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What Does an Accountant Do?

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An accounting career can pave the way to financial stability. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, accountants earned a median annual income of $62,850 as of May 2011. You must earn a bachelor’s degree and pass a state-administered professional exam to work as a licensed accountant. Accountants may work for firms or independently and may work with a variety of clients. Accountants perform a range of tasks to meet client expectations.

Manage Business Finances

Accountants record all financial transactions involving a company and keep documentation in the form of receipts, profit and loss statements, payroll reports and tax documents. Accountants separate a company’s finances into categories and maintain running totals of how much companies earn and spend on various parts of the business. This compartmentalization allows companies to assess different parts of the business. Accountants prepare formal financial statements and file them with government agencies that require them. These reports provide company personnel with detailed, categorical figures showing the financial performance of the company during the past three months.

Advise Clients

Accountants assess the financial health and business practices of companies and individuals and advise them. They look for ways companies can minimize their expenses and increase revenue and profit. Accountants meet with company executives and discuss strategies that may allow the company to flourish and grow. Accountants also help businesses make key financial decisions. They voice support or opposition to major business decisions, including mergers and acquisitions, market growth, changes in benefits for workers, and the addition and subtraction of a company’s workforce.

Prepare Tax Documents

Accounts often prepare and file tax documents for their clients. The Internal Revenue Services allows certified public accountants to work as tax preparers without any specific tax prep training. Their professional certification provides a reassurance to both the IRS and clients that accountants know how to prepare tax documents. Accountants file sales tax documents, real estate tax documents and business taxes, including income taxes, employment taxes and excise taxes. Accountants also handle U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filings. The SEC requires all companies to file registration statements, periodic reports and other forms.

Audit Company Finances

Accountants also examine and review financial statements to ensure accuracy and compliance with laws and regulations. They look for discrepancies, including unpaid expenses and missing revenue. Accountants complete thorough audits of businesses and identify potential problem areas, including low cash flow and troublesome debts. Accountants file detailed annual audit reports that provide broad information to companies about their finances. Audits are used to uncover suspected fraud, and accountants may be asked to appear in court as a witness in such cases.