Bookkeeping Ethics

Posted by: Patricia Barlow Post Date: 18th June 2015

If you have a knack for numbers, you might have considered going into bookkeeping, and have probably wondered what qualifications you need to achieve your career goals. The good news is that you don’t need to go to uni, so let’s take a look at what you do need in order to become a practising bookkeeper.

Qualifications

While you don’t need a degree, you will need to gain a relevant qualification in order to bring your knowledge up to scratch, and gain the trust of potential customers. This applies whether you’ll be self-employed or working for a company.

Bookkeeping ethics

Objectivity

You need to demonstrate objectivity in your approach to your work. This means ensuring that everybody is treated equally, and that you do not show bias towards people you are familiar with, and that you are not being influenced by threats or bribes.

Example: You are completing the bookkeeping for a family member, who asks you to overstate the sales as he is hoping to sell the company in the near future. You may feel that, as a family member, you would like him to have the best possible sales price. If this was a stranger, however, you would not contemplate overstating the sales. You should always work from reliable records, and should not allow your professional judgement to be influenced by bias towards a client.

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Professional competence

You need to ensure you are professionally competent in the tasks that you undertake. This means that you have not only got the qualifications to complete the tasks, but also the experience, and that your knowledge is up-to-date.

Example: A client asks you to complete her self assessment tax return, but you are not fully confident about doing this, and it is a long time since you studied tax at college. Rather than agreeing to do the work to please the client and generate more income, you should decline it, as you are not professionally competent.

Integrity

You must approach all tasks with integrity. This means being straightforward and honest in your tasks, and with the people you are dealing with.

Example: You have finished off the bookkeeping for a client who used another bookkeeper previously. When the accountant receives the books, he points out a number of mistakes. Rather than accepting those mistakes as your own, you pass them off as the previous bookkeeper’s. This is not honest, and is not utilising your integrity.

Confidentiality

It is essential that you keep all information confidential, and do not disclose details unless it is required by law, or you have approval from the person the data relates to.

Example: You are chatting with friends, and the topic of self-employed profit comes up. A self-employed client has generated an impressive profit over the last year, and it is tempting to use this as an example in your conversation. However, as a professional, you must not disclose details about jobs you are working on, such as profit figures, wage costs, and plans to sell a business.

Professional conduct

You need to ensure that you behave professionally and abide by laws, so that you are not at risk of bringing the profession into disrepute, and losing your own credibility.

Example: You have reason to believe that the funds of a client are the proceeds of criminal conduct. By concealing this information, and not reporting it to the appropriate authority, you are breaking the law. Therefore, you are not only at risk of potential clients losing faith in you, but also of facing criminal charges.

Ethical conduct for bookkeepers and accountants is covered in detail within our accounting courses. To find out more about developing your understanding of bookkeeping ethics, get in touch below.

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