What’s the difference between an accountant and an auditor?
The accountant and auditor roles are often confused for each other. With many differences and similarities; the two functions are sometimes interchangeable.
Accountants accumulate daily financial transactions and report on the performance, financial position and cash flows of a business. Duties can include governing the customer receipts and vendor payments function and can extend to payroll, end-of-month and end-of-year reconciliations. An accountant’s duties may vary depending on the type of accountant such as a financial, tax or management accountant.
The primary objective of accounting includes record keeping through journals, ledgers, trial balances and the compilation of financial statements that detail the profit and loss result and financial position.
Auditors are responsible for providing an independent and objective opinion of an entity’s financial position and performance at balance date. Auditing is a critical, unbiased analysis of financial and non-financial information resulting in the transparency and accuracy of financial data. Audit procedures can include examining accounting records, testing internal controls and obtaining third party confirmations of certain matters at balance date. Auditors can also improve efficiency in operations and increase financial reliability and integrity. Similar to accountants, an auditor’s duties may vary depending on the type of audit being an internal audit or external audit.
The primary objective of auditing is to provide an independent opinion (unmodified or modified) on the financial statements at balance date. An unqualified audit opinion provides reasonable assurance to users of financial reporting that the financial statements are free from any material misstatement.
- Accounting usually starts where bookkeeping ends, while auditing starts where accounting ends.
- Accounting is constant, whereas auditing is periodic (bi-annually or annually).
- Accounting is governed by the Australian Accounting Standards Board (AASB) and International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) and auditing is governed by the
Australian Auditing Standards.
- Accountants can often be employees of a company for which they work, whereas auditors are externally engaged to provide an independent opinion.
- All financial auditors are accountants, but not all accountants are financial auditors.
- Accountants and auditors both require a thorough knowledge of accounting procedures and processes and usually hold an accounting degree.
- Accountants and auditors work together to ensure the company’s records accurately reflect its financial position.
Whilst the scope of an audit is often wider than accounting, both roles are specialist fields requiring clear understanding of an entity’s industry, accounting standards, regulations and rulings. Although auditing may not always be mandatory to your organisation; accounting is, with its primary intention to provide guidance for economic decisions of a company.