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Accounting is a system of gathering, summarizing, and communicating financial information for a business firm, government, or other organization. Accounting, also called accountancy, enables decision makers to interpret financial information and use the results in planning for the future. For example, such data tell executives which products or departments are doing well and which poorly.

Business people often call accounting the "language of business" because they use accounting data in communicating about a firm's activities. Information provided by accountants helps managers and other executives understand the results of business transactions and interpret the financial status of their organization. With this knowledge, managers can make informed decisions about such matters as production, marketing, and financing. Charities, churches, colleges, government agencies, and other nonprofit organizations also use accounting to keep track of their financial situation.

Bookkeeping is a small but important part of accounting. It involves recording financial transactions and keeping other financial records. Most repetitive bookkeeping is done with computers.

Financial reports

In the United States, publicly owned businesses are required by law to issue financial reports. These reports are used by investors; officials of banks, government agencies, and labor unions; and others interested in a firm or its industry. Accountants prepare the reports, which provide summaries of a company's financial condition. Most companies issue quarterly reports. All firms use similar accounting procedures so that the reports can be compared. In the United States, the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB), a group of professional accountants, establishes these procedures, which are called accounting principles.

The most important financial reports include balance sheets, income statements, and statements of cash flows. A balance sheet shows a company's assets, liabilities, and net worth. An income statement is a report of a firm's revenue and expenses during a certain period. The bottom line of an income statement shows whether the company had a net profit or a net loss for that period. A statement of cash flows shows the amounts of money flowing into a company and out of it as a result of its operating, investing, and financing activities.

Organizations that do not seek a profit need many of the same kinds of financial reports. For example, private schools must keep track of their tuition income and their expenses. A government agency may wish to compare the cost of a program with the benefits. Possible donors to a charity may like to see how previous donations were used.

Fields of accounting

Accountants may be classified by the type of organization for which they work. For example, business accountants are employed by all types of companies. A small firm may have one general accountant who handles all financial records. But a large corporation may have many accountants for the various duties involved.

Organizations or individuals may hire professional public accountants for occasional tasks or special accounting services. Most public accountants have passed a state examination and obtained a license to practice as certified public accountants (CPA's). Such accountants are called chartered accountants in Canada, the United Kingdom, and some other countries.

Most accountants specialize in a field of accounting. The major fields include financial accounting, management accounting, tax accounting, auditing, and management consulting services.

Financial accounting involves the preparation of a business's financial statements, mainly for users outside the business. These reports are used by owners and potential owners of a business and by people who have loaned a company money. Some government agencies that regulate business and the stock market require companies to submit financial statements to them.

Management accounting helps managers plan and control a company's operations. Accountants prepare budgets to express management's goals in financial terms. After a budget has been adopted, performance reports compare actual results with the budget. Cost accountants help management keep track of how much it costs a company to make the product, or provide the service, it sells.

Tax accounting consists of preparing tax returns for organizations or individuals and determining the taxes involved in proposed business transactions. Tax accountants suggest ways to save money on taxes. They must have a thorough knowledge of the tax laws that affect their clients or employers. They also must know the details of court rulings in a wide variety of tax cases.

Auditing involves the examination of an organization's financial statements and records. CPA auditors from outside the organization provide assurance that the organization's financial statements present financial information fairly and that they follow generally accepted accounting principles. People use such statements in deciding which companies to invest in and lend money to.

Internal auditors are employees of an organization who make sure that organization follows the accounting procedures management wants. They also seek ways to increase efficiency and reduce waste.

Management consulting services consist of a variety of activities that many accountants perform. These services include the design and installation of computerized financial information systems, assistance in setting up employee pension plans, and the planning of an individual's personal finances.


The number of jobs in many accounting fields is growing. Increasingly sophisticated management techniques demand information that can be provided most efficiently by accountants. Accounting requires the ability to gather data, analyze problems completely, and present conclusions clearly.

A college education with a major in accounting is good preparation for an accounting career. Many organizations prefer accountants with a master's degree in accounting or management. Many accountants become certified public accountants because they wish to practice public accounting or to have the distinction of earning a CPA certificate.

Most accountants work for business companies or government agencies. Some have jobs with foundations, hospitals, labor unions, universities, or other nonprofit organizations. Many CPA's practice in public accounting firms that provide a wide range of services. In the United States, five large public accounting firms earn most of the revenue of CPA firms. These five firms are Arthur Andersen & Co.; Deloitte & Touche; Ernst & Young; KPMG Peat Marwick; and PricewaterhouseCoopers.

Contributor: Robert M. Keith, C.P.A., Prof. of Accounting, Univ. of South Florida.

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Минская коллекция рефератов (old version) - дочерний проект при библиотеки LIBRARY.BY, бесплатная и постоянно пополняемая пользователями коллекция белорусских рефератов, белорусских дипломных работ, белорусских курсовых работ, белорусских контрольных, белорусских докладов и белорусских эссе. Работает с 1999 года.