Like any profession, accounting requires a great deal of research as it evolves with new technologies, trends, regulations, and instructional techniques. Though this profession is perhaps associated more with crunching numbers than conducting experiments and scholarly studies, these activities have led to major developments in accountancy in terms of its regulatory oversight, academic standards, and the GAAP principles that currently guide public accountancy practices nationwide and around the world. As a result, there are a few major areas of study that are vital to the profession’s long-term health, efficiency and ethical development.

1. Governance and Regulatory Studies

Accountancy has major implications not just for one company or individual, but for the broader economy in general. That’s why the profession has been so highly regulated over the past century. When it comes to understanding how these regulations affect accountancy, financial information, and the broader economy, however, scholarly inquiry is an important part of the process. Researchers often look into how regulations change behaviors, increase or decrease costs, and alter corporate governance and structure. One of the most recent areas of concentration has been on the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 and its implications on corporate finance, accountability, and governance. Studies have largely shown that the various SOX regulations, as the act is known, have been a positive development for the profession. Other regulations in the past have not faired so well, and scholarly inquiry into their drawbacks has allowed for their modification to better enable accountants to do their jobs.

2. Financial and Managerial Studies

Independent of regulations that govern how financial and managerial accountancy are performed, many researchers look into how these two fields affect allocation of resources and decision-making. This has led to research that shows how the accountancy profession can specifically be used for making key corporate decisions in a more effective way than finance-based decisions. It has also led to new ways of accounting for key corporate resources, estimating their value and their impact on the balance sheet in new ways. Such inquiries have also made their way into textbooks and undergraduate accountancy courses, where new standards for decision-making have led to a generation of more practically oriented accountants.

3. Business and Individual Taxation Studies

Taxation is a major part of the accountancy profession. In fact, some accountants focus only on individual or corporate taxation on a full-time basis. When using taxation as the basis for study, however, the focus is a bit different. Researchers want to know how taxes affect decision-making, particularly among individuals filing a basic income tax form. This area of inquiry is also centrally concerned with tax regulations and how they affect businesses. The outcomes of these studies have led to substantive change in how the government offers tax rebates to individuals. It has also been a key part of past tax reform and corporate tax cut policies, since studies showed that a lower corporate tax could, in some instances, encourage investment and benefit the economy.

There’s Much More to Learn About This Growing Field

Accountants are driven not only by numbers, but also by careful inquiry into their profession. Scholarly studies of the accounting profession should not only focus on theories, but should be applied to understand accounting practices in the field.  The goal of accounting research is to identify patterns of decision-making, investment, and ethical alignment, in order to make the profession more efficient and more aligned with the diverse needs of businesses and individuals.