Ethical Issues in Accounting

Topics: Ethics, Business ethics, Accountant Pages: 12 (3497 words) Published: June 21, 2013

"Accountants and the accountancy profession exist as a means of public service; the distinction which separates a profession from a mere means of livelihood is that the profession is accountable to standards of the public interest, and beyond the compensation paid by clients."

—Robert H. Montgomery, describing ethics in accounting.

Accounting ethics is primarily a field of applied ethics, the study of moral values and judgments as they apply to accountancy. It is an example of professional ethics. Accounting ethics were first introduced by Luca Pacioli, and later expanded by government groups, professional organizations, and independent companies. Ethics are taught in accounting courses at higher education institutions as well as by companies training accountants and auditors.

Due to the diverse range of accounting services and recent corporate collapses, attention has been drawn to ethical standards accepted within the accounting profession. These collapses have resulted in a widespread disregard for the reputation of the accounting profession. To combat the criticism and prevent fraudulent accounting, various accounting organizations and governments have developed regulations and remedies for improved ethics among the accounting profession.

Importance of Ethics in Accounting

The nature of the work carried out by accountants and auditors requires a high level of ethics. Shareholders, potential shareholders, and other users of the financial statements rely heavily on the yearly financial statements of a company as they can use this information to make an informed decision about investment. They rely on the opinion of the accountants who prepared the statements, as well as the auditors that verified it, to present a true and fair view of the company. Knowledge of ethics can help accountants and auditors to overcome ethical dilemmas, allowing for the right choice that, although it may not benefit the company, will benefit the public who relies on the accountant/auditor's reporting.


Luca Pacioli, the "Father of Accounting", wrote on accounting ethics in his first book Summa de arithmetica, geometria, proportioni, et proportionalita, published in 1494. Ethical standards have since then been developed through government groups, professional organizations, and independent companies. These various groups have led accountants to follow several codes of ethics to perform their duties in a professional work environment. Accountants must follow the code of ethics set out by the professional body of which they are a member. United States accounting societies such as the Association of Government Accountants, Institute of Internal Auditors, and the National Association of Accountants all have codes of ethics, and many accountants are members of one or more of these societies.

In 1887, the American Association of Public Accountants (AAPA) was created; it was the first step in developing professionalism in the United States accounting industry. By 1905, the AAPA's first ethical codes were formulated to educate its members. During its twentieth anniversary meeting in October 1907, ethics was a major topic of the conference among its members. As a result of discussions, a list of professional ethics was incorporated into the organization's bylaws. However, because membership to the organization was voluntary, the association could not require individuals to conform to the suggested behaviors. Other accounting organizations, such as the Illinois Institute of Accountants, also pursued discussion on the importance of ethics for the field. The AAPA was renamed several times throughout its history, before becoming the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) as its named today. The AICPA developed five divisions of ethical principles that its members should follow: "independence, integrity, and objectivity"; "competence and technical...

References: .
2. Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, Ethics in Accounting
3. Hartman, L. P., & Desjardins, J. (2010). Business ethics (Decision making for personal integrity and social responsibility).
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