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Accountancy
Accountancy is the process of communicating financial information about a business entity to users such as shareholders and managers. The communication is generally in the form of financial statements that show in money terms the economic resources under the control of management; the art lies in selecting the information that is relevant to the user and is reliable.[2] The principles of accountancy are applied to business entities in three divisions of practical art, named accounting, bookkeeping, and auditing.

Accountancy is defined by the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) as "the profession or duties of an accountant".

Accounting is defined by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) as "the art of recording, classifying, and summarizing in a significant manner and in terms of money, transactions and events which are, in part at least, of financial character, and interpreting the results thereof."

Accounting is thousands of years old; the earliest accounting records, which date back more than 7,000 years, were found in Mesopotamia (Assyrians). The people of that time relied on primitive accounting methods to record the growth of crops and herds. Accounting evolved, improving over the years and advancing as business advanced.

Early accounts served mainly to assist the memory of the businessperson and the audience for the account was the proprietor or record keeper alone. Cruder forms of accounting were inadequate for the problems created by a business entity involving multiple investors, so double-entry bookkeeping first emerged in northern Italy in the 14th century, where trading ventures began to require more capital than a single individual was able to invest. The development of joint stock companies created wider audiences for accounts, as investors without firsthand knowledge of their operations relied on accounts to provide the requisite information. This development resulted in a split of accounting systems for internal (i.e. management accounting) and external (i.e. financial accounting) purposes, and subsequently also in accounting and disclosure regulations and a growing need for independent attestation of external accounts by auditors.

Today, accounting is called "the language of business" because it is the vehicle for reporting financial information about a business entity to many different groups of people. Accounting that concentrates on reporting to people inside the business entity is called management accounting and is used to provide information to employees, managers, owner-managers and auditors. Management accounting is concerned primarily with providing a basis for making management or operating decisions. Accounting that provides information to people outside the business entity is called financial accounting and provides information to present and potential shareholders, creditors such as banks or vendors, financial analysts, economists, and government agencies. Because these users have different needs, the presentation of financial accounts is very structured and subject to many more rules than management accounting. The body of rules that governs financial accounting in a given jurisdiction is called Generally Accepted Accounting Principles, or GAAP. Other rules include International Financial Reporting Standards, or IFRS[8], or US GAAP.

Theory

The basic accounting equation is assets = liabilities + stockholders' equity. This is the balance sheet. The foundation for the balance sheet begins with the income statement, which is revenues - expenses = net income or net loss. This is followed by the retained earnings statement, which is beginning retained earnings + net income - dividends = ending retained earnings or beginning retained earnings - net loss - dividends = ending retained earnings. The current ratio is current assets divided by current liabilities. The debt to total assets ratio is total assets divided by total liabilities.

Etymology

The word "Accountant" is derived from the French word Compter, which took its origin from the Latin word Computare. The word was formerly written in English as "Accomptant", but in process of time the word, which was always pronounced by dropping the "p", became gradually changed both in pronunciation and in orthography to its present form (see also comptroller).

History

Token accounting in ancient Mesopotamia

The earliest accounting records were found amongst the ruins of ancient Babylon, Assyria and Sumeria, which date back more than 7,000 years. The people of that time relied on primitive accounting methods to record the growth of crops and herds. Because there is a natural season to farming and herding, it is easy to count and determine if a surplus had been gained after the crops had been harvested or the young animals weaned.

Early Accounting in India

Early references to accounting concepts are found in the Vedas: Vikraya is found in the Atharvaveda and the Nirukta denoting ‘sale’. Sulka in the Rig veda clearly means ‘price’. In the Dharma Sutras it denotes a ‘tax’.

Accounting in the Roman Empire

The Res Gestae Divi Augusti (Latin: "The Deeds of the Divine Augustus") is a remarkable account to the Roman people of the Emperor Augustus' stewardship. It listed and quantified his public expenditure, which encompassed distributions to the people, grants of land or money to army veterans, subsidies to the aerarium (treasury), building of temples, religious offerings, and expenditures on theatrical shows and gladiatorial games. It was not an account of state revenue and expenditure, but was designed to demonstrate Augustus' munificence. The significance of the Res Gestae Divi Augusti from an accounting perspective lies in the fact that it illustrates that the executive authority had access to detailed financial information, covering a period of some forty years, which was still retrievable after the event. The scope of the accounting information at the emperor's disposal suggests that its purpose encompassed planning and decision-making.

