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CORPORATE ACCOUNTING

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Above all, businesses strive to maximize long-run profits and reduce short-term debt. One of the sound management practices needed to reach these objectives is the company's accounting system.

The accounting department must be designed to meet the needs and characteristics of the particular business of which it is a part. For this reason, no single information system design is superior for all types of businesses.

A financial organizational structure frequently adopted by corporations has a vice-president-finance or chief financial officer (CFO) in charge of all financial operations. The positions usually reporting to the CFO are the controller and treasurer. A typical structure of this type is illustrated in Figure 2.1.



It is important to realize that job titles frequently vary among corporations. A divisional controller in one organization may be an accounting manager, an assistant controller, or a plant accountant in another. In industrial accounting, position responsibility rather than position title determines what functions and activities will be performed.

VICE-PRESIDENT-FINANCE OR CHIEF FINANCIAL OFFICER

Long-term financing decisions are made only once every few years in most companies, but these decisions have a large impact on the firm's success and growth over that period. Success depends on making the right decisions about timing and sources of funds. Timing is important because the CFO has little control over the economy, an external variable that can influence stock and bond prices, interest rates, and capital markets in general. Therefore, the CFO must try to stabilize the flow of funds to ensure availability when needed. Alternative choices for sources of funding include the issuance of common stock, preferred stock, or bonds.

The dividend policy of the company is important because many stockholders consider the stability and amount of dividend before buying stock. The policy is also related to long-term financing because the smaller the dividend, the more cash a company will retain for paying bills.

The CFO also directs and supervises the work of the controller and treasurer and has administrative responsibility for the personnel and performance of these departments. The CFO advises the president of the organization on matters concerning financial reporting, financial stability and liquidity. The CFO typically bears the responsibility for maintaining close contact with stockholders, the investment community, and financial institutions.

Often the CFO is a member of the corporation's executive committee and participates in planning and policy decisions. By the time a person attains the position of CFO, he or she will usually have had 15 to 20 years of experience in the field of business. Most CFOs hold a bachelor's degree in accounting or finance, and many also have a master's degree in business.

Treasurer

The treasurer receives, disburses, and protects the company's cash; invests surplus funds; and manages pension and trust funds. The treasurer also determines the optimal cash position for the organization, governs overall credit policy, investigates insurance coverage, negotiates loans, and maintains banking relationships.

In a small company, some of the duties of the treasurer's office are combined and performed by a few employees. In a large company, typically each department has a separate staff. A medium-sized company may have some departments fully staffed, while other departments may be combined.

Manager of Credit and Collections

The manager of credit and collections reports to the treasurer and has the responsibility of developing and administering the credit and collection policy. The policies must be tight enough to assure minimum bad debt expense, but loose enough to avoid loss of sales and customers.

Manager of Investor Relations

The manager of investor relations has the responsibility of developing and maintaining a market for the company's securities. This includes communication with stockholders, security analysts, and investment bankers.

Cashier

The duties of a cashier are usually more administrative than policy-making. The cashier is responsible for endorsing checks, depositing cash, and maintaining a record of cash receipts and disbursements. These duties also could include maintaining banking arrangements for the company.

Manager of Insurance

In a large company, the manager of insurance heads a separate department responsible for the firm's insurance coverage, including the bonding of employees. This department evaluates all tangible assets, including buildings, equipment, and inventories, and determines the adequate level of insurance for them. Identification of potential losses and risks should be discussed with management. The insurance department evaluates the amount of life insurance and professional liability insurance coverage the company needs to carry on key employees.

Controller

The controller is the chief accounting executive and is a participant in top-level decision making affecting the company. This includes developing forecasts, measuring actual performance against expected results, and interpreting data. The controllership function normally includes responsibility for all financial and managerial accounting and reporting. Financial accounting involves reporting to stockholders, creditors, and investors. Managerial accounting concerns compiling and reporting figures, such as budgets, production reports, and cost variances, for internal use.

The controller guides and supervises the work of the managers in charge of the departments of cost, budgeting, tax planning, general accounting, and, sometimes, the internal audit department. The controllership position requires an in-depth understanding of the general business environment in addition to knowledge in the accounting and finance areas.

