Ethical Dilemmas in Accounting

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John Walker
11 April 2017

Individuals in the accounting profession have a considerable responsibility to the general public. Accountants provide information about companies that allow the public to make investment decisions for retirement, a child’s education and major purchases such as a home. For the public to rely on the information provided, there must be a level of confidence in the knowledge and behavior of accountants. Ethical behavior is necessary in the accounting profession to prevent fraudulent activities and to gain public trust.


In an article entitled "Business Accounting Ethics," Katherine Smith and L. Murphy Smith explain that the main reason for ethical guidelines is not to provide an exact solution to every problem, but to aid in the decision-making process. An established set of guidelines provides an accounting professional with a compass to direct him toward ethical behavior


The effects of ethical behavior in accounting are far reaching in the economy. Every business entity has an accounting professional provide information at some point in the organization’s life cycle. Many accounting professionals are tempted to alter financial results and often rationalize the behavior by calling it creative or aggressive accounting.


A common example of an ethical dilemma involves management instructing a subordinate employee to record a transaction in an incorrect manner. For instance, a company with a Dec. 31 year-end calendar year, signs contracts with consumers to perform services. The contracts are usually signed Dec. 1 and are a year in length. Accounting principles require the company to record the revenue for the contract for one month only, the month of December.

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