While most of the world considers "the most wonderful time of year" to be in December, we as CPAs know the truth. The "most wonderful time of year" is in the coming months. It’s the time of year that most of us have the opportunity to see many of our clients and to help them navigate the challenges that face them at the start of a new year.
With this opportunity looming, it’s important that we refocus and remember that we have an ethical responsibility to the public, to our clients and to our colleagues. This ethical responsibility calls for an unadulterated commitment to honorable behavior, even if that behavior is at the cost of our own benefit. With that in mind, let’s review, at a high level, some of the principles to keep in mind as we navigate through "the most wonderful time of the year."
1. The Responsibility Principle: The responsibility principle tells us that we have responsibilities to not only all those who use our services, but also to each other in order to improve the art of accounting, maintain the public’s confidence, and carry out the profession’s special responsibilities of self-governance.
2. The Public Interest Principle: The public interest principle describes our obligation to act in a way that will serve the public interest, honor the public trust, and demonstrate a commitment to professionalism. We accepted the obligation to demonstrate a dedication to professional excellence when we became CPAs.
3. The Integrity Principle: The integrity principle discusses the requirement that CPAs be, among other things, honest and candid within the constraints of client confidentiality. Service and the public trust should not be subordinated to personal gain and advantage. Integrity cannot accommodate deceit or subordination of principle.
4. The Objectivity and Independence Principle: The objectivity and independence principle stipulates that a member should maintain objectivity and be free of conflicts of interest in discharging professional responsibility. We often serve multiple interest in many different capacities and must demonstrate their objectivity in varying circumstances. Regardless of service or capacity, members should protect the integrity of their work, maintain objectivity, and avoid any subordination of their judgment.
5. The Due Care Principle: The due care principal notes that a CPA should observe the profession’s technical and ethical standards, strive continually to improve competence and the quality of services, and discharge professional responsibility to the best of our ability. Ultimately, due care requires a member to plan and supervise adequately any professional activity for which he or she is responsible.
6. The Scope and Nature of Services Principle: The scope and nature of services principle stipulates that CPAs in public practice should observe the Principles of the Code of Professional Conduct in determining the scope and nature of services to be provided. To accomplish this, we should:
- Practice in firms that have in place internal quality control procedures to ensure that services are competently delivered and adequately supervised.
- Determine, in our individual judgments, whether the scope and nature of other services provided to an audit client would create a conflict of interest in the performance of the audit function for that client.
- Assess, in our individual judgments, whether an activity is consistent with their role as professionals.
During the busiest time of year for many of us, we must continue to strive to be ethical, in fact and in appearance. If we can keep these principles at the forefront of our minds, we’ll have a good chance at maintaining our value proposition as being the profession with the highest ethical standards in this, the most wonderful time of the year.