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Key concepts

Accountant Bookkeeping Cash and accrual basis Constant Item Purchasing Power Accounting Cost of goods sold Debits and credits Double-entry system Fair value accounting FIFO & LIFO GAAP / International Financial Reporting Standards General ledger Historical cost Matching principle Revenue recognition Trial balance

Fields of accounting

Cost Financial Forensic Fund Management Tax

Financial statements

Balance sheet Statement of cash flows Statement of changes in equity Statement of comprehensive income Notes MD&A


Auditor's report Financial audit GAAS / ISA Internal audit SarbanesOxley Act

Professional Accountants


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Accountancy is the art of communicating financial information about a business entity to users such as shareholders and managers.

Thecommunication is generally in the financials form statements that show in money terms the economic resources under the control of

management; the art lies in selecting the information that is relevant to the user and is reliable.[2]

Accountancy is a branch of mathematical science that is useful in discovering the causes of success and failure in business.The principlesof accountancy are applied to business entities in three divisions of practical art, named accounting, bookkeeping, and auditing.[3]

Accounting is defined by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) as "the art of recording, classifying, and summarizing in a significant manner and in terms of money, transactions and events which are, in part at least, of financial character, and interpreting the results thereof."[4]

Accounting is thousands of years old; the earliest accounting records, which date back more than 7,000 years, were found in the Middle East. The people of that time relied on primitive accounting methods to record the growth of crops and herds. Accounting evolved, improving over the years and advancing as business advanced.[5]

Early accounts served mainly to assist the memory of the businessperson and the audience for the account was the proprietor or record keeper alone. Cruder forms of accounting were inadequate for the problems created by a business entity involving multiple investors, sodouble-entry bookkeeping first emerged in northern Italy in the 14th century, where trading ventures began to require more capital than a single individual was able to invest. The development of joint stock companies created wider audiences for accounts, as investors without firsthand knowledge of their operations relied on accounts to provide the requisite information. [6] This development resulted in a split of accounting systems for internal (i.e. management accounting) and external (i.e. financial accounting) purposes, and subsequently also in accounting and disclosure regulations and a growing need for independent attestation of external accounts by auditors.[7]

Today, accounting is called "the language of business" because it is the vehicle for reporting financial information about a business entity to many different groups of people. Accounting that concentrates on reporting to people inside the business entity is called management accounting and is used to provide information to employees, managers, owner-managers and auditors. Management accounting is concerned primarily with providing a basis for making management or operating decisions. Accounting that provides information to people outside the business entity is called financial accounting and provides information to present and potential shareholders, creditors such as banks or vendors, financial analysts, economists, and government agencies. Because these users have different needs, the presentation of financial accounts is very structured and subject to many more rules than management accounting. The body of rules that governs financial accounting is called Generally Accepted Accounting Principles, or GAAP.[8]

Luca Pacioli and double-entry bookkeeping

Main articles: Luca Pacioli and Double-entry bookkeeping system Bartering was the dominant practice for traveling merchants during the Middle Ages. When medieval Europe moved to a monetary economy in the 13th century, sedentary merchants depended on bookkeeping to oversee multiple simultaneous transactions financed by bank loans. One important breakthrough took place around that time: the introduction of double-entry bookkeeping,[29] which is defined as any bookkeeping system in which there was a debit and credit entry for each transaction, or for which the majority of transactions were intended to be of this form.

The historical origin of the use of the words debit and credit in accounting goes back to the days of single-entry bookkeeping in which the

chief objective was to keep track of amounts owed by customers (debtors) and amounts owed to creditors. Debit, is Latin for he owes and credit Latin for he trusts.[31]

The earliest extant evidence of full double-entry bookkeeping is the Farolfi ledger of 1299-1300.[29] Giovanno Farolfi & Company were a firm of Florentine merchants whose head office was in Nmes who also acted as moneylenders to Archbishop of Arles, their most important customer.[32] The oldest discovered record of a complete double-entry system is the Messari(Italian: Treasurer's) accounts of the city of Genoa in 1340. The Messari accounts contain debits and credits journalised in a bilateral form, and contains balances carried forward from the preceding year, and therefore enjoy general recognition as a double-entry system.[33]

Pacioli's portrait, a painting by Jacopo de' Barbari, 1495, (Museo di Capodimonte).The open book to which he is pointing may be his Summa de Arithmetica, Geometria, Proportioni et Proportionalit.[34]

Luca Pacioli's "Summa de Arithmetica, Geometria, Proportioni et Proportionalit" (Italian: "Review of Arithmetic, Geometry, Ratio andProportion") was first printed and published in Venice in 1494. It included a 27page treatise on bookkeeping, "Particularis de Computis et Scripturis" (Italian: "Details of Calculation and Recording"). It was written primarily for, and sold mainly to, merchants who used the book as a reference text, as a source of pleasure from the mathematical puzzles it contained, and to aid the education of their sons. It represents the first known printed treatise on bookkeeping; and it is widely believed to be the forerunner of modern bookkeeping practice. In Summa Arithmetica, Pacioli introduced symbols for plus and minus for the first time in a printed book, symbols that became standard notation in Italian Renaissance mathematics. Summa Arithmetica was also the first known book printed in Italy to contain algebra.[35]

Although Luca Pacioli did not invent double-entry bookkeeping,[36] his 27-page treatise on bookkeeping contained the first known published work on that topic, and is said to have laid the foundation for double-entry bookkeeping as it is practiced today.[37] Even though Pacioli's treatise exhibits almost no originality, it is generally considered as an important work, mainly because of its wide circulation, it was written in vernacular Italian language, and it was a printed book.[38]

According to Pacioli, accounting is an ad hoc ordering system devised by the merchant. Its regular use provides the merchant with continued information about his business, and allows him to evaluate how things are going and to act accordingly. Pacioli recommends the Venetian method of double-entry bookkeeping above all others. Three major books of account are at the direct basis of this system: the memoriale (Italian: memorandum), the giornale (journal), and the quaderno (ledger). The ledger is considered as the central one and is accompanied by an alphabetical index.[39]

Pacioli's treatise gave instructions in how to record barter transactions and transactions in a variety of currencies both being far more commonplace than they are today. It also enabled merchants to audit their own books and to ensure that the entries in the accounting records made by their bookkeepers complied with the method he described. Without such a system, all merchants who did not maintain their own records were at greater risk of theft by their employees and agents: it is not by accident that the first and last items described in his treatise concern maintenance of an accurate inventory.[40]

The nature of double-entry can be grasped by recognizing that this system of bookkeeping did not simply record the things merchants traded so that they could keep track of assets or calculate profits and losses; instead as a system of writing, double-entry produced effects that exceeded transcription and calculation. One of its social effects was to proclaim the honesty of merchants as a group; one of its epistemological effects was to make its formal precision based on a rule bound system of arithmetic seem to guarantee the accuracy of the details it recorded. Even though the information recorded in the books of account was not necessarily accurate, the combination of the double entry system's precision and thenormalizing effect that precision tended to create the impression that books of account were not only precise, but accurate as well. Instead of gaining prestige from numbers, double entry bookkeeping helped confer cultural authority on numbers.[41]