Accounting is often described as the process of gathering, classifying and summarising financial data to provide meaningful reports which assist in decision making. Accounting is therefore an information system and is a vital part of the total information system of an organisation.
The accounting information system has three branches: financial accounting, cost accounting and management accounting.
Managerial accounting is a combination of cost and management accounting, but also uses and provides data to the financial accounting system. Its aim is to provide business managers with financial data for the planning and controlling of business operations. This data is required for internal decision making.
Financial accounting records historical financial transactions through journals and ledgers, producing reports primarily directed at external users. The processing of these transactions and the subsequent reporting are governed by accounting standards, company codes, tax regulations and stock exchange listing requirements.
Cost accounting records accrue, trace and allocate costs to objects for inventory or services valuation and decision making. Cost analysis data is primarily used for internal management, but inventory valuation has both internal and external functions.
Whilst the fundamentals of accounting have remained the same, the role of the accountant has expanded to include an understanding of the importance of customer and shareholder value, as well as effective use and understanding of new technology.
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