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Accountancy (British English) or accounting (American English) is the measurement, disclosure or provision of assurance about information that helps managers and other decision makers make resource allocation decisions. Financial accounting is one branch of accounting and historically has involved processes by which financial information about a business is recorded, classified, summarized, interpreted, and communicated. Auditing, a related but separate discipline, is the process whereby an independent auditor examines an organization’s financial statements in order to express an opinion (with reasonable but not absolute assurance) as to the fairness and adherence to generally accepted accounting principles, in all material respects.

Practitioners of accountancy are known as accountants. Officially licensed accountants are recognized by titles such as Chartered Accountant (UK) or Certified Public Accountant (US).

Accountancy attempts to create accurate financial reports that are useful to managers, regulators, and other stakeholders such as shareholders, creditors, or owners. The day-to-day record-keeping involved in this process is known as book-keeping.

At the heart of modern financial accounting is the double-entry book-keeping system. This system involves making at least two entries for every transaction: a debit in one account, and a corresponding credit in another account. The sum of all debits should always equal the sum of all credits. This provides an easy way to check for errors. This system was first used in medieval Europe, although some believe that the system dates back to Ancient Greece.

According to critics of standard accounting practices, it has changed little since. Accounting reform measures of some kind have been taken in each generation to attempt to keep book-keeping relevant to capital assets or production capacity. However, these have not changed the basic principles, which are supposed to be independent of economics as such.

Financial Audit

A financial audit is the examination of financial records and reports of a company or organisation, in order to verify that the figures in the financial reports are relevant, accurate, and complete. The general focus is to ensure the reported financial statements fairly represent a company’s stated condition for the firm’s stakeholders. These stakeholders will be interested parties, such as stockholders, employees, regulators, and the like.

Doing a financial audit is called the «attest» function. The general purpose is for an independent party (the CPA firm) to provide written assurance (the audit report) that financial reports are «fairly presented in conformity with generally accepted accounting principles«.

Financial audits are typically done by external auditors (accountancy firms). Many organizations, including most very large organizations, also employ or hire internal auditors, who do not attest to financial reports. Internal auditors often assist external auditors, and, in theory, since both do internal control work, their efforts should be coordinated.

Types of Taxes

Taxes are sometimes referred to as direct or indirect. The meaning of these terms can vary in different contexts, which can sometimes lead to confusion. In economics, direct taxes refer to those taxes that are collected from the people or organizations on whom they are imposed. For example, income taxes are collected from the person who earns the income. By contrast, indirect taxes are collected from someone other than the person responsible for paying the taxes.


Income tax is commonly a progressive tax because the tax rate increases with increasing income. For this reason, it is generally advocated by those who think that taxation should be borne more by the rich than by the poor, even to the point of serving as a form of social redistribution. Some critics characterize this tax as a form of punishment for economic productivity. Other critics charge that income taxation is inherently socially intrusive because enforcement requires the government to collect large amounts of information about business and personal affairs, much of which is considered proprietary and confidential.

Income tax fraud is a problem in most, if not all, countries implementing an income tax. Either one fails to declare income, or declares nonexistent expenses. Failure to declare income is especially easy for non-salaried work, especially those paid in cash. Tax enforcement authorities fight tax fraud using various methods, nowadays with the help of computer databases. They may, for instance, look for discrepancies between declared revenue and expenses along time. Tax enforcement authorities then target individuals for a tax audit – a more or less detailed review of the income and tax-deductible expenses of the individual.

Income tax may be collected from legal entities (e.g., companies) as well as natural persons (individuals), although, in some cases, the income tax on legal entities is levied on a slightly different basis than the income tax on individuals and may be called, in the case of income tax on companies, a corporation tax or a corporate income tax.


A value added tax (sometimes called a goods and services tax, as in Australia and Canada) applies the equivalent of a sales tax to every operation that creates value. To give an example, sheet steel is imported by a machine manufacturer. That manufacturer will pay the VAT on the purchase price, that amount to the government. The manufacturer will then transform the steel into a machine, selling the machine for a higher price to a wholesale distributor. The manufacturer will collect the VAT on the higher price, but will remit to the government only the excess related to the «value added» (the price over the cost of the sheet steel). The wholesale distributor will then continue the process, charging the retail distributor the VAT on the entire price to the retailer, but remitting only the amount related to the distribution markup to the government. The last VAT amount is paid by the eventual retail customer who cannot recover any of the previously paid VAT. Economic theorists have argued that this minimizes the market distortion resulting from the tax, compared to a sales tax.

VAT was historically used when a sales tax or excise tax was uncollectible. For example, a 30% sales tax is so often cheated that most of the retail economy will go off the books. By collecting the tax at each production level, and requiring the previous production level to collect the next level tax in order to recover the VAT previously paid by that production level, the theory is that the entire economy helps in the enforcement. In reality, forged invoices and the like demonstrate that tax evaders will always attempt to cheat the system.