Cost Accounting

Cost accounting involves developing and modifying a cost accounting system that is tailored to meet the informational needs of management. In a manufacturing firm, the cost accounting department should work closely with production management. Output from the cost accounting department typically includes timely, accurate reports on labor, material, overhead charges (both fixed and variable), and product costing. A review of the allocation of overhead costs should be done periodically.

Most companies employ a standard cost system that uses the standard material and labor requirements developed by the company's production engineering department. A standard cost per unit is calculated which can be compared to actual costs per unit. Differences between the actual cost of production and the standard or expected cost are called variances. Any variances of a significant dollar amount are investigated and explained. This is an example of management by exception and provides important feedback to the various departments on their performance.

The cost accounting department also becomes involved in developing studies of future projects, such as building a new manufacturing plant or warehouse.

Budgeting

Most companies have written goals and objectives. When these same goals and objectives are expressed in financial terms, the document is called a budget. Budgeting includes the preparation of operational budgets, capital budgets, and cash budgets.

The preparation of company budgets is the responsibility of the con-troller's staff, but the process requires input from additional personnel from the production, marketing, and operating areas. An annual operating budget for a business organization starts with a sales forecast. This forecast is used to project a sales budget, which is segregated by product and division within the company. The sales forecast is also used to prepare a production budget. A budget predicting the amount of raw materials to be purchased and labor that will be needed is also generated. The operating budget forecasts operating revenue, expenses, and the expected net income.

Capital budgets show how and where a company plans to spend funds for large plant and equipment items and for long-term projects.

Cash budgeting is a forecast estimating cash inflow and outflow for a month or longer. This is important to a company as an aid in determining whether it will be able to pay short-term bills or if it needs to look for sources of short-term financing.

Tax Accounting/Planning. The responsibilities of the tax accounting/ planning department include the reporting and timely filing of all federal, state, and local income tax returns. The department must also comply with all necessary reports for the Securities and Exchange Commission. These reports must be filed by all corporations whose stock is publicly traded. This department does research in the following areas:
  • Buying and selling fixed assets.
  • Acquiring and/or selling subsidiaries.
  • Investment tax credits.
  • Issuing and retiring bonds or stock.
  • Purchasing and/or selling investment securities.
  • Foreign tax calculations.
After initial research is completed on tax planning, the executive committee usually makes final decisions on tax matters. The company's tax accounting department usually seeks advice on any unusual or complicated matters from the tax department of the independent financial accounting firm that performs its audit. (See Chapter 1 for a detailed discussion of accounting firms.)

General Accounting

Most of the general accounting functions are now computerized in many companies. These functions include:

  • Journalizing, this records the everyday transactions.
  • Payroll, which maintains employee payroll records and prepares paychecks.
  • Billing, this sends out statements.
  • General ledger area, which maintains balance sheet and income statement accounts.
  • Accounts payable, which authorizes and disburses payment.
The international accounting function is usually in the general accounting area for companies that have a need for such a department. Foreign currency translations and the resulting effects on the company's books, consolidating foreign subsidiaries, and any other related effects on the parent company- these are all responsibilities of international accounting.

Internal Auditing

The responsibilities of internal auditing include:
  • Independent appraisal of the performance of various levels of management with regard to efficiency and adherence to company policies.
  • Continuous review and recommendations for improvements in a system of internal checks and protective measures in the organization.
  • Periodic assessment of the reliability of financial records and effectiveness of processing methods.
Congress passed the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act in 1977. This bill requires companies to maintain and comply with an adequate system of internal accounting controls. Since the law was passed, internal auditing staffs have grown in size, and some companies that did not have audit staffs have now established them.

In 1978, the Institute of Internal Auditors released the Standards for the Professional Practice of Internal Auditing. This document stated that the scope of the internal audit "encompasses the examination and evaluation of the adequacy and effectiveness of the organization's system of internal control and the quality of performance in carrying out assigned responsibilities."1

This standard has broadened the scope of internal auditor's responsibilities and increased contact with the senior levels of management. As many corporate operations become larger and more complex, it is not possible for top-level executives to have direct control over all activities. Many potential problems are identified before they reach serious proportions by using the internal audit staff to evaluate financial and nonfinancial controls and to test the company's compliance with them.

