Accountants with an eye for detail and a thorough understanding of Generally Accepted Accounting Practices might find a position as an accounting policy enforcement specialist to be especially interesting. Unlike the vast majority of traditional accounting professions, which revolve around crunching numbers and maximizing returns for individuals and corporations, professionals who take a job as an enforcement specialist will become something of an auditor for the organization where they’re employed. This job will allow the accountant to put their knowledge of policies and principles to work, keeping the company ethical and consulting with accountants about best practices and department procedures.
Policy Enforcement: Key to Sarbanes-Oxley Implementation and More
When most people think of big financial scandals in the context of the American economy, they focus on the big accounting scandals that led to the undoing of companies like WorldCom and Enron. These companies used illegal or unethical accounting procedures to mask losses, pad margins, and boost their stock price well beyond what it was truly worth. At the height of the accounting scandal investigations, these companies crashed and burned, going out of business or becoming acquisition targets for larger and more financially stable businesses. The Sarbanes-Oxley Act was passed to help keep accounting ethical and transparent, and enforcement specialists became the key to compliance afterward.
In the nearly 15 years that have passed since those accounting scandals subsided, the role of an accounting policy enforcement specialist has only expanded. Today, professionals in this capacity will review company accounting procedures and policies, examine past accounting work, and consult with existing accountants as they prepare the books. They’ll look for potentially unethical practices or professional oversights that could set the company back financially. Policy specialists will also work with accountants to create an easier, more efficient, and more reliably ethical way to perform accounting work.
Reports and Transparency: Another Key Role for These Professionals
The Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 requires that companies regularly report on their accounting practices as well as their compliance with GAAP principles and government regulations for financial reporting. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the viewpoints of an accounting policy enforcement specialist can help the company to create this annual report with clear language, concise examples of how the organization is compliant with all laws and principles, and certification that no underhanded accounting work is being performed. Enforcement specialists will often help accounting departments create a draft of this report, and they’ll often lend their signature to the final product as a way to verify the company’s claims.
Audits: A Key Responsibility for the Enforcement Specialist
From time to time, government officials may demand an audit of a company’s accounting procedures to ensure that they’re compliant with all regulations governing financial reporting. The enforcement specialist is often the “point person” when an audit is declared or underway. They’ll know exactly how to describe, demonstrate, and document accounting practices. This can often reduce the time it takes to conduct the audit, saving both parties a great deal of time and saving their employer a significant amount of money and lost productivity.
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Enforcement Specialists Have a Very Important Role to Play
Enforcing GAAP guidelines and accounting laws is no easy task, but enforcement specialists typically enjoy being able to use their knowledge of accounting theory to keep an organization honest and ethical. For this reason, the role of an accounting policy enforcement specialist is often advisory and consultative in nature, no matter how large or small their employer is.