Magazine article The CPA Journal

'The Problem with Communication ...'

Magazine article The CPA Journal

'The Problem with Communication ...'

Article excerpt

"... is the illusion that it has been accomplished." The emphasis is my own, and I'm certain that George Bernard Shaw didn't have the accounting profession specifically in mind when he wrote these words, but he might as well have. Employers say their major concern with today's accounting graduates is their level of professional literacy-or more to the point, their lack of adequate communication skills: reading, writing, listening, and speaking.

Increased professional visibility combined with the public's heightened expectations of CPAs makes these traits essential for survival in the current business environment. But many of the profession's fundamentals as now taught leave little room for much-needed communication or critical thinking on the CPA's part. The attest function is a prime example: CPAs often use rigidly constructed audit opinion letters to mitigate legal liability, or for expediency, or both. Furthermore, financial statement auditing has historically served as a simplistic pass/fail exercise; an unqualified opinion means "pass," an adverse opinion means "fail," a qualified opinion means "pass, except for ... " and a disclaimer means "we're not going to grade you at all." However, even an unqualified opinion doesn't mean that there is zero risk of errors or fraud. Yet we continue to evaluate the risks associated with a company's financial position in absolute terms of a pass/fail methodology, rather than rating companies on a fraud risk-assessment scale similar to bond ratings by Moody's or Standard & Poor's. Not unlike the way that bond ratings are intended to characterize the risk of holding a bond, rating a company's control environment could better communicate the entity's reporting risks.

Part of the ongoing public misperception of the accounting profession is the fallacy that accounting is primarily mathematics-driven. This causes many students with so-called "left brain" communication skills to shy away from the field. But in reality, today's accountant needs to have equal parts financial, legal, investigative, and teaching skills.

Financial. CPAs are responsible for keeping abreast of a continually changing and expanding body of technical knowledge in accounting, auditing, and taxes. In addition, accountants are often expected to be well versed in investment decision-making, college financing, retirement planning, long-term care insurance-just about anything that affects their clients' finances. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.