Exploring The Code Of Ethics For Accountants

11 April 2022

As a group of professional accountants providing professional services to the public, we are bound by a certain code of ethics here at Auditox Accountancy (as all professional accountants employed by anybody are).

There are several regulatory or professional bodies we must answer to if things go wrong, which is why we want to be open and honest with you today about the code of ethics we are bound by as professional accountants.

Why? Because all professional and business relationships need to start with transparency.

If you are to trust us with sensitive and confidential data and information, then you must know that we have the professional knowledge and integrity to be performing professional activities pursuant to the ethical guidelines we follow.

So, let's explore the code of ethics for professional accountants below, so you can be confident in us.

International code of ethics: A brief history

We won't tell you about every change and revision ever made by the international ethics standards board or the IESBA code for accountants because if we did, we'd be here all day.

The point of this section is to show that international independence standards and the conceptual framework for the IESBA code of ethics are something that are revised regularly to keep them up to date.

There have been revisions made to the IESBA code in 2005, 2018, and 2020 - and that's not all of them.

This international code refers to the way all professional accountants in business should conduct themselves in the workplace. The ethics applies to everybody - no matter where they work or who they work for - private or public.

In amongst all the finer revisions, though, five fundamental principles remain.

The five fundamental principles of ethics for professional accountants

The following five principles really capture the essence of the international code of ethics all accountants in public practice or the private sector are bound by. Anybody providing professional services or providing assurance services to the public in accountancy will need to be aware of these five key principles:

  • Integrity
  • Objectivity
  • Professional competence and due care
  • Confidentiality
  • Professional behavior

Let's look at the specific meaning of each of those principles now as they apply to professional accountants employed by every sector.

Integrity

Integrity refers to the way any professional accountant should demonstrate a proper understanding of the importance of honesty and openness in all professional relationships. Because the profession has a public interest responsibility, it is vital that all accountants show integrity and honesty in all that they do.

They should never associate themselves with data that is deliberately misleading or has been altered in any way, and if they find themselves in such a situation, then it is their responsibility to stop working with the employing organization immediately.

Objectivity

Objectivity refers to the way a professional accountant must not allow themselves to be influenced by others. They must remain objective and impartial, removing all bias and conflict of interest to allow them to complete their work as they should.

Ultimately, the ethics conceptual framework requires accountants to rely only on their professional judgment when looking at the data in front of them. If they must audit clients, then personal relationships mustn't interfere with the way they conduct their work.

All other assurance engagements, audit and review engagements, and professional services offered by accountants are bound by these fundamental principles too, because the conceptual framework is in place to monitor objective accountancy where business relationships can't influence an accountant's work.

We won't go into it now, but there are procedures established and relevant provisions set to protect accountants in certain circumstances where they may be feeling pressure from higher-ups to alter their findings. This protects the individual accountant and the field as a whole.

Professional competence and due care

This really refers to the way a professional accountant conducts their work in a way that's responsible. Often, accountants in public practice and in the private sector are dealing with sensitive financial information. When handling this, they must exercise due care.

For example, they may not create derivative works, store information, translate, modify, or make adaptations of such application material given to them by the employing organization during the course of the work for professional or personal reference without prior written permission.

Additional material used whilst performing audits, performing assurance engagements, or performing professional activities pursuant to the terms of the contract with their employer must be handled with care and not shared with anybody who does not have express permission to see it.

These fundamental principles basically require us accountants to treat each job with the respect and diligence they deserve. Professional accountants must also keep up to date with relevant laws, legislation, and techniques in accountancy to ensure they are providing services to the best of their ability.

Confidentiality

Confidentiality is similar to professional competence and due care, in that the fundamental principles of confidentiality laid out in the conceptual framework refers to the ways accountants providing professional services must address threats and have relevant provisions in place to prevent others from seeing the data and information they are handling.

Typically, information won't be shared with anybody who does not have express permission to see it - and those who are given permission usually work on the executive team, and anybody working in a non executive capacity for the company would not have a need to see it.

However, there are times that others working in a non executive capacity will be given permission - so accountants must know who is allowed to see their work and who isn't, and be diligent about sharing data and information with only those that have express permission to see it.

There is a relevant subsection in the enhanced conceptual framework and IESBA code that talks more in depth about confidentiality and how professional accountants must handle that if you want to read more, but the most pressing points are discussed above.

Professional behavior

A simple one to end on, this is one of the most basic fundamental principles laid out in the conceptual framework, and it's one that every professional accountant is aware of from the moment they start training to join the profession.

It basically means that all professional and business relationships must be handled with the care and diligence expected of a professional accountant. All professional activities must comply with local laws, and accountants must conduct themselves in a way that does not discredit the field.

Essentially, it's about respecting accountancy and showing off the field at its best.

The structure of the code explained

If you find yourself looking at the IESBA code of ethics for professional accountants out of curiosity, then the structure of it may be confusing. But actually it's pretty simple when you break it down:

  • Part 1: This section is all about complying with the code, the fundamental principles discussed above, and the conceptual framework - it applies to ALL professional accountants.
  • Part 2: This section is most relevant to professional accountants in business and discusses more nuanced applications of the fundamental principles etc to business specific situations, which will show how regulatory or professional bodies would expect the code of ethics to be applied in these circumstances - making it context relevant.
  • Part 3: This section is most relevant to professional accountants in public practice - this applies the fundamental principles and conceptual framework again to public practice situations, and also discusses threats (and how to effectively reduce threats) when working in this domain.
  • Annex 1: This essentially does a deep dive into the international independence standards as it applies to performing audit and review engagements and other assurance engagements for individuals/businesses/companies/work in the not for profit sector, etc.
  • Glossary: Here you can find defined terms and additional explanations to understand how everything contained within the code is defined and explained, so there is no confusion between different accountants about what everything means.

Complying with the code

Now you know the basics of the international code of ethics for professional accountants, you might be wondering why it's relevant to us here at Auditox Accountancy.

Well, we share this with you today to highlight how, as professional accountants, we are aware of our responsibilities to our clients, the public, and businesses we work with.

Our role is an important one, and the international code of ethics is our guide to how to conduct our roles in the best way possible.

We have the professional knowledge and professional judgment to provide our assurance services (and all other professional accountancy services), but we wanted to share the code with you today to highlight how we don't just make our own rules.

If you aren't involved in accountancy, you might not have known about the code of ethics we're bound by at all, and that it's a legal requirement for us to comply with the code.

But now that you know, we hope we've shown a deep respect for the code, so you can be confident that working with us is the right thing to do.

As professional accountants with a keen understanding of the code of ethics, we apply them to all professional and business relationships we enter into. So, if you know more about the code of ethics we're bound by thanks to our post today, then you'll be able to hold us to account and understand why we do what we do in the way that we do it.

Accountancy, for us, is about providing professional services to the best of our ability, all whilst operating within the conceptual framework and code of ethics outlined throughout our post today. And if you now have a better understanding of the IESBA code we're bound by, then that can only be a good thing for our professional relationship moving forward.

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