Until recently, the function and role of the internal auditor was similar to that of the external financial auditor: attesting to the accuracy of the financial statements. Now, internal auditors devote more than half of their time to nonfinancial audits commonly referred to as operational or management audits, which cover all areas of a company's operations. As operational audit can be thought of as a constructive business advisory service, designed to evaluate the extent to which management objectives are achieved. It identifies areas where operational efficiency can be improved, thereby increasing organizational profitability and effectiveness.2

CERTIFIED FRAUD EXAMINER

It is becoming more common to read in the Wall Street Journal or the local daily newspaper about a corporation defending itself against a stockholder

'Institute of Internal Auditors, Standards for the Professional Practice of Internal Auditing (Altamonte Springs, Fla.: Institute of Internal Auditors, 1978), p. 3.

Frederick P. Garbenski, "Careers in Internal Auditing," Student News brief A, no. 3, Ohio Society of CP As, p. 3. suit. The stockholder may allege mismanagement of funds or accuse the company of fraud. Fraud will never be completely eradicated, but it usually can be uncovered, controlled, or abated.

The National Association of Fraud Examiners established the Certified Fraud Examiner Program in 1988. The program focuses on internal fraud that is committed by employees of business and governmental enterprises.

Now available via a computer format anytime during the year, the CFE exam includes true/false, multiple choices, practical ,quantitative and qualitative problems. Candidates are tested in the following areas:

Accounting and Auditing

Accounting theory, financial statement analysis, auditing theory, evaluating control statistical sampling, questioned document examination, evaluating fraud risk, audit evidence, data processing fraud risks, software controls.

Criminology

Theories of crime, sociology and psychology of offenders, the criminal justice system, crime statistics, sentencing guidelines, restitution, plea bargains, victim impact statements.

Investigation

Principles of interview techniques, interrogation, public record information, taking signed statements, report writing, assembling documentary evidence, court investigations, evaluating deception, confidential sources.

Law

Eliminate the criminal offenses, civil and criminal fraud statutes, rights of the accused and the accuser, rules of evidence, privacy laws, libel and slander, legal jurisdiction, testifying as an expert witness.

Ethics

Principles of ethical conduct, independence, confidentiality of information.

EDUCATION AND SALARY

The following advertisements taken from various business publications list typical job descriptions for various accounting positions available in the corporate world.

Controller

Manufacturer of small metal parts has an opening for a controller. Degree and CPA, must be experienced with financial reporting, costing, data processing, credit and collection, and all general accounting. Job will require hands-on experience with all duties, in addition to strong supervisory skills. Excellent opportunities with a quality company to replace the retiring incumbent. Salary open. Qualified candidates are requested to submit detailed resume and salary history in strict confidence to: [Address]

Staff Accountant

Entry level accounting position


Responsibilities include translating foreign currencies, intercompany reconciliations, and account analysis. Requires a degree in accounting and no experience necessary.

Cost Accountant (Accounting or Finance)

Positions involve performing accounting analysis, establishing controls, documenting internal standard procedures, generating reports, preparing month-end closing entries, interfacing with various functional disciplines (i.e., production, materials, industrial engineering), and programming and developing timesharing internal systems and report mechanisms.

EDP Auditors

Bachelor's degree in accounting, business administration, or information science preferred Master's degree desirable. Certified internal auditor or certified internal system auditor desirable. Two to four years' internal audit or EDP audits experience. Above average written and oral communication skill is required.

Accounting Analyst

Bachelor's degree in accounting, two to three years of experience, at least one year in cost accounting; systems knowledge, preferably some academic experience coupled with hands-on systems experience. Background in standard process cost systems, general accounting, reconciliations, inventory, month-end closings, and standard revisions.

Cost/Budget Supervisor

A four-year degree and a minimum of three years of manufacturing cost experience and general accounting exposure is necessary. Excellent room for growth with this national company and good benefits.

