For all CPA’s, the current CPE requirements include 4 CPE hours of ethics each 2-year biennial. This underscores the importance of ethics in our profession. PSTAP offers CPE courses throughout the year, including ethics courses, to help you stay educated on this important matter.
The fundamental principles of accounting ethics include integrity and confidentiality, objectivity and independence, and professional competence and behavior.
Integrity and Confidentiality
As accountants, we are handling sensitive data about companies and individuals: their finances, social security numbers, and their bank account information. It is not an exaggeration to say that we hold their financial future in our hands. Your clients have entrusted this important information to you and need to have absolute confidence that you will not use their information for your personal gain nor will you disclose confidential information, except where legally required. In addition, the government needs to trust that you are reporting fairly, for the common good.
Objectivity and Independence
Your clients expect you to provide them with advice and guidance that is in their best interest, not yours. Conflicts of interest can make it difficult to advise your clients objectively, or may give the appearance of bias. Additionally, accountants must never allow personal opinions or the advice or opinions of a third party to affect their objective service to their clients.
Professional Competence and Behavior
Accountants must constantly stay up-to-date on the most recent legislation and best practices in order to provide clients with the very best service. In addition, we must remain professional at all times, avoiding behavior that could reflect negatively on the profession itself.
Ethics in accounting is not always black and white. In fact, gray areas are much more common. This is why CPEs are required of us and interaction with others in our profession is so essential. When you have a gray area, it’s vital to reach out to other experienced accountants. PSTAP members often use our Email Discussion Group for this purpose.
It’s important to avoid any suggestion of unethical behavior in your practice. Word of mouth is one of the most powerful ways of getting good clients. By treating your clients ethically and refusing any hint of unethical behavior, you will find that your client base will grow, and they will be clients who will treat you ethically in return.