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Accounting Code of Ethics

Introduction

The accounting system is constantly changing. During these changes, it is important for accountants to adhere to the high ethical standards that they have always lived by. Adhering to the high ethical standards is an accountant?s obligation to the public, the profession, and themselves. An accountant?s ethical conduct usually lies within four different areas. This includes competence, confidentiality, integrity, and objectivity. NYSSCPA.ORG states,

Members also have a continuing responsibility to cooperate with each other to improve the art of accounting, maintain the public?s confidence, and carry out the professions special responsibilities for self-governance,? (Article 1).

New York State expects its accountants to act in a way that will serve the public interest. The public includes clients, credit grantors, governments, employers, investors, the business and financial community, and any other person that relies on the information provided by the accountant. It is the accountant?s responsibility to maintain an appropriate level of professional competence through continuing education of their knowledge and skills. New York State also expects its accountants to perform their duties in accordance with relevant laws and regulations, as well as providing clear and complete reports.

It is important for accountants to maintain their integrity. Often times, accountants are faced with situations that are questionable. It is important for the accountant to avoid situations of apparent conflicts of interest and to advise other public interests of these conflicts. Accountants should refuse gifts and favors

that would appear to influence their actions and should refrain from any activities that would prejudice their ability to perform their duties ethically. NYSSCPA.ORG states, ?Integrity requires a member to be, among other things, honest and candid within the constraints of client confidentiality,? (Article 3). Accountants must be willing to recognize and communicate professional limitations that would preclude successful performance of their activities. They are expected to communicate unfavorable as well as favorable information.

Client Confidentiality

Client confidentiality is very important in the accounting profession. New York State requires that accountants do not share any client information without the specific consent of the client. However, under certain circumstances, the State finds it necessary that an accountant might have to share client information.

Examples of these circumstances include an accountant?s receipt of a subpoena or summons or an accountants participation in actual or threatened legal proceedings or alternative dispute resolution proceedings (NYSSCPA.ORG, ET section 301).

Accounting Work Product

New York State requires its accountants to adequately maintain its work papers in accordance with specific requirements. Work papers include the accountant?s records of the procedures applied, tests performed, supporting information, and the material conclusions reached, including, but not limited to an audit, review, compilation, and forecast or projection (NYSSCPA.ORG). NYSSCPA states, ?

Work papers shall contain sufficient documentation to enable a reviewer with relevant knowledge and experience, but having no previous connection with the specific work product, to understand the nature, timing, extent, and results of the procedures performed for the work product, information obtained and conclusions reached for the work product, and the identity of the persons who performed and reviewed the work for the work product,? (section 29.10). Accountants are required to maintain these papers for a period of at least seven years.

Code Violations

New York State has strict guidelines as to the professional conduct of their accountants. Accountants are suspended from their position without hearing if they are found guilty of certain crimes. If an accountant fails to file an individual tax return, this would result in criminal liability against them and would be terms for suspension.

Another criminal offense that would result in suspension is the false filing of the accountant?s tax return or that of a client. Accountants can also be held liable for making false or misleading statements or by omitting material facts on financial documents.

Conclusion

Accountants in New York State should make themselves aware of the Code of Professional Conduct. They should maintain their integrity by not taking advantage of any personal gains encountered in their profession. Accountants should maintain objectivity and independence by keeping free of conflicts of interest. They should also take responsibility in providing due care to their clients through competence and diligence. Often times there are not rules written in black and white for the accountant to follow during certain situations. Therefore, it is the accountant?s responsibility to think these situations through before acting.

References
The Website of the New York State Society of CPA?s. (2004). Retrieved May 28, 2004 from the World Wide Web: http://www.nysscpa.org/