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The Importance of Ethics in Accounting Courses

Teaching ethics to accounting students is an important aspect of the discipline, and many universities now include ethics courses in their curriculums. It is essential that students learn about ethical issues, as ethical behavior is fundamental to the profession. These classes aim to combat misconceptions about shady accounting practices and discourage students from engaging in unethical behavior. In addition, they can help students better understand what ethics mean in the real world. The purpose of an ethics course is to equip students with the tools to make moral decisions while carrying out their work.

The first step in understanding ethics is to separate personal feelings from the issue. If there are financial incentives involved in the auditing process, auditors may act unethically. This is why it is important for accounting students to separate their own feelings from the issue. In addition, they must consider the impact of the behavior on the companies, employees, and stakeholders. The failure to report fraud can have just as much of an impact as the actual act of deception.

The American Institute for Certified Public Accountants has a Code of Professional Conduct. Financial executives also have a Code of Ethics. In addition, the International Ethics Standards Board for Accountants has rewritten its global Code of Ethics, which is expected to be implemented by June 2019. It emphasizes the fundamental principles of professional accounting ethics.

The Treadway Commission’s recommendations for accounting education emphasize a sense of moral obligation and the ability to deal with ethical dilemmas. The Treadway Commission cites William May’s eight-step ethical decision-making model, which is incorporated into the Ethics in Accounting Curriculum: Cases & Readings. This model has been used by Langenderfer and Rockness to help students identify ethical issues and the best course of action.

As a profession, ethics in accounting requires strict adherence to certain standards, as well as careful assessment of specific situations. Some of these frameworks are: independence, integrity, confidentiality, and professional competence. Knowledge of these frameworks will help an accountant make sound decisions and help maintain the reputation of the accounting profession. And it will help the public trust the profession.

The Giving Voice to Values program can be integrated into an advanced financial accounting course. This program encourages students to voice their values through scripted role-plays. A recent study has examined the effectiveness of this ethics intervention and found that students who participated in this program were more likely to speak up in situations where their values were violated.

Independence and ethics in the accounting profession are closely connected. Professional independence requires accountants to make objective decisions and recommend strategies that benefit the client. However, there are instances when an accountant’s inclination to please a client may compromise his or her objectivity.


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