Accounting, Auditing and Taxation

Accounting, Auditing and Taxation

 

 

 

 

Duties

Accountants and auditors typically do the following:

  • Examine financial statements to be sure that they are accurate and comply with laws and regulations
  • Compute taxes owed, prepare tax returns, and ensure that taxes are paid properly and on time
  • Inspect account books and accounting systems for efficiency and use of accepted accounting procedures
  • Organize and maintain financial records
  • Assess financial operations and make best-practices recommendations to management
  • Suggest ways to reduce costs, enhance revenues, and improve profits

In addition to examining and preparing financial documentation, accountants and auditors must explain their findings. This includes face-to-face meetings with organization managers and individual clients, and preparing written reports.

Many accountants and auditors specialize, depending on the particular organization that they work for. Some organizations specialize in assurance services (improving the quality or context of information for decision makers) or risk management (determining the probability of a misstatement on financial documentation). Other organizations specialize in specific industries, such as healthcare.

Some workers with a background in accounting and auditing teach in colleges and universities. 

The four main types of accountants and auditors are the following:

Public accountants do a broad range of accounting, auditing, tax, and consulting tasks. Their clients include corporations, governments, and individuals.

They work with financial documents that clients are required by law to disclose. These include tax forms and balance sheet statements that corporations must provide potential investors. For example, some public accountants concentrate on tax matters, advising corporations about the tax advantages of certain business decisions or preparing individual income tax returns.

External auditors review clients' financial statements and inform investors and authorities that the statements have been correctly prepared and reported.

Public accountants, many of whom are Certified Public Accountants (CPAs), generally have their own businesses or work for public accounting firms.

Some public accountants specialize in forensic accounting, investigating financial crimes, such as securities fraud and embezzlement, bankruptcies and contract disputes, and other complex and possibly criminal financial transactions. Forensic accountants combine their knowledge of accounting and finance with law and investigative techniques to determine if an activity is illegal. Many forensic accountants work closely with law enforcement personnel and lawyers during investigations and often appear as expert witnesses during trials.

Management accountants, also called cost, managerial, industrial, corporate, or private accountants, record and analyze the financial information of the organizations for which they work. The information that management accountants prepare is intended for internal use by business managers, not by the general public.

They often work on budgeting and performance evaluation. They may also help organizations plan the cost of doing business. Some may work with financial managers on asset management, which involves planning and selecting financial investments such as stocks, bonds, and real estate.

Government accountants maintain and examine the records of government agencies and audit private businesses and individuals whose activities are subject to government regulations or taxation. Accountants employed by federal, state, and local governments ensure that revenues are received and spent in accordance with laws and regulations.

Internal auditors check for mismanagement of an organization’s funds. They identify ways to improve the processes for finding and eliminating waste and fraud. The practice of internal auditing is not regulated, but the Institute of Internal Auditors (IIA) provides generally accepted standards.

Information technology auditors are internal auditors who review controls for their organization's computer systems, to ensure that the financial data comes from a reliable source.

The following industries employed the most accountants and auditors in 2010:

Accounting, tax preparation, bookkeeping, and payroll services 24%
Finance and insurance 8%
State and local government, excluding education and hospitals 7%
Manufacturing 6%
Management of companies and enterprises 6%

How to Become an Accountant or Auditor

Most accountants and auditors need at least a bachelor's degree in accounting or a related field. Certification within a specific field of accounting improves job prospects. For example, many accountants become Certified Public Accountants (CPAs).

Education

Most accountant and auditor positions require at least a bachelor's degree in accounting or a related field. Some employers prefer to hire applicants who have a master's degree, either in accounting or in business administration with a concentration in accounting.

A few universities and colleges offer specialized programs, such as a bachelor’s degree in internal auditing. In some cases, graduates of community colleges, as well as bookkeepers and accounting clerks who meet the education and experience requirements set by their employers, get junior accounting positions and advance to accountant positions by showing their accounting skills on the job.

