Accounting careers may seem like a very straightforward field in which to work, but even dealing with numbers has its subjective side. Because of this, accounting careers are guided by a set of ethical standards that all accountants are required to adhere to. Working as an accountant, your clients trust you with access to their financial information. Each one trusts that you will present this information accurately and will analyze it to the best of your ability in a way that will benefit your client’s financial state.
- Ethical standards in accounting careers are set by accounting associations, such as the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA), the Institute of Management Accountants (IMA), and the Institute of Internal Auditors (IIA). While each of these organizations represents slightly different fields within accounting, their ethical standards are all devised with the same goals in mind.
- The purpose of setting ethical standards is so that there is not confusion among accountants as to what behavior is acceptable and so that clients know they can trust and rely on the accounting industry.
Most ethical standards in accounting encompass honesty, maintaining confidentiality, doing a job to the best of your ability, and avoiding conflicts of interest. Honesty in accounting means being straightforward with your clients about the information you discover in their financial records. Even though some of this information may be negative, your duty as an accountant is to relay all of the facts. Maintaining confidentiality means that you will not provide information about a client’s finances to any parties who should not have access the information or could use confidential information illegally for their own benefit. To agree to do your job well means that you will not inflate your capabilities in order to land a particular client and then do poor work on a job you do not comprehend. Avoiding conflicts of interest means that you will not work for a client if you or an organization you are affiliated with are affected by the work you prepare for that client. In other words, you will not inaccurately portray a client’s finances for personal benefit.
Maintaining ethical standards in an accounting career also means that you will not take advantage of perks that come along with your job. Often, large accounting firms and clients provide services for accountants, and you should not misrepresent your situation in order to receive more than you are entitled.