Accounting is a broad field which is essential to the proper financial management of a business. It includes the recording of financial transactions and the sorting, retrieving, summarising, analysing and presentation of this information in ways which are useful to businesses. Accountants are trained to do these tasks effectively and precisely so that their clients can rely on their advice and so their records meet the regulatory requirements stipulated by the ATO and other government bodies.
What does an accountant actually do?
Accountants prepare and examine financial records. This may sound simple, but it covers a huge amount of complicated processes which must be executed precisely to ensure that the records are correct and useful. In addition to keeping accurate records, accountants also help to ensure the correct taxes are paid and the returns are lodged on time. Most accountants also assist their clients in minimising their tax exposure through legitimate exemptions and rebates.
On a day-to-day basis, accountants:
- Organising and maintaining their clients’ financial records
- Improving their clients financial practices to increase efficiency
- Assist in creating business strategies to increase revenue and reduce expenses
- Provide recommendations to management on best practice
- Provide auditing services and support during a government audit
- Examine financial statements and ensure that they are accurate and properly maintained
- Ensure clients comply with laws and regulations in their statements, their reporting and their records
- Assess what taxes their clients owe and assist them in preparing returns and paying on time
- Keep accounting systems up to date
What are the different types of accountant?
Within the accounting field there are a number of roles which interact with businesses in different ways. These include:
- Public accountants: these are the most widely known and used, and their clients typically include companies and individuals. They provide a broad range of general accounting services, including auditing, tax and financial consulting.
- Management accountants: these accountants specialise in collecting and analysing financial information for internal use by the management of their clients’ businesses.
- Government accountants: these accountants work for government agencies and provide them with general accounting services, but they also review private businesses and individuals when they are subject to a government audit to ensure they are complying to regulation.
- Internal auditors: these specialists are part of an organisation’s risk management team, and they identify ways to find and eliminate waste and fraud.
What are Chartered Accountants (CA) and Certified Practice Accountants (CPA)?
All accountants must complete a bachelor’s degree in order to practice, but there are further studies available for professionals who want to refine and improve their skills and perform higher level duties. These studies lead accountants to either become Chartered Accountants or Certified Practice Accountants.
Chartered Accountants complete a course which focuses on technical processes, such as auditing and tax, which equips them to handle more complex accounting functions. Chartered Accountants have to complete difficult examinations to prove their knowledge, and their additional insight and knowledge is incredibly valuable to businesses looking to maximise the benefits of their accounting practices.
Certified Practice Accountants complete a broader course of study which focuses on a more varied base of accounting skills, such as planning, costing, marketing and more. This assists them in being more creative in their application of accounting principles and allows them to become truly collaborative partners with their clients and employers. These professionals take a bigger picture view, but have less specialised technical knowledge.