An accountant is one who is skilled in keeping accounts and books of accounts correctly and properly. An accountant play a variety of roles including the review, audit, organization and certification of financial information. The various types of accountants include; auditors, forensic accountants, public accountants, tax professionals, financial advisors and consultants. Accountants s have a minimum of a bachelor’s degree, but often have other advanced degrees, and all accountants must be certified through the appropriate state board.
Most states have statutes that provide for a state board of accountancy or a board of certified public accountants. Statutes may require the registration of accountants and accounting firms with the state board of accountancy. A state has the power to revoke the license which grants the right to practice public accountancy. Regulations relating to accountants in various states are discussed in the links below.
There are restrictions on practice of accounting. Non-certified accountants are prohibited from practicing accounting. In addition, accountants are restricted from practicing law.
No confidential accountant-client privilege exists under common law. However, several states have now adopted the privilege by statute and some statutes explicitly permit disclosure in judicial proceedings. An accountant, however, has the right to retain data created in the course of auditing a client’s account and ascertaining its tax liability. However, if the accountant is an employee, the ownership vests in the employer.
The standard of care applicable to the conduct of audits by public accountants is the same as that applied to doctors, lawyers, architects, engineers, and others furnishing skilled services for compensation, and that standard requires reasonable care and competence therein. Accountant owes a duty only to his or her client, for ordinary negligence. In cases of negligent misrepresentation, duty expands to specifically intended beneficiaries of the report who are substantially likely to receive the misinformation. In cases of intentional misrepresentation, the accountants owe duty to third parties who could be reasonably foreseen to rely on the misrepresentation.