What is accountancy?

Accountancy is the practice of recording, classifying, and reporting on financial transactions for a business. It provides feedback to management regarding the financial results and status of an organization. The key accountancy tasks are noted below.

Recordation

The recording of accounting transactions usually involves several key business transactions that are handled on a repetitive basis, which are issuing customer invoices, paying supplier invoices, recording cash receipts from customers, and paying employees. These tasks are handled by the billing clerk, accounts payable clerk, cashier, and payroll clerk, respectively. 

There are also a number of accounting transactions that are non-repetitive in nature, and so require the use of journal entries to record them in the accounting records. The fixed asset accountant, general ledger clerk, and tax accountant are most likely to be involved in the use of journal entries.

Classification

The results of the efforts of the preceding accountants are accumulated into a set of accounting records, of which the summary document is the general ledger. The general ledger consists of a number of accounts, each of which stores information about a particular type of transaction, such as product sales, depreciation expense, accounts receivable, debt, and so on. Certain high-volume transactions, such as customer billings, may be stored in a subledger, with only its totals rolling into the general ledger. The ending balances in the general ledger may be altered with adjusting entries each month, mostly to record expenses incurred but not yet recorded.

The information in the general ledger is used to derive financial statements, and may also be the source of some information used for internal management reports. 

Reporting

The reporting aspects of accountancy are considerable, and so have been divided into smaller areas of specialization, which are:

  • Financial accounting. This area is the province of the general ledger accountant, controller, and chief financial officer, and is concerned with the accumulation of business transactions into financial statements. These documents are presented based on sets of rules known as accounting frameworks, of which the best known are Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) and International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS).
  • Management accounting. This area is the province of the cost accountant and financial analyst, who investigate ways to improve the profitability of a business and present their results to management. Their reports may be derived from the main system of accounts, but may also include separate data accumulation systems, as may be found with activity-based costing systems. Management accounting is not governed by any accounting framework - the structure of the reports issued to management are tailored to the needs of the business.

In short, accountancy involves each of the preceding tasks - recordation, classification, and reporting.