Overview of Accounting: Definition, Nature, Purpose
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Overview of Accounting: Definition, Nature, Purpose

Accounting is considered the language of business. It has evolved throughout the years as information needs changed and became more complex. After finishing this article, the reader should be able to have a general understanding about accounting, be acquainted with the different definitions, know the different types of information found in accounting reports, and know the different uses of accounting information.

Some say that accounting is a science because it is a body of knowledge which has been systematically gathered, classified, and organized. It could be influenced by a lot of factors, specifically by economic, social and political events. Some say that accounting is an art because it requires creative skill and judgment. Furthermore, accounting is also considered as an information system because it is used to identify and measure economic activities, process the information into financial reports, and communicate these reports to the different users of accounting information.

To further understand what accounting is, we must take a look at the different definitions.

Accounting as a Science Accounting as an Art Accounting as an Information System
Accounting is the process of identifying, measuring, and communicating economic information to permit informed judgment and decisions by users of information. Accounting is the art of recording (journalizing), classifying (posting to the ledger), summarizing in a significant manner and in terms of money, transactions and events which are, in part, at least of a financial character, and interpreting the results thereof to interested users. Accounting is a service activity, which functions to provide quantitative information, primarily financial in nature, about economic entities that is intended to to be useful in making economic decisions.

The first definition emphasizes the following:

  • Identifying - in accounting, this is the process of recognition or non-recognition of business activities as accountable events. Stated differently, this is the process which determines if an event has accounting relevance.
  • Measuring - in accounting, this is the process of assigning monetary amounts to the accountable events.
  • Communicating - As we could notice with the above definitions, one main similarity between the three is the impact of communication. In order to be useful, accounting information should be communicated to the different decision makers. Communicating accounting information is achieved by the presentation of different financial statements.

The second definition emphasizes the following:

  • Recording - The accounting term for recording is journalizing. All the accountable events are recorded in a journal.
  • Classifying - The accounting term for recording is posting. All accountable events that are recorded in the journal are then classified or posted to a ledger.
  • Summarizing - the items that are journalized and posted are summarized in the five basic financial statements.

The third definition emphasizes that accounting is a service activity and that Information provided by accounting could be classified into 3 types:

  • Quantitative information - this is information that is expressed in numbers, quantities or units
  • Qualitative information - this is information that is expressed in words
  • Financial information - this information is expressed in terms of money

Therefore, given the definitions, accounting is a service activity that is all about recording, classifying and summarizing accountable events in order to communicate quantitative, qualitative, and financial economic information, to different users in order to make relevant decisions.

Overview of Accounting: Major Topics

  1. Users of Accounting Information
  2. Careers in Accounting
  3. Skills that an Accountancy Graduate Should Possess

Additional resources:

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