Duska and Duska state that the accountant has three obligations:
1) to be competent and know about the art and science of accounting;
2) to look out for the best interests of the client; avoiding the temptation to take advantage of the client; and 3) to serve the public interest. (2003)
These responsibilities are clearly stated in the AICPA code of ethics, which states:
Competence is derived from a synthesis of education and experience. It begins with a mastery of the common body of knowledge required for designation as a certified public accountant. The maintenance of competence requires a commitment to learning and professional improvement that must continue throughout a member's professional life. It is a member's individual responsibility. In all engagements and in all responsibilities each member should undertake to achieve a level of competence that will assure that the quality of the member's services meet the high level of professionalism required by these principles." (Duska and Duska, 2003) second obligation of the accountant is the obligation "too look out for the best interest of the client." (2003) the AICPA states:
distinguishing mark of a professional in an acceptance of its responsibility to the public. The accounting professional's public consists of clients, credit grantors, governments, employers, investors, the business and financial community and others who rely on the objectivity and integrity of certified public accountants to maintain the orderly functioning of commerce."
The work of Duska and Duska states that the responsibility of accountants is to present the "most truthful and accurate financial pictures possible of the organization they are portraying, or, as auditors, a responsibility to evaluate other accountants' picture and attest to their truthfulness and accuracy." (2003) the accounting profession code of conduct is useful in six ways according to Duska and Duska, which are those as follows:
1) a code can motivate through using peer pressure, by holding up a generally recognized set of behavioral expectations that must be considered in decision-making;
2) a code can provide more stable permanent guides to right or wrong than do human personalities or continual ad hoc decisions;
3) Codes can provide guidance, especially in ambiguous situations;
4) Codes not only guide the behavior of employees, they can also control the autocratic power of employers;
5) Codes can help specify the social responsibilities of business itself; and (6) Codes are clearly in the interest of business itself, for it businesses do not police themselves ethically, others will do it for them." (Duska and Duska, 2003)
The AICPA Code is comprised by two sections with the first "treating the principles" and the second "treating the rules." The AICPA Code makes specific reference to "three constituencies to whom accountants have ethical responsibilities" which are: (1) the public; (2) clients; and (3) colleagues. (2003) Contained within the AICPA Code are six principles which "express the profession's recognition of its responsibilities to the public, to clients and to colleagues." (Duska and Duska, 2003) the six principles contained in the AICPA Code are those as follows:
In carrying out their responsibilities as professionals, member should exercise sensitive professional and moral judgments in all their activities;
Members should accept the obligation to act in a way that will serve the public interest, honor the public truth, and demonstrate commitment to professionalism.
To maintain and broaden public confidence, members should also perform all professional responsibilities with the highest sense of integrity;
member should maintain objectivity and be free of conflicts of interest in discharging the professional responsibilities;
member 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 the member's ability; and member in public practice should observe the Principles of the Code of Professional Conduct in determining the scope and nature of services to be provided. (Duska and Duska, 2003)
In relation to the measure to be used in determining what is right or just it is stated in the Code that "in the absence of specific rules, standards, or guidance, and in the face of conflicting opinions, a member should test decisions and deeds by asking: "Am I doing what a person of integrity would do?" (Duska and Duska, 2003)
SUMMARY and CONCLUSION
While the ethics contained in Utilitarianism are held by many to be the most just form of ethics, the truth is that unless one is able to travel instantaneously to the future to determine the consequences of actions under this theoretical framework, there is no manner by which to determine whether this ethical theory is supported in facts. The certified public accountant has specific duties and obligations as related to ethics in their profession and toward this end, the AICPA codes provide the best knowledge base for making ethical decisions required by those in the Certified Accountant Profession.
Adams, Barbara L.; Malone, Fannie L. And James, Woodrow, Jr. (1994) Ethical Reasoning in Confidentiality Decisions. The CPA Journal 1994. Online available at http://www.nysscpa.org/cpajournal/old/15611655.htm
Dolfsma, W. (2004) Institutional Economics and the Formation of Preferences. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar; in Dolfsma, Wilfred (2005) Accounting as Applied Ethics: Teaching a Discipline. Erasmus Research Institute of Management - Report Series - Research in Management
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Duska, Ronald F. And Duska, Brenda Shay (2003) Accounting Ethics. Blackwell Publishing. Online available at http://books.google.com/books?id=Y4LgVJgynCsC&dq=deontology+%26+utilitarianism+accounting+profession&source=gbs_summary_s&cad=0
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