views updated May 14 2018


Accountants prepare, analyze, and verify financial records for individuals, businesses, and the government. Accountants may have their own businesses, work for accounting firms, or be employed by various types of businesses.

Some accountants specialize in tax matters and help people prepare income tax returns. Tax accountants also advise companies on the tax advantages and disadvantages of certain business decisions. These tasks involve a great deal of mathematics.

In preparing tax forms, accountants must add up income from the various sources. They use multiplication to compute tax savings that change with the number of exemptions, such as dependent children. They use subtraction to deduct expenses from income to calculate how much income must be taxed. Using all of these calculations, they determine how much tax their clients owe and develop and present various options to save the most money for their clients.

Accountants may review and assess budgets, performance, costs, and assets of different parts of a company. Computers are often used to prepare reports and graphs and to handle the detailed mathematics of business.

Many accountants prepare financial reports. An income statement summarizes a company's revenues (income) and expenses. A company's net earnings equal revenues minus expenses. Performance may be evaluated by comparing net earnings from one year to the next. Thus, there may be a percentage increase or decrease. The financial reports often contain graphs summarizing financial data.

Accountants use mathematical models to estimate how much a company's equipment depreciates . Accountants also use mathematics when budgeting, which entails controlling expenses based on the money available during a particular time period.

Most accountant positions require at least a bachelor's degree in accounting. Large accounting firms often prefer people with a master's degree.

see also Financial Planner; Graphs.

Denise Prendergast


Farr, J. Michael. America's Top White-Collar JobsDetailed Information on 112 Major Office, Management, Sales, and Professional Jobs, 4th ed. Indianapolis: JIST Works, Inc., 1999.

Nickerson, Clarence B. Accounting Handbook for Nonaccountants, 2nd ed. Boston: CBI Publishing Company, Inc., 1979.


views updated May 23 2018


A person who has the requisite skill and experience in establishing and maintaining accurate financial records for an individual or a business. The duties of an accountant may include designing and controlling systems of records, auditing books, and preparing financial statements. An accountant may give tax advice and prepare tax returns.

A public accountant renders accounting or auditing services for a number of employees, each of whom pays the accountant a fee for services rendered. He or she does more than just bookkeeping but does not generally have all the qualifications of a certified public accountant.

A certified public accountant is one who has earned a license in his or her state that attests to a high degree of skill, training, and experience. In addition to passing an accounting examination, a candidate must have the proper business experience, education, and moral character in order to qualify for the license. The letters CPA are commonly used and generally recognized to be the abbreviation for the title Certified Public Accountant.

The practice of accounting is a highly skilled and technical profession that affects public welfare. It is entirely appropriate for the state to regulate the profession by means of a licensing system for accountants. Some states do not permit anyone to practice accounting except certified public accountants, but other states use the title to recognize the more distinguished skills of a CPA while permitting others to practice as public accountants. All states limit the use of the title and the initials to those who are licensed as certified public accountants.

All accountants are held to high standards of skill in issuing professional opinions. They can be sued for malpractice if performance of their duties falls below standards for the profession.


views updated May 11 2018

ac·count·ant / əˈkount(ə)nt/ (abbr.: acct.) • n. a person whose job is to keep or inspect financial accounts.ORIGIN: Middle English: from legal French, present participle of Old French aconter (see account). The original use was as an adjective meaning ‘liable to give an account,’ hence denoting a person who must do so.


views updated May 18 2018

accountancy Profession that assesses and produces financial information for and about a company or individual for the benefit of the company's management, the investing public and official tax and financial regulatory authorities. See also book-keeping


views updated May 23 2018

ac·count·an·cy / əˈkount(ə)nsē/ • n. the profession or duties of an accountant.