Work experience is important for getting a job, and most states require experience before an accountant can apply for a CPA license. Many colleges help students gain practical experience through summer or part-time internships with public accounting or business firms.

Licenses

Every accountant filing a report with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is required by law to be a Certified Public Accountant (CPA). Many other accountants choose to become a CPA to enhance their job prospects or to gain clients.

CPAs are licensed by their state’s Board of Accountancy. Becoming a CPA requires passing a national exam and meeting other state requirements.

As of 2012, 46 states and the District of Columbia required CPA candidates to complete 150 semester hours of college coursework, which is 30 hours more than the usual 4-year bachelor's degree. Many schools offer a 5-year combined bachelor's and master's degree to meet the 150-hour requirement, but a master's degree is not required.

A few states allow a number of years of public accounting experience to substitute for a college degree.

All states use the four-part Uniform CPA Examination from the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants. Candidates do not have to pass all four parts at once, but most states require that they pass all four parts within 18 months of passing their first part.

Almost all states require CPAs to take continuing education to keep their license.

Certification

Certification provides an advantage in the job market because it shows professional competence in a specialized field of accounting and auditing. Accountants and auditors seek certifications from a variety of professional societies. Some of the most common certifications are listed below:

The Institute of Management Accountants offers the Certified Management Accountant (CMA) upon applicants who complete a bachelor's degree. Applicants must have worked at least 2 years in management accounting, pass a two-part exam, agree to meet continuing education requirements, and comply with standards of professional conduct. The exam covers areas such as financial statement analysis, working-capital policy, capital structure, valuation issues, and risk management. 

The Institute of Internal Auditors (IIA) offers the Certified Internal Auditor (CIA) to graduates from accredited colleges and universities who have worked for 2 years as internal auditors and have passed a four-part exam. The IIA also offers the Certified in Control Self-Assessment (CCSA), Certified Government Auditing Professional (CGAP), and Certified Financial Services Auditor (CFSA) to those who pass the exams and meet educational and experience requirements.

ISACA offers the Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA) to candidates who pass an exam and have 5 years of experience auditing information systems. Information systems experience, financial or operational auditing experience, or related college credit hours can be substituted for up to 2 years of experience in information systems auditing, control, or security.

For accountants with a CPA, the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) offers the option to receive any or all of the Accredited in Business Valuation (ABV), Certified Information Technology Professional (CITP), or Personal Financial Specialist (PFS) certifications. The business valuation certification requires a written exam and completion of at least 10 business valuation projects that demonstrate a candidate's experience and competence. The technology certification requires the achievement of a set number of points awarded for business technology experience and education. Candidates for the personal financial specialist certification also must achieve a certain numbers of points based on experience and education, pass a written exam, and submit references.

Advancement

Some top executives have a background in accounting, internal auditing, or finance. For more information, see the profile on top executives.

Beginning public accountants often advance to positions with more responsibility in 1 or 2 years and to senior positions within another few years. Those who excel may become supervisors, managers, or partners; open their own public accounting firm; or transfer to executive positions in management accounting or internal auditing in private firms.

Management accountants often start as cost accountants, junior internal auditors, or trainees for other accounting positions. As they rise through the organization, they may advance to accounting manager, chief cost accountant, budget director, or manager of internal auditing. Some become controllers, treasurers, financial vice presidents, chief financial officers, or corporation presidents.

Public accountants, management accountants, and internal auditors can move from one aspect of accounting and auditing to another. Public accountants often move into management accounting or internal auditing. Management accountants may become internal auditors, and internal auditors may become management accountants. However, it is less common for management accountants or internal auditors to move into public accounting.

Important Qualities

Analytical skills. Accountants and auditors must be able to identify issues in documentation and suggest solutions. For example, public accountants use analytical skills in their work to minimize tax liability, and internal auditors do so when identifying fraudulent use of funds.  

Communication skills. Accountants and auditors must be able to listen carefully to facts and concerns from clients, managers, and others. They must also be able to discuss the results of their work in both meetings and written reports.

