Accounting Is the Language of Business
Every business organization that has economic resources, such as money, machinery, and buildings, uses accounting information. For this reason, accounting is called the language of business. Accounting also serves as the language providing financial information about not-for-profit organizations such as governments, churches, charities, fraternities, and hospitals. However, in this chapter we will focus on accounting for business firms.
The accounting process provides financial data for a broad range of individuals whose objectives in studying the data vary widely. Bank officials, for example, may study a company’s financial statements to evaluate the company’s ability to repay a loan. Prospective investors may compare accounting data from several companies to decide which company represents the best investment. Accounting also supplies management with significant financial data useful for decision making.
Definition of AccountingAs the video explained, accounting is “the language of business.” The American Accounting Association defines accounting as “the process of identifying, measuring, and communicating economic information to permit informed judgments and decisions by the users of the information.” This information is primarily financial—stated in money terms. Accounting, then, is a measurement and communication process used to report on the activities of profit-seeking business organizations. As a measurement and communication process for business, accounting supplies information that permits informed judgments and decisions by users of the data. Internal and External Users Users of accounting information are separated into two groups, internal and external. Internal users are the people within a business organization who use accounting information. For example, the human resource department needs to have information about how profitable the business is in order to set salaries and benefits. Likewise, production managers need to know if the business is doing well enough to afford to replace worn-out machinery or pay overtime to production workers. External users are people outside the business entity that use accounting information. These external users include potential investors, the Internal Revenue Service, banks and finance companies, as well as local taxing authorities. Accounting information is valuable to both groups when it comes time to evaluate the financial consequences of various alternatives. Accountants reduce uncertainty by using professional judgment to quantify the future financial impact of taking action or delaying action. In short, although accounting information plays a significant role in reducing uncertainty within an organization, it also provides financial data for persons outside the company.
Financial accounting information appears in financial statements that are intended primarily for external use (although management also uses them for certain internal decisions). Stockholders and creditors are two of the outside parties who need financial accounting information. These outside parties decide on matters pertaining to the entire company, such as whether to increase or decrease their investment in a company or to extend credit to a company. Consequently, financial accounting information relates to the company as a whole, while managerial accounting focuses on the parts or segments of the company.