Accountants serve an essential purpose to business owners. They keep financial records organized, ensure taxes are paid correctly, and generally handle complex financial matters that require particular expertise.
However, it is equally important that accountants remain ethical in their dealings. Not only is it the right thing to do, it can also spare businesses legal upsets if laws have been broken. The International Federation of Accountants explains the code of ethics all accountants are expected to adhere to.
Integrity is defined as adherence to a code of morals and being incorruptible in general. This is crucial for accountants, who may have access to large sums of money as they are performing tasks on behalf of a business.
Many major accounting scandals over recent years have involved misappropriation of funds, which often involves taking customer money and using it for operation. Integrity is expected from all professional accountants, both to serve their client’s best interest as well as to serve the public.
Objectivity means that a person is unbiased or free of favoritism for a particular side or faction. While accountants are in the employ of a business, they must not act in favor of that business.
That does not mean they should be derelict in their duties, but that they should not perform certain illegal or unethical activities if a business requests them to. This is closely linked to integrity and working within the best interest of the public.
Finally, accountants must keep the information they are privy to private and confidential. Conveying this information to another party for personal gain can have serious consequences.
First, the accountant could lose his or her license. The accountant may also be subject to legal action if a breach of contract has occurred. Finally, the company itself could suffer significant losses due to the breach.