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Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Differences between managerial accounting and financial accounting

Differences between managerial accounting and financial accounting











Managerial accounting is used primarily by those within a company or organization. Reports can be generated for any period of time such as daily, weekly or monthly. Reports are considered to be "future looking" and have forecasting value to those within the company.
Financial accounting is used primarily by those outside of a company or organization. Financial reports are usually created for a set period of time, such as a fiscal year or period. Financial reports are historically factual and have predictive value to those who wish to make financial decisions or investments in a company.


1.Confidentiality and type of information

Management Accounting is the branch of Accounting that deals primarily with confidential financial reports for the exclusive use of top management within an organization. These reports are prepared utilizing scientific and statistical methods to arrive at certain monetary values which are then used for decision making. Such reports may include:
Sales Forecasting reports
Budget analysis and comparative analysis
Feasibility studies
Merger and consolidation reports
Financial Accounting, on the other hand, concentrates on the production of financial reports, including the basic reporting requirements of profitability, liquidity, solvency and stability. Reports of these nature can be accessed by internal and external users such as the shareholders, the banks and the creditors.

2.Regulation and standardization

While financial accountants follow Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) set by professional bodies in each country, managerial accountants make use of procedures and processes that are not regulated by a standard-setting bodies.
However, multinational companies prefer to employ managerial accountants who have passed the Certified Management Accountant (CMA) certification. The CMA is an examination given by the Institute of Management Accountant, a professional organization of Accounting professionals. This certification is different and distinct from the CPA or Chartered Accountant certificate.

3.Time Period

Managerial Accounting provides top management with reports that are future-oriented, while Financial Accounting provides reports based on historical information. However, Management accountants based their reports on historical values, while employing statistical methods to arrive at future values.
There is no time span for producing managerial accounting statements but financial accounting statements are generally required to be produced for the period of 12 previous months.

4.Other differences

There is no legal requirement for an organization to use management accounting but publicly-traded firms (limited companies or whose shares are bought and sold on an open market) must, by law, prepare financial account statements.
In management accounting systems there is no requirement for an independent external review but financial accounting annual statements must be audited by an independent CPA firm.
In management accounting systems, management may be concerned about how reports will affect employees behavior whereas management concerns are about the adequacy of disclosure in financial statements


Financial accounting reports are prepared for the use of external parties such as shareholders and creditors, whereas managerial accounting reports are prepared for managers inside the organization.

This contrast in basic orientation results in a number of major differences between financial and managerial accounting, even though both financial and managerial accounting often rely on the same underlying financial data. In addition to the to the differences in who the reports are prepared for, financial and managerial accounting also differ in their emphasis between the past and the future, in the type of data provided to users, and in several other ways. These differences are discussed in the following paragraphs.

Emphasis on the Future:

Since planning is such an important part of the manager's job, managerial accounting has a strong future orientation. In contrast, financial accounting primarily provides summaries of past financial transactions. These summaries may be useful in planning, but only to a point. The future is not simply a reflection of what has happened in the past. Changes are constantly taking place in economic conditions, and so on. All of these changes demand that the manager's planning be based in large part on estimates of what will happen rather than on summaries of what has already happened.

Relevance of Data:

Financial accounting data are expected to be objective and verifiable. However, for internal use the manager wants information that is relevant even if it is not completely objective or verifiable. By relevant, we mean appropriate for the problem at hand. For example, it is difficult to verify estimated sales volumes for a proposed new store at good Vibrations, Inc., but this is exactly the type of information that is most useful to managers in their decision making. The managerial accounting information system should be flexible enough to provide whatever data are relevant for a particular decision.

Less Emphasis on Precision:

Timeliness is often more important than precision to managers. If a decision must be made, a manager would rather have a good estimate now than wait a week for a more precise answer. A decision involving tens of millions of dollars does not have to be based on estimates that are precise down to the penny, or even to the dollar. In fact, one authoritative source recommends that, "as a general rule, no one needs more than three significant digits., this means, for example, that if a company's sales are in the hundreds of millions of dollars, than nothing on an income statement needs to be more accurate than the nearest million dollars. Estimates that accurate to the nearest million dollars may be precise enough to make a good decision. Since precision is costly in terms of both time and resources, managerial accounting places less emphasis on precision than does financial accounting. In addition, managerial accounting places considerable weight on non monitory data, for example, information about customer satisfaction is tremendous importance even though it would be difficult to express such data in monitory form.

Segments of an Organization:

Financial accounting is primarily concerned with reporting for the company as a whole. By contrast, managerial accounting forces much more on the parts, or segments, of a company. These segments may be product lines, sales territories divisions, departments, or any other categorizations of the company's activities that management finds useful. Financial accounting does require breakdowns of revenues and cost by major segments in external reports, but this is secondary emphasis. In managerial accounting segment reporting is the primary emphasis.

Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP):

Financial accounting statements prepared for external users must be prepared in accordance with generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP). External users must have some assurance that the reports have been prepared in accordance with some common set of ground rules. These common ground rules enhance comparability and help reduce fraud and misrepresentations, but they do not necessarily lead to the type of reports that would be most useful in internal decision making. For example, GAAP requires that land be stated at its historical cost on financial reports. However if, management is considering moving a store to a new location and then selling the land the store currently sits on, management would like to know the current market value of the land, a vital piece of information that is ignored under generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP).

Managerial AccountingNot Mandatory:

Financial accounting is mandatory; that is, it must be done. Various out side parties such as Securities and exchange commission (SEC) and the tax authorities require periodic financial statements. Managerial accounting, on the other hand, is not mandatory. A company is completely free to do as much or as little as it wishes . No regularity bodies or other outside agencies specify what is to be done, for that matter, weather anything is to be done at all. Since managerial accounting is completely optional, the important question is always, "Is the information useful?" rather than, "Is the information required?"

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