keep a limited amount of cash on hand and require receipts for all transactions

b) Require employees to reimburse petty cash expenses personally

c) Record transactions in a written journal AND in QuickBooks, just like a bank account

d) a and c

8. What payment method can help reduce the risk of check fraud when dealing with vendors?

a) Use the bank’s bill-pay feature

b) Avoid making payments to vendors without invoices or receipts

c) Use only sequentially numbered checks, printed on a laser printer

d) None of the above

9. What procedure can businesses implement to ensure responsible spending and financial control?

a) Make one person responsible for all financial transactions

b) Set a high minimum threshold for expenses that need to be approved

c) Require multiple approvals for expenses, especially those above a certain amount

d) Use proper Accrual Accounting to record all invoices before making payments

10.) How should businesses secure incoming and outgoing financial mail?

  a) Take outgoing mail to the post office, use a locked box to receive mail

b) Chain a guard dog to the mailbox

c) Background check anyone who handles the mail

d) Only send and receive financial statements digitally

How’d you do?  (Answers are below).

Remember, avoiding fraud and embezzlement requires a proactive approach. Use these ideas to protect your assets. Then, when a bad apple does try to rip you off, you’ll be ready!. 

ANSWERS:  1 (B) 2 (C) 3 (A) 4 (C) 5 (D) 6 (D) 7 (D) 8 (D) 9 (C) 10 (A)

Need More?To continue this conversation with FuseCFO, reach out for a free consultation. We always listen before we answer. And if you’re unsure about your books, ask for our free 1-hour accounting review.  There’s no obligation and we’ll give you a written report at the end!