Companies hire bookkeepers to maintain one of their most important possessions – their financial records. Bookkeepers must be trustworthy to handle such a responsibility and business owners need to feel comfortable with their bookkeepers so they can concentrate on running their businesses and bringing in the money. To ensure mutual respect, bookkeepers follow a code of ethics and build a solid reputation based on following that code.
Bookkeepers have an obligation to maintain the best interests of their clients, society and the profession as a whole. Bookkeepers must provide the best service they can for their employers, stay updated on the most recent accounting rules that affect clients and keep their confidences. At the same time, bookkeepers must answer to audits and other government inquiries as part of their duties to society as whole. Finally, they must stick to the code of ethics at every turn so as not to sully the profession and its reputation.
Appearances are important to bookkeepers because even though they may be perfectly legal and within their rights and responsibilities as accounting agents, they can’t afford even the appearance of impropriety. Potential conflicts of interest should be avoided or at least be made known to the clients involved. Bookkeepers can’t get involved in illegal activities, even on their own time. They’ve got to be walking, talking examples of trustworthiness so as not to endanger their positions in the community and within the profession. One bad apple really spoils this bunch.
Bookkeepers are required to turn in honest accountings of their clients’ books. Even if the employer asks a bookkeeper to “doctor” the books or create false entries, bookkeepers who adhere to a code of ethics don’t get involved in any of those types of activities. If an employer asks a bookkeeper to do something illegal, ethical bookkeepers may leave their positions, or quit their jobs. They should never turn in their employers to the authorities, however, unless they’re required to do so by law.
While they have an obligation to always maintain their clients’ confidentiality and secure proprietary information for their employers, bookkeepers with high ethical standards share any new information about accounting rules or requirements with their peers. If they learn about new laws or upcoming reporting rules that are going to be required, they should share that information through peer networks and association avenues. General, non-proprietary information belongs in the public domain and bookkeepers have an obligation to share news as soon as they learn about it.
Linda Ray is an award-winning journalist with more than 20 years reporting experience. She's covered business for newspapers and magazines, including the "Greenville News," "Success Magazine" and "American City Business Journals." Ray holds a journalism degree and teaches writing, career development and an FDIC course called "Money Smart."