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Accounting or accountancy is the measurement, processing, and communication of financial and non financial information about economic entities such as businesses and corporations. Accounting, which has been called the "language of business", measures the results of an organization's economic activities and conveys this information to a variety of users, including investors, creditors, management, and regulators. Practitioners of accounting are known as accountants. The terms "accounting" and "financial reporting" are often used as synonyms.
Accounting can be divided into several fields including financial accounting, management accounting, external auditing, tax accounting and cost accounting. Accounting information systems are designed to support accounting functions and related activities. Financial accounting focuses on the reporting of an organization's financial information, including the preparation of financial statements, to the external users of the information, such as investors, regulators and suppliers; and management accounting focuses on the measurement, analysis and reporting of information for internal use by management. The recording of financial transactions, so that summaries of the financials may be presented in financial reports, is known as bookkeeping, of which double-entry bookkeeping is the most common system.
Accounting has existed in various forms and levels of sophistication throughout human history. The double-entry accounting system in use today was developed in medieval Europe, particularly in Venice, and is usually attributed to the Italian mathematician and Franciscan friar Luca Pacioli. Today, accounting is facilitated by accounting organizations such as standard-setters, accounting firms and professional bodies. Financial statements are usually audited by accounting firms, and are prepared in accordance with generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP). GAAP is set by various standard-setting organizations such as the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) in the United States and the Financial Reporting Council in the United Kingdom. As of 2012, "all major economies" have plans to converge towards or adopt the International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS).
- Financial accounting
- General ledger
- Trial balance
- Accounts payable
- Accounts receivable
- Cost accounting
- Financial analysis
- Profit and loss
- Balance sheet
- Debit and Credit
- Costing types
- Standard cost
- Average cost
- Bank reconciliation
Accounting is thousands of years old and can be traced to Ancient civilizations. The early development of accounting dates back to ancient Mesopotamia, and is closely related to developments in writing, counting and money; there is also evidence of early forms of bookkeeping in ancient Iran, and early auditing systems by the ancient Egyptians and Babylonians. By the time of Emperor Augustus, the Roman government had access to detailed financial information.
Double-entry bookkeeping was pioneered in the Jewish community of the early-medieval Middle East and was further refined in medieval Europe. With the development of joint-stock companies, accounting split into financial accounting and management accounting.
The first published work on a double-entry bookkeeping system was the Summa de arithmetica, published in Italy in 1494 by Luca Pacioli (the "Father of Accounting"). Accounting began to transition into an organized profession in the nineteenth century, with local professional bodies in England merging to form the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales in 1880.
Accounting has variously been defined as the keeping or preparation of the financial records of transactions of the firm, the analysis, verification and reporting of such records and "the principles and procedures of accounting"; it also refers to the job of being an accountant.
Education, training and qualifications
At least a bachelor's degree in accounting or a related field is required for most accountant and auditor job positions, and some employers prefer applicants with a master's degree. A degree in accounting may also be required for, or may be used to fulfill the requirements for, membership to professional accounting bodies. For example, the education during an accounting degree can be used to fulfill the American Institute of CPA's (AICPA) 150 semester hour requirement, and associate membership with the Certified Public Accountants Association of the UK is available after gaining a degree in finance or accounting.
A doctorate is required in order to pursue a career in accounting academia, for example to work as a university professor in accounting. The Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) and the Doctor of Business Administration (DBA) are the most popular degrees. The PhD is the most common degree for those wishing to pursue a career in academia, while DBA programs generally focus on equipping business executives for business or public careers requiring research skills and qualifications.
Professional accounting qualifications include the Chartered Accountant designations and other qualifications including certificates and diplomas. In Scotland, chartered accountants of ICAS undergo Continuous Professional Development and abide by the ICAS code of ethics. In England and Wales, chartered accountants of the ICAEW undergo annual training, and are bound by the ICAEW's code of ethics and subject to its disciplinary procedures.
In the United States, the requirements for joining the AICPA as a Certified Public Accountant are set by the Board of Accountancy of each U.S. state|state, and members agree to abide by the AICPA's Code of Professional Conduct and Bylaws.
The ACCA is the largest global accountancy body with over 320,000 members and the organisation provides an ‘IFRS stream’ and a ‘UK stream’. Students must pass a total of 14 exams, which are arranged across three papers.
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