A postsecondary degree in accounting, preferably a bachelor’s degree, is a must-have credential for anyone interested in becoming an accounting policy enforcement specialist. To earn a Bachelor of Science in Accounting, you will likely need to complete courses in financial accounting, managerial accounting, auditing theory and practice, accounting periods and methods, microeconomics, macroeconomics, federal income taxation of individuals, business management, corporate finance, corporate and partnership taxation, marketing, organizational behavior and statistical methods. As with almost any career path within the accounting and financial services industry, an affinity for numbers is a definite plus, even if it is not necessarily a requirement.
What Exactly is an Audit?
As an accounting policy enforcement specialist, you could be responsible for conducting several different types of audits, according to the IRS. Most commonly, accounting policy enforcement specialists review an entity’s accounting records for signs of irregularities. These records must comport with generally accepted accounting principles and, perhaps more importantly, two key pieces of federal legislation: the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 and the Internal Revenue Code. Failure to comply with these federal laws could result in harsh consequences, including heavy fines and possible jail time.
The Sarbanes-Oxley Act
The Sarbanes-Oxley Act, more commonly known as “SOX”, was passed on July 30, 2002. SOX is a landmark piece of federal legislation for accountants and other financial services industry professionals. It was primarily enacted as a reaction to accounting scandals at Enron, Worldcom, and other large corporations. SOX requires firms to implement certain internal controls that make committing fraud through manipulation of financial records more difficult than it was in the pre-SOX world, and imposes harsher penalties than those that existed prior to SOX.
The Internal Revenue Code and Other Jurisdictions’ Income Tax Statutes
The most recent version of the Internal Revenue Code, which was overhauled in 1986, is positively labyrinthine. As such, it is fertile ground for accounting policy enforcement specialists. The most complex portions of the Internal Revenue Code are those governing the taxation of corporations and partnerships, which would be Subchapter C, Subchapter K, and Subchapter S. In addition to the Code’s complexities, large multinational firms with significant earnings derived from sources outside the United States must maintain compliance with the tax laws of the other jurisdictions in which they do business; own real estate and other large, immovable assets; or possess intangible assets such as copyrights, trademarks, patents and other intellectual property. There are layers upon layers of laws and regulations to enforce in such situations, each with its own idiosyncrasies, peculiarities, nuances and loopholes.
Related Resource: Certified Management Accountant
Contrary to popular belief, an accounting degree need not be the beginning of a professional life filled with drab suits and pocket protectors. If you wish to protect investors from the kind of financial ruin that befell many stockholders at the beginning of the twenty-first century, become an accounting policy enforcement specialist and help make the world a more secure place.