Accountants are like money doctors; and just like medical doctors, they have certain responsibilities to their clients. As a certified public accountant, you have many clients that might include companies and individuals. As a management accountant, your clients are internal to the organization and might include your immediate supervisor, department managers and the executive team. In both types of accounting, a professional accountant conducts herself professionally and is acutely aware of her financial responsibilities to her clients.
Don't share financial information with third parties unless your client has specifically directed you to do so. Financial information, even when you work in management accounting, is confidential information. Businesses and private clients don't appreciate you providing this information to anyone without their knowledge. This includes sharing information internally in a company or organization as well. The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, Rule 301 of the Code of Professional Conduct specifically states that a "member in public practice shall not disclose any confidential information without the specific consent of the client."
When hired to keep track of financial records, an accountant has a responsibility to keep records up-to-date. This includes posting daily transactions, making timely bank deposits, adjusting ledgers and ensuring that payroll is delivered on time. If you manage cash flow for your client, you need to provide updated cash-flow reports on schedule. Some clients want bank balance information, income and expense information and more on a daily or weekly basis.
Consultation and Advice
Accountants often provide an analysis of market trends, product sales results, and advice on real estate and equipment purchases or investments. While you might have a specific opinion as to what your client should do, it's important to provide detailed analysis that are based on facts first and then provide your specific advice or opinion. If you are making suggestions for tax purposes, the consultation must be based on expertise and knowledge of tax laws.
Accountants need to be above reproach. This includes honesty and trustworthiness. An accountant that cannot be trusted can put a whole company at risk. Ethical accountants always follow generally accepted accounting principles, whether they are preparing public or private reports. They adhere to a professional code of conduct in their daily practices. Their record-keeping practices are transparent so that an auditor can review transactions easily. Unscrupulous accountants are those who use their position to embezzle or steal funds from clients.
- American Institute of Certified Public Accountants: ET Section 301 - Confidential Client Information
- Federal Accounting Standards Advisory Board: Authoritative Source of Guidance
- U.S. Department of Justice: Florida Accountant Indicted for Stealing Client Money Intended for IRS
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: What Accountants and Auditors Do
As a native Californian, artist, journalist and published author, Laurie Brenner began writing professionally in 1975. She has written for newspapers, magazines, online publications and sites. Brenner graduated from San Diego's Coleman College.