What Does an Accountant Do?
In the broadest sense, an accountant performs a set of functions to make proper collection, accuracy, and analysis of financial operations for a company, business, or employer. Administrative roles such as tax reporting and presentation of financial reports are often included in an accountant’s job description as well. In small business, an accountant mostly deals with data collection and report generation. Medium or large-scale businesses usually hire a team of accountants as advisers and company’s representatives during financial data presentation.
Accounting Department and CPA
An accountant may work either as part of an accounting department in a company or for Certified Public Accounting firm in the US or a Chartered Professional Accountant firm in Canada. Accounting department is usually part of a larger organization, and therefore accountants have more duties and responsibilities listed in their job descriptions. In most cases, they work extensively on computers to classify and maintain financial records for report generations. They are also responsible for reconciling bills, vouchers, and basically all payment receipts using sophisticated software. Depending on company’s policy, the reports can be made public when necessary. In mid-sized to large corporation scale where employees are required to travel for business, the accountants must also track all business-related expenses such as hotels, equipment, foods, etc.
On the other hand, accountants who work for CPA firm usually act as consultants for various companies and help keep their financial reports organized. They are often hired by small businesses to help generate reports for taxes and submit them to tax departments. Apart from those functions, some CPAs work together with the government to prevent crimes (tax evasions) by looking through all financial statements submitted; this role is often referred to as forensic accounting. During trials, accountants from CPA can be present as witnesses.
All financial activities must be recorded and compiled in comprehensive report in accordance to the law. More often than not, those roles also relate to more sophisticated tasks for examples maintaining financial database and setting up monitoring procedures. Financial reports must remain in secured database accessible only by authorized people.
Some accountants, usually the most capable ones, often work merely as analysts and advisers. They do not work with administrative portions of financial reporting, but are responsible for interpreting financial data to company owners or board of directors. Based on the analysis, the company can make better plans or resolve issues with any irregularities. The accountants are also asked to give recommendations for more efficient business operations.
Cooperation with Other Departments
In large companies, accounting department works closely with at least 3 other departments including Public, Management, and Internal Audit. Some companies are required to publish financial data to the public, and everything must be approved by Internal Audit beforehand. Management may include financial report of operational expense and revenues; both of which are monitored and recorded by accounting departments. Government officials are often involved; accountants must cooperate and provide all the requested data on time.