Accounts Payable

Local growth-oriented firm seeking individual with minimum two years of accounts' experience, knowledge of data entry and basic accounting essential. Past experience with a medium or large size company desirable. Salary $18,000 to $20,000 per year, depending on experience plus benefits. If interested, send resume to: [Address]

Of the job categories described earlier in the chapter, entry-level jobs for credit and collection, cashier, and general accounting frequently do not require a college degree. As the preceding advertisements state, some accounting background is helpful in securing a job. Unfortunately, little or no education equates with low-paying jobs. Some entry-level jobs not requiring a college degree list salaries in the mid- to high teens.

In larger firms, many of the job categories described in this chapter have junior, senior, and manager levels. The junior level typically requires up to a three-year stay to gain experience and to learn company operations and procedures before promotion to the senior level. In most companies, the junior level requires a degree with an emphasis in accounting or finance.

Senior level in a corporate job usually requires from two to six years of experience with increasing responsibilities and includes the supervision of one or more junior accountants. A bachelor's degree in accounting or finance is usually required, and many senior accountants have earned a master's degree.

Being promoted to the manager level is a crucial, important step in an accountant's career for several reasons. This level represents the first line of management, and it is critical for advancement in the company. A person in the manager position usually reports directly to the treasurer or controller. At this level, most persons have already become certified in their chosen field.

Controller or treasurer is the next promotion available. Few employees in a company reach this level. This job category usually means that the accountant has 15 or more years of experience, bachelor's and master's degrees, and certification. Reaching this level involves acceptance in the inner circle of top management.

Chief financial officer is the position with the highest level of responsibility and achievement within the financial function of an industrial organization. The job description of the CFO was discussed earlier in the chapter.

The salary figures in Tables 2.1 and 2.2 for various financial positions have been excerpted from a report compiled by Inc.

Certification in an area, a law degree, or a master's degree may increase the salary figures by 10 to 15 percent. Salaries will also vary according to geographic location.

CERTIFICATION

Certified Management


In response to the needs of business and at the request of many in the academic community, the Institute of Management Accountants (IMA) established a program to recognize professional competence and educational attainment in management accounting. The program culminates in a Certificate in Management Accounting (CMA).

The CMA program requires candidates to pass a series of uniform examinations and to meet specific educational and professional standards to qualify for and maintain the CMA. The IMA has established the Institute of Certified Management Accountants (ICMA) to administer the program, conduct the examinations, and grant certificates to those who qualify. The objectives of the program are fourfold:
  • To establish management accounting as a recognized profession by identifying the role of the management accountant and financial manager, the underlying body of knowledge, and a course of study by which such knowledge is acquired.

  • To encourage higher educational standards in the management accounting field.

  • To establish an objective measure of an individual's knowledge and competence in the field of management accounting.

  • To encourage continued professional development by management accountants.
Candidates for the CMA must apply to the Institute of Certified Management Accounting. Admission to the ICMA and the CMA program require the applicant to be of good moral character, to be employed or expect to be employed in the management accounting area, to be a member of IMA, and to satisfy one of the following conditions:
  • Hold a bachelorette degree in any area from an accredited college or university.
  • Be a certified public accountant or hold a professional qualification similar to the CPA or CMA, issued in a foreign country.
The CMA examination is a comprehensive four-part examination designed as a measure of an individual's knowledge and competence in the practice of management accounting and financial management. The examination questions are constructed to measure technical knowledge and to assess the individual's ability to analyze information and communicate the results in a meaningful and understandable manner.

The examination is given semiannually in the second week of June and December. Beginning in December 1997 the exam will be available in a computer-based format. There are four parts, each part taking four hours. The following outline briefly indicates the subject matter covered in each part of the exam. The percentages shown represent the approximate coverage that each topic will have in each part.

Candidates must write at least two parts each time they take the examination until only one part remains to be passed. The parts may be taken in any combination or in any order. All four parts of the examination must be completed within a consecutive three-year period. The minimum successful passing grade is 70 percent.

Recognizing that successful completion of the U.S. CPA examination demonstrates a candidate's knowledge and competence in financial accounting and reporting, the ICMA Board of Regents gives such candidates credit for Part 2 of the CMA exam. To receive such credit, the state board of accountancy must verify that the CPA examination has been passed.