The Roman historians Suetonius and Cassius Dio record that in 23 BC, Augustus prepared a rationarium (account) which listed public revenues, the amounts of cash in the aerarium (treasury), in the provincial fisci (tax officials), and in the hands of the publicani (public contractors); and that it included the names of the freedmen and slaves from whom a detailed account could be obtained. The closeness of this information to the executive authority of the emperor is attested by Tacitus' statement that it was written out by Augustus himself. Roman writing tablet from the Vindolanda Roman fort of Hadrian's Wall, in Northumberland (1st-2nd century AD) requesting money to buy 5,000 measures of cereal used for brewing beer. Department of Prehistory and Europe, British Museum. Records of cash, commodities, and transactions were kept scrupulously by military personnel of the Roman army. An account of small cash sums received over a few days at the fort of Vindolanda circa 110 CE shows that the fort could compute revenues in cash on a daily basis, perhaps from sales of surplus supplies or goods manufactured in the camp, items dispensed to slaves such as cervesa (beer) and clavi caligares (nails for boots), as well as commodities bought by individual soldiers. The basic needs of the fort were met by a mixture of direct production, purchase and requisition; in one letter, a request for money to buy 5,000 modii (measures) of braces (a cereal used in brewing) shows that the fort bought provisions for a considerable number of people.

The Heroninos Archive is the name given to a huge collection of papyrus documents, mostly letters, but also including a fair number of accounts, which come from Roman Egypt in 3rd century CE. The bulk of the documents relate to the running of a large, private estate is named after Heroninos because he was phrontistes (Koine Greek: manager) of the estate which had a complex and standarised system of accounting which was followed by all its local farm managers. Each administrator on each sub-division of the estate drew up his own little accounts, for the day-to-day running of the estate, payment of the workforce, production of crops, the sale of produce, the use of animals, and general expenditure on the staff. This information was then summarized as pieces of papyrus scroll into one big yearly account for each particular sub—division of the estate. Entries were arranged by sector, with cash expenses and gains extrapolated from all the different sectors. Accounts of this kind gave the owner the opportunity to take better economic decisions because the information was purposefully selected and arranged.

Simple accounting is mentioned in the Christian Bible (New Testament) in the Book of Matthew, in the Parable of the Talents.

Islamic accounting and algebra

In the Qur’an, the word "account" (Arabic: hesab) is used in its generic sense, relating to one's obligation to account to God on all matters pertaining to human endeavour. According to the Qur’an, followers are required to keep records of their indebtedness (Sura 2, ayah 282), thus Islam provides general approval and guidelines for the recording and reporting of transactions.

The Islamic law of inheritance (Sura 4, ayah 11) defines exactly how the estate is calculated after death of an individual. The power of testamentary disposition is basically limited to one-third of the net estate (i.e. the assets remaining after the payment of funeral expenses and debts), providing for every member of the family by allotting fixed shares not only to wives and children, but also to fathers and mothers. The complexity of this law served as an impetus behind the development of algebra (Arabic: al-jabr) by the Persian mathematician Muhammad ibn Mūsā al-Khwārizmī and other medieval Islamic mathematicians. Khwārizmī's "The Compendious Book on Calculation by Completion and Balancing" (Arabic: Hisab al-jabr w’al-muqabala, Baghdad, c. 825) devoted a chapter on the solution to the Islamic law of inheritance using linear equations.In the 12th century, Latin translations of al-Khwārizmī's "Book of Addition and Subtraction According to the Hindu Calculation" (Arabic:Kitāb al-Jamʿ wa-l-tafrīq bi-ḥisāb al-Hind) on the use of Indian numerals, introduced the decimal positional number system to the Western world. The development of mathematics and accounting was intertwined during the Renaissance. Mathematics was in the midst of a period of significant development in the late 15th century. Hindu-Arabic numerals and algebra were introduced to Europe from Arab mathematics at the end of the 10th century by the Benedictine monk Gerbert of Aurillac, but it was only after Leonardo Pisano (also known as Fibonacci) put commercial arithmetic, Hindu-Arabic numerals, and the rules of algebra together in his Liber Abaci in 1202 that Hindu-Arabic numerals became widely used in Italy.

Luca Pacioli and double-entry bookkeeping

Bartering was the dominant practice for traveling merchants during the Middle Ages. When medieval Europe moved to a monetary economy in the 13th century, sedentary merchants depended on bookkeeping to oversee multiple simultaneous transactions financed by bank loans. One important breakthrough took place around that time: the introduction of double-entry bookkeeping, which is defined as any bookkeeping system in which there was a debit and credit entry for each transaction, or for which the majority of transactions were intended to be of this form. The historical origin of the use of the words ‘debit’ and ‘credit’ in accounting goes back to the days of single-entry bookkeeping in which the chief objective was to keep track of amounts owed by customers (debtors) and amounts owed to creditors. ‘Debit,’ is Latin for ‘he owes’ and ‘credit’ Latin for ‘he trusts’.

The earliest extant evidence of full double-entry bookkeeping is the Farolfi ledger of 1299-1300. Giovanno Farolfi & Company were a firm of Florentine merchants whose head office was in Nîmes who also acted as moneylenders to the Archbishop of Arles, their most important customer. The oldest discovered record of a complete double-entry system is the Messari (Italian: Treasurer's) accounts of the city of Genoa in 1340. The Messari accounts contain debits and credits journalised in a bilateral form, and contains balances carried forward from the preceding year, and therefore enjoy general recognition as a double-entry system.

