shutterstock 376367191Accountants are essential for every business to run smoothly. They keep detailed financial records, perform audits, and file taxes. They also evaluate data and perform analyses to help a business stand out against competitors.

Accountants can be found in virtually every industry across the United States, but they most commonly find work in:

  • Accounting firms
  • Banks and financial institutions
  • Tax firms
  • Government agencies
  • Small businesses
  • Large corporations

Now let’s take a look at some of the most common accounting tasks so you can gain a better understanding of what employers expect from an accountant on a typical day.

What is the typical day of an accountant like?

Many people are under the impression that accountants do the same thing every single day. Therefore, it comes as a surprise when they find that there really isn’t a “typical day” in the life of an accountant! On the contrary, accountants often find themselves balancing many different tasks and working with various people across the company.

An accountant’s job duties vary widely based on many factors, including:

  • The size of the firm they work at: Accountants working at a major accounting firm will have a very different experience than those at a small, family-owned business. Small businesses tend to expect their accounts to be a “jack of all trades,” while larger companies will have them focus on a specific niche like taxes or investments.
  • Their past experience: New accountants will often get stuck with the “boring” work such as filing expense reports and creating balance sheets. Senior staff members are trusted to oversee newer accountants and may have a bit more freedom. Managers and partners focus on the business side of things and work to analyze the company’s position among competitors and improve its ranking.
  • Their job title and specialization: Specialization plays a huge role in how accountants spend most of their days as well. While tax accountants will spend most of their day filing tax returns and reviewing documents, public accountants will have a completely different set of tasks. This is why it’s so important to specialize in something you enjoy!
  • The time of month and year: Many tasks, such as reviewing transactions or attending board meetings, only need to be completed once a month. Other tasks (such as filing annual reports) may need to be completed even less often.
  • Their location: Accountants who live in a major city and work at a large corporation will probably spend much more time meeting with clients than those who live in a rural area and work for a small firm, for example.
  • Whether or not it’s tax season: Tax season is a notoriously chaotic time of year for most accountants. During this period, an accountant’s job duties may shift completely to focus on tax-related projects. They often end up working longer days and having less time off as well.

What are the most common accounting tasks and responsibilities?

Although daily responsibilities vary greatly based on the above factors, there are many common duties that all accountants perform at some point or another. Let’s take a look at some of the most common accounting tasks and what they entail.

Documenting Transactions

 Perhaps the most common daily task for an accountant is documenting financial transactions. Even the smallest transactions must be carefully recorded for tax and record-keeping purposes. This is usually done by creating spreadsheets, then translating the data into financial reports later on.

 Preparing Financial Statements and Reports

 Cash flow statements, expensive reports, and balance sheets are an essential part of every business. Therefore, preparing these financial statements is another common task that most accountants must perform regularly. More detailed financial statements such as year-end reports are essential as well, but these are handled on a yearly instead of monthly.

Complying with Regulations

Another important part of an accountant’s job is ensuring that all laws are complied with. In some cases, accountants work with auditors to make this job easier. Every single transaction must comply with state and federal law, as well as company policy.

Examining Financial Statements for Accuracy

Every accounting document must be carefully reviewed for accuracy. Although some companies use auditors to perform this job, many rely on the accounting team to double-check all reports for accuracy.

Creating Budgets and Financial Plans

In some cases, the management team will ask for an accountant’s help with budgeting and creating detailed financial plans. Accountants may be required to analyze a business’s cost of operation for the coming year as well. While budgeting must be done regularly, creating detailed plans is normally done on a monthly or quarterly basis.

Working with Others  

Since most accountants are employed in offices or other team environments, they’ll need to communicate well with others every single day. Projects must be discussed and plans must be made daily, and this is much easier if everyone can get along. Depending on their company and area of specialty, many accountants are expected to work with people outside of the accounting department as well. For example, at a large engineering company, accountants may be expected to assist the engineers with preparing expense reports.

Payroll

Depending on the company, payroll can be a weekly, bi-weekly, or even monthly task. Some companies require their own accountants to do payroll, while others outsource to a payroll firm.

Preparing Taxes

Regardless of the business, all tax laws must be complied with, and taxes must be filed on time. Tax accountants can expect to spend most of their time preparing taxes and creating tax projections and other reports. However, other accountants are often expected to complete tax-related work as well—especially during tax season.

Working with Technology

In the modern age, the typical day of an accountant involves spending a lot of time on the computer. Whether they’re inputting data, creating financial reports, or communicating with others in the office, an in-depth knowledge of technology is essential.

Attending Meetings

Although not all accountants are expected to attend regular meetings, this is a daily event in some offices. Others will choose to have meetings on a weekly or monthly basis. Whatever the case, all accountants can expect to attend them at one point or another.

Managing Funds

Some accountants are required to allocate an organization’s revenue to various funds. All losses and gains must be carefully monitored and document as well. Accountants who perform these tasks may be required to work closely with financial planners to perform their jobs more effectively.

The typical day of an accountant is always changing.

Whether you’re interested in specializing in taxes, public accounting, or something else entirely, it’s important to remember that the typical day of an accountant is always changing! But by familiarizing yourself with the above duties while in college, you’ll have a good idea of what to expect from your first accounting job.

DQ Staff

February 2020

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