Candidates who have passed all four parts of the examination must complete two years of professional experience in management accounting before becoming a certified management accountant. Ninety hours of continuing professional education (CPE) must be completed in each three-year period after passing the exam. One hour of CPE is earned for every 50 minutes of approved programming attended by the accountant. For further information on the CMA program, contact:

Certified Internal In 1941 a group of dedicated internal auditors in New York City decided they needed a professional organization that could represent their profession, develop the professional status of internal auditing, and provide for the interchange of ideas and information among practicing auditors. They founded the Institute of Internal Auditors (IIA), the recognized professional organization for internal auditors.

The Certified Internal Auditors (CIA) Examination is sponsored by the IIA and was first administered in August 1974. It was offered once a year until 1982 when the present twice-a-year schedule started. Candidates applying for the CIA examination must have completed an undergraduate degree from an accredited college-level institution. A major in accounting is not required.

The two-day exam is offered in May and November every year. There are four parts to the exam, each lasting three and one-half hours. The following listing gives a brief overview of what is covered in each section. The percentages shown represent the approximate coverage that each topic will have in each part.

Candidates must successfully complete all four parts of the CIA exam within two years of initial eligibility. Successful candidates are required to complete two years, or the equivalent of two years, of internal auditing experience prior to receiving their CIA certificate. To promote the development and maintenance of accounting and auditing proficiency after passing the exam, the IIA has mandated 120 hours of continuing professional education (CPE) every three years. One hour of CPE is earned for every 50 minutes of approved programming attended by the auditor. For further information concerning the CIA, contact:

Certified information Most of today's business applications involve data processing. As a result of Systems Auditor the growing complexity of systems, electronic data processing (EDP) auditors are now called information system auditors. Two prerequisites for a well-controlled information system are (1) properly trained data procession personnel (technicians) who have knowledge of controls and (2) users and managers who understand systems development.

In 1979, the EDP Auditors Foundation asked the Educational Testing Service (ETS) to help develop a certification examination for certified information systems auditor (CISA). Experts in the various fields of auditing assisted in the job analysis and the development of test specifications. A certification board has been appointed by the EDP Auditors Foundation to oversee the program.

The examination is held on a Saturday in June each year and has a multiple-choice format with 200 questions. It consists of two three-hour sessions, with candidates required to take and pass both sessions. The five areas covered during the test are:
  1. Information Systems Audit Standards and Information, Systems Security, and Control Practices
  2. Information Systems Organization and Management
  3. Information Systems Process
  4. Information Systems Integrity, Confidentiality, and Availability
  5. Information Systems Software Development, Acquisition, and Maintenance
The examination is open to all individuals who have an interest in the data processing and auditing fields. Requirements needed to become a licensed CISA include five years of qualifying information systems auditing work experience or a combination of experience and education, in addition to passing the test.

Recertification is required every three years by accumulating 120 hours of continuing professional education (CPE) during the three-year period or by taking the current examination. One hour of CPE is earned for every 50 minutes of approved programming attended by the auditor.

For further information contact:

THE FUTURE


It is estimated that more than 60 percent of all accountants work in some area of corporate business, and many experts think that the accounting profession is one of the fastest routes to the top of a corporation.

According to a government forecast, the demand for accountants and auditors will rise much faster in the next decade than in the recent past. A 1996 report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimated the total U.S. employment for accountants at 962,000. The report concluded that an additional 121,000 accountants will be needed by the year 2005. The same forecasts project a 25 percent increase in the demand for financial managers.

In the 1996 edition of the AICPA's The Supply of Accounting Graduates and the Demand for Public Accounting Recruits, it was stated that more than 61,000 bachelor's and master's degrees in accounting were awarded. Twenty-nine percent of the graduates with bachelor's degrees and 24 percent of those with master's degrees were hired by business and industry. It seems certain that an ambitious, well-educated, and well-trained accountant will find an appealing career opportunity in the business world.

SUGGESTED READING

Brochures are available from various organizations that offer certification and licensing. Also check out the annual Salary Guide, for Accounting, Finance and Information Technology .
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