Luca Pacioli's "Summa de Arithmetica, Geometria, Proportioni et Proportionalità" (Italian: "Review of Arithmetic, Geometry, Ratio and Proportion") was first printed and published in Venice in 1494. It included a 27-page treatise on bookkeeping, "Particularis de Computis et Scripturis" (Italian: "Details of Calculation and Recording"). It was written primarily for, and sold mainly to, merchants who used the book as a reference text, as a source of pleasure from the mathematical puzzles it contained, and to aid the education of their sons. It represents the first known printed treatise on bookkeeping; and it is widely believed to be the forerunner of modern bookkeeping practice. In Summa Arithmetica, Pacioli introduced symbols for plus and minus for the first time in a printed book, symbols that became standard notation in Italian Renaissance mathematics. Summa Arithmetica was also the first known book printed in Italy to contain algebra.

Although Luca Pacioli did not invent double-entry bookkeeping, his 27-page treatise on bookkeeping contained the first known published work on that topic, and is said to have laid the foundation for double-entry bookkeeping as it is practiced today.[31] Even though Pacioli's treatise exhibits almost no originality, it is generally considered as an important work, mainly because of its wide circulation, it was written in the vernacular Italian language, and it was a printed book. According to Pacioli, accounting is an ad hoc ordering system devised by the merchant. Its regular use provides the merchant with continued information about his business, and allows him to evaluate how things are going and to act accordingly. Pacioli recommends the Venetian method of double-entry bookkeeping above all others. Three major books of account are at the direct basis of this system: the memoriale (Italian: memorandum), the giornale (Journal), and the quaderno (ledger). The ledger is considered as the central one and is accompanied by an alphabetical index.

Pacioli's treatise gave instructions in how to record barter transactions and transactions in a variety of currencies – both being far more commonplace than they are today. It also enabled merchants to audit their own books and to ensure that the entries in the accounting records made by their bookkeepers complied with the method he described. Without such a system, all merchants who did not maintain their own records were at greater risk of theft by their employees and agents: it is not by accident that the first and last items described in his treatise concern maintenance of an accurate inventory.

The nature of double-entry can be grasped by recognizing that this system of bookkeeping did not simply record the things merchants traded so that they could keep track of assets or calculate profits and losses; instead as a system of writing, double-entry produced effects that exceeded transcription and calculation. One of its social effects was to proclaim the honesty of merchants as a group; one of its epistemological effects was to make its formal precision based on a rule bound system of arithmetic seem to guarantee the accuracy of the details it recorded. Even though the information recorded in the books of account was not necessarily accurate, the combination of the double entry system's precision and the normalizing effect that precision tended to create, produced the impression that books of account were not only precise, but accurate as well. Instead of gaining prestige from numbers, double entry bookkeeping helped confer cultural authority on numbers.

Double entry accounting means that each transaction requires the use of at least two accounts.

Accounting in the internet era

In the IETF RFCs the act of accounting is usually defined as the act of collecting information on resource usage for the purpose of trend analysis, auditing, billing, or cost allocation.

For example when a user uses a connectivity service paid with a pay-per-view approach the accounting process is based on a metering of the resource usage by the user (usually time spent with an active connection or the amount of data tranferred using that connection). The accounting is hence the recording of this connectivity service consumption for subsequent charging of the service itself.

Accounting scandals

The year 2001 witnessed a series of financial information frauds involving Enron Corporation, auditing firm Arthur Andersen, the telecommunications company WorldCom, Qwest and Sunbeam, among other well-known corporations. These problems highlighted the need to review the effectiveness of accounting standards, auditing regulations and corporate governance principles. In some cases, management manipulated the figures shown in financial reports to indicate a better economic performance. In others, tax and regulatory incentives encouraged over-leveraging of companies and decisions to bear extraordinary and unjustified risk.

The Enron scandal deeply influenced the development of new regulations to improve the reliability of financial reporting, and increased public awareness about the importance of having accounting standards that show the financial reality of companies and the objectivity and independence of auditing firms.

In addition to being the largest bankruptcy reorganization in American history, the Enron scandal undoubtedly is the biggest audit failure.The scandal caused the dissolution of Arthur Andersen, which at the time was one of the five largest accounting firms in the world. It involved a financial scandal of Enron Corporation and their auditors Arthur Andersen, which was revealed in late 2001. After a series of revelations involving irregular accounting procedures conducted throughout the 1990s, Enron filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in December 2001.

One consequence of these events was the passage of Sarbanes-Oxley Act in 2002, as a result of the first admissions of fraudulent behavior made by Enron. The act significantly raises criminal penalties for securities fraud, for destroying, altering or fabricating records in federal investigations or any scheme or attempt to defraud shareholders. Another example of corporate fraud was the case of Australian telecommunications company One-tel. The financial manager, Jodee Rich was subsequently charged with fraud and spent several years in jail after fraudulently stating the companies financial position, to encourage investment by some of Australia's richest people including James Packer and Lachlan Murdoch.[40]When it collapsed in 2001, One-tel lost its shareholders in excess of 920 million dollars.

 
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