Detail oriented. Accountants and auditors must pay attention to detail when compiling and examining documentation.

Math skills. Accountants must be able to analyze, compare, and interpret facts and figures, although complex math skills are not necessary.

Organizational skills. Strong organizational skills are important for accountants and auditors who often work with a range of financial documents for a variety of clients.

 

Bookkeeping process
 
The bookkeeping process refers primarily to recording the of financial transactions only into accounts. The variation between manual and any electronic accounting system stems from the latency between the recording of the financial transaction and its posting in the relevant account. This delay, absent in electronic accounting systems due to instantaneous posting into relevant accounts, is not replicated in manual systems, thus giving rise to primary books of accounts such as Sales Book, Cash Book, Bank Book, Purchase Book for recording the immediate effect of the financial transaction.
 
In the normal course of business, a document is produced each time a transaction occurs. Sales and purchases usually have invoices or receipts. Deposit slips are produced when lodgements (deposits) are made to a bank account. Cheques are written to pay money out of the account. Bookkeeping involves, first of all, recording the details of all of these source documents into multi-column journals (also known as a books of first entry or daybooks). For example, all credit sales are recorded in the sales journal, all cash payments are recorded in the cash payments journal. Each column in a journal normally corresponds to an account. In the single entry system, each transaction is recorded only once. Most individuals who balance their cheque-book each month are using such a system, and most personal finance software follows this approach.
 
After a certain period, typically a month, the columns in each journal are each totaled to give a summary for the period. Using the rules of double entry, these journal summaries are then transferred to their respective accounts in the ledger, or book of accounts. For example the entries in the Sales Journal are taken and a debit entry is made in each customer's account (showing that the customer now owes us money) and a credit entry might be made in the account for "Sale of class 2 widgets" (showing that this activity has generated revenue for us). This process of transferring summaries or individual transactions to the ledger is called posting.
 
Once the posting process is complete, accounts kept using the "T" format undergo balancing, which is simply a process to arrive at the balance of the account.
As a partial check that the posting process was done correctly, a working document called an unadjusted trial balance is created. In its simplest form, this is a three column list. The first column contains the names of those accounts in the ledger which have a non-zero balance. If an account has a debit balance, the balance amount is copied into column two (the debit column). If an account has a credit balance, the amount is copied into column three (the credit column). The debit column is then totalled and then the credit column is totalled. The two totals must agree – this agreement is not by chance – because under the double-entry rules, whenever there is a posting, the debits of the posting equal the credits of the posting. If the two totals do not agree, an error has been made either in the journals or during the posting process. The error must be located and rectified and the totals of debit column and credit column recalculated to check for agreement before any further processing can take place.
 
Once the accounts balance, the accountant makes a number of adjustments and changes the balance amounts of some of the accounts. These adjustments must still obey the double-entry rule. For example, the "inventory" account asset account might be changed to bring them into line with the actual numbers counted during a stock take. At the same time, the expense account associated with usage of inventory is adjusted by an equal and opposite amount. Other adjustments such as posting depreciation and prepayments are also done at this time. This results in a listing called the adjusted trial balance. It is the accounts in this list and their corresponding debit or credit balances that are used to prepare the financial statements.
 
Finally financial statements are drawn from the trial balance, which may include:
  • the income statement, also known as the statement of financial results, profit and loss account, or P&L
  • the balance sheet, also known as the statement of financial position
  • the cash flow statement
  • the statement of retained earnings, also known as the statement of total recognised gains and losses or statement of changes in equity
Bookkeeping systems
 
Two common bookkeeping systems used by businesses and other organizations are the single-entry bookkeeping system and the double-entry bookkeeping system. Single-entry bookkeeping uses only income and expense accounts, recorded primarily in a revenue and expense journal. Single-entry bookkeeping is adequate for many small businesses. Double-entry bookkeeping requires posting (recording) each transaction twice, using debits and credits.
 
