Land and Buildings
Sometimes the two assets are shown together in the Balance Sheet. Nevertheless, their ledger accounts should always be separated particularly in view of the fact that buildings are subject to depreciation while land in general is not. The land holdings should be verified by an inspection of the original title deed to ensure that the land described therein covers all the lands the cost of which is debited in the books of the concern. The auditor however, not being competent to verify the regularity of the title of the concern to the land, is not responsible for doing so. Therefore, generally, a certificate should be obtained from the legal adviser of the client confirming the validity of his title to the land. The auditor should, however, verify that the conveyance deed has been duly registered as required by section 17(1) of the Registration Act, 1908 also that particulars required to be endorsed thereon according to section 58 of the same Act have been duly made and verified. He should, in addition, generally ascertain that prima facie the title of the client does not appear to be defective.
If the property is mortgaged, the title deed would be in the possession of the mortgagee or his solicitors. A certificate to this effect should be obtained from them. It should also be ascertained whether there is any second or subsequent mortgage. If ground rents, outstanding for recovery, are included in the Balance Sheet as an asset, the auditor must examine the counter parts of leases granted and also verify that the ground rents which were outstanding for recovery on the date of the Balance Sheet have since been recovered. If there has been any sale of land or building, it should be verified that he amount of profit or loss resulting on sale has been correctly adjusted in the accounts. The cost of buildings, as is entered in the books, should be depreciated at appropriate rates, depending upon the quality of their structure and the use which is being made of them. The cost of fittings and fixtures to the building should be adjusted separately in the account from the cost of buildings, since these suffer higher rate of wear and tear than the brick and mortar structure and therefore, have to be depreciated at a higher rate.
If the values of land and buildings are not separately recorded in the books of account, the same should be separated for purposes of calculating the amount of deprecation. This should be done with the assistance of a valuer, unless the same can be achieved on the basis of some documentary evidence available in the record. Since buildings are continually repaired and there is only a thin margin of differentiation between the expenditure of their improvement and that on repairs, it is necessary for the auditor to scrutinise closely the expenditure on repairs so as to exclude from its expenditure that could legitimately be considered to have added either to the life or the utility of the asset. Such an expenditure should be added to their cost while the amount incurred on current repairs is written off. It is not customary to write up the book values of land and buildings even though their market alues have increased but, where this has been done it will be necessary for the auditor to verify that the appreciation adjusted has been disclosed as required by the law. On the same consideration, no notice need be taken of any fall in the market value of such an asset until the same has crystallized by the asset being sold. The land holding in the case of real estate dealer will be a current asset and not a fixed asset. The same should, therefore, be valued at cost or market value whichever is less. The amount of profit or loss arising on sale of plots of land by such a dealer should be verified as follows :
- Each property account should be examined from the beginning of the development with special reference to the nature of charges so as to find out that only the appropriate cost and charges have been debited to the account and the total cost of the property has been set off against the
price realised for it.
- This basis of distribution of the common charges between different plots of land developed during the period, and basis for allocation of cost to individual properties comprised in a particular piece of land should be scrutinised.
- If land price lists are available, these should be compared with actual selling prices obtained. And it should be verified that contracts entered into in respect of sale have been duly sanctioned by appropriate authorities.
- Where part of the sale price is intended to reimburse taxes or expenses, suitable provisions should be maintained for the purpose.
- The prices obtained for various plots of land sold should be checked with the plan map of the entire tract and any discrepancy or unreasonable price variations should be inquired into. The sale price of different plots of land should be verified on a reference to certified copies of sale deeds executed.
- Out of the sale proceeds, provision should be made for the expenditure incurred on improvement of land, which so far has been accounted for.