There is an interesting discussion thread on LinkedIn about the relevancy of accountants. With today’s economic make-up, with jobs being so transitory and companies easily outsourcing to specialty bookkeeping firms, overseas and whatnot do accountants provide any relevancy? I mean, can’t a computer programme do it all and thereby reduce the size of the Finance/Accounting Department to just one or two people?

The advent of computers has changed the Accounting world – we no longer use manual ledger books to keep track of transactions, which was very time consuming and prone to errors. Back in the days of manual ledgers Finance Departments were quite large, personel-wise, just to keep up with all the transactions. With the advent of computers this has sped up the process and reduced the size of Finance Departments.

What computers have done is reduce the amount of people required for data entry – it is rare for a company to have a small army of accounting clerks – performing such functions as Accounts Payable, and Billings. What computers cannot do is replace the higher accounting functions. A computer cannot perform budgetary analysis, variance analysis, re-allocate costs which got entered incorrectly and convert Accounting Income to Taxable Income (for tax filings with the appropriate tax authorities).

We are more than just pencil pushers. We provide guidance to other managers and staff within the same company. Where other departments are only aware of their own small sphere and how it may contribute to the health of a company a Senior Accountant (and higher) is aware of the entire Financial Health of the company. We can pinpoint areas which can easily be streamlined, perform the necessary analysis & adhoc research to provide information such as what it costs to maintain a relationship with a client.

In my role, as a Senior Accountant at Potato Inc, I perform duties which a computer cannot (for the foreseeable future) perform:

  • calculation of restricted input tax credits
  • analyse billing differences for VAT filings
  • convert Accounting Income to Taxable Income
  • complete tax working papers for Corporate Tax Filings
  • determine and allocate OPEX and CAPEX costs, phased across more than one period
  • perform adhoc reconciliations such as cross-border intercompany transactions and initiate settlements of balances
  • check that an A/P Payment batch adheres to the audit requirements set out by the Internal Audit Department
  • Allocate shared services costs to other deparments on such magical attributes such as square footage, percentage of sales or headcount

So yes, accountants are relevant. We may scare you, but ultimately our role is there to support you and the company.