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What Do Accountants Do?

From my perspective I think of accountants as story tellers.

Tax accountants report the story of what happened with a company financially in accordance with tax law/regulations at the federal, state, and local levels.

Auditors confirm that the story told by a company through their financial statements and supporting documents is an accurate assessment and nothing was found that would mislead stakeholders.

Other accounting roles tell the history of what occurred in a prior month, quarter, or year following guidelines such as US GAAP (Generally Accepted Accounting Principles). As accountants move up in their level of responsibility the audience will change. Accounting leaders will share the story of what happened to various stakeholders such as other executives and perhaps a board of directors. This disclosure will vary depending on whether the company is publicly traded or not. Publicly traded companies have several regulations/disclosures to comply with in addition to GAAP.

In smaller companies’ accountants may be tasked with accounting (telling the history) in addition to finance tasks of forecasting/modeling the financial status of the company in the future. Larger companies often have an FP&A (Financial Planning & Analysis) group that takes historical accounting data and combines with other forward-looking data to make projections about the future financial status of the company.

This is just a quick overview as the role of an accountant will vary depending on their level of experience, role at a company, and whether the company is publicly traded or privately held.

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