The Institute of Management Accountants (IMA) and the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) both provide certification options, continuing education and set professional standards for accountants. Both the IMA and the AICPA emphasize that accountants follow a code of ethics when performing their duties. Both organizations maintain a written code of ethics for their members to follow.
Focus of IMA
The IMA focuses on the sector of the accounting profession that serves businesses by working within the company, providing financial data to assist management with decision making, budgeting and analyzing alternative courses of action. These accountants serve customers internally within the organization and must maintain a level of trust with these customers. Maintaining high ethical standards develops the trust necessary for accountants to serve the needs of the company’s management and employees.
Focus of AICPA
The AICPA focuses on the sector of the accounting profession that serves investors, lenders and creditors outside of the company. These accountants provide financial statements to assist investors, creditors and owners with decision making regarding credit terms, lending decisions or financial investment decisions. These accountants serve customers externally and must maintain a level of trust with these customers. Maintaining high ethical standards develops the trust necessary for accountants to serve the needs of the company’s owners, creditors and investors.
Both the AICPA and the IMA stress integrity in their ethical standards. Integrity refers to behaving consistently with what is right and maintaining the appearance of what is right. In order to do what is right, the accountant must remain honest with her customers, even when the information she is sharing is negative. The accountant needs to respect the privacy of the customer and keep the information confidential. The only exception to confidentiality is when required by law to share the information.
According to the AICPA and the IMA, accountants must remain competent in their responsibilities. An accountant who presents himself as competent but is unable to fulfill his professional responsibilities misrepresents the profession and himself in the eyes of his customer. An accountant who is unqualified to perform his duties must consult with a more qualified individual, refer the customer directly to the more qualified professional or seek additional training to increase his competence.