Daybooks
 
A daybook is a descriptive and chronological (diary-like) record of day-to-day financial transactions also called a book of original entry. The daybook's details must be entered formally into journals to enable posting to ledgers. Daybooks include:
  • Sales daybook, for recording all the sales invoices.
  • Sales credits daybook, for recording all the sales credit notes.
  • Purchases daybook, for recording all the purchase invoices.
  • Purchases credits daybook, for recording all the purchase credit notes.
  • Cash daybook, usually known as the cash book, for recording all money received as well as money paid out. It may be split into two daybooks: receipts daybook for money received in, and payments daybook for money paid out.
  • Petty Cash daybook, for recording small value purchases paid for by cash
  • General Journal daybook, for recording journals
Petty cash book
 
A petty cash book is a record of small value purchases usually controlled by imprest system. Items such as coffee, tea, birthday cards for employees, stationery for office working, a few dollars if you're short on postage, are listed down in the petty cash book.
 
Journals
 
journals are recorded in the general journal daybook. A journal is a formal and chronological record of financial transactions before their values are accounted for in the general ledger as debits and credits. A company can maintain one journal for all transactions, or keep several journals based on similar activity (i.e. sales, cash receipts, revenue, etc.) making transactions easier to summarize and reference later. For every debit journal entry recorded there must be an equivalent credit journal entry to maintain a balanced accounting equation.
 
Ledgers
 
A ledger is a record of accounts. These accounts are recorded separately showing their beginning/ending balance. A journal lists financial transactions in chronological order without showing their balance but showing how much is going to be charged in each account. A ledger takes each financial transactions from the journal and records them into the corresponding account for every transaction listed. The ledger also sums up the total of every account which is transferred into the balance sheet and income statement. There are 3 different kinds of ledgers that deal with book-keeping. Ledgers include:
 
Sales ledger, which deals mostly with the accounts receivable account. This ledger consists of the financial transactions made by customers to the business.
Purchase ledger is a ledger that goes hand and hand with the Accounts Payable account. This is the purchasing transaction a company does.
General ledger representing the original 5 main accounts: assets, liabilities, equity, income, and expenses
 
Abbreviations used in bookkeeping
  • A/C – Account
  • Acc – Account
  • A/R – Accounts receivable
  • A/P – Accounts payable
  • B/S – Balance sheet
  • c/d – Carried down
  • b/d – Brought down
  • c/f – Carried forward
  • b/f – Brought forward
  • Dr – Debit record
  • Cr – Credit record
  • G/L – General ledger; (or N/L – nominal ledger)
  • P&L – Profit and loss; (or I/S – income statement)
  • PP&E – Property, plant and equipment
  • TB – Trial Balance
  • GST – Goods and services tax
  • VAT – Value added tax
  • CST – Central sale tax
  • TDS – Tax deducted at source
  • AMT – Alternate minimum tax
  • EBITDA – Earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation
  • EBDTA – Earnings before depreciation, taxes and amortisation
  • EBT – Earnings before taxes
  • EAT – Earnings after tax
  • PAT – Profit after tax
  • PBT – Profit before tax
  • Depr – Depreciation
  • Dep – Depreciation
Chart of accounts
 
A chart of accounts is a list of the accounts codes that can be identified with numeric, alphabetical, or alphanumeric codes allowing the account to be located in the general ledger. The equity section of the chart of accounts is based on the fact that the legal structure of the entity is of a particular legal type. Possibilities include sole trader, partnership, trust and company.
 
Computerized bookkeeping
 
Computerized bookkeeping removes many of the paper "books" that are used to record transactions and usually enforces double entry bookkeeping.
 
The term bookkeeping has an unrelated technical meaning in computer programming. Bookkeeping code is code that does not contain business logic but is needed to keep the program working properly.
 
Online bookkeeping
 
Online bookkeeping, or remote bookkeeping, allows source documents and data to reside in web-based applications which allow remote access for bookkeepers and accountants. All entries made into the online software are recorded and stored in a remote location. The online software can be accessed from any location in the world and permit the bookkeeper or data entry person to work from any location with a suitable data communications link.
  • Recommend Us