What are the Main Function and Branches of Financial Accounting?

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Financial accounting is the soul of a commercial enterprise's ability to manage economic information presented in terms of money in an effective and efficient manner. A business's activities will be sporadic in the absence of financial accounting and its functions.

Financial Accounting Definition

Financial accounting is a type of accounting that involves the process of documenting, summarizing, and reporting a multitude of transactions occurring from corporate operations over time. This information is often historical, and it also includes the preparation of financial statements based on these transactions.

All financial statements, including a balance sheet and an income statement, should be produced in a certain manner. This is usually in accordance with generally recognized accounting rules set out by GAAP (Generally Accepted Accounting Principles) and overseen by the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB), a voluntary organization.

Financial accounting, by including several fundamental tasks, can achieve many goals. The financial accounting process includes key fundamental activities that allow the operational results of a company to be appropriately determined. The profit and loss statement is used to identify operating performance. Based on detailed summaries of several corporate transactions affecting capital, assets, and liabilities, a Statement of Financial Position, often known as a balance sheet, reveals a company's financial position.

What happens to a firm over a specific time period, whether it remains profitable or suffers losses, can also be established through financial accounting by employing its functions for summing up all financial details. Finally, the financial situation of a firm at a specific point in time is determined. The goal of the entire financial accounting process is to enable management to take the required actions to regulate the operations of a corporation.

The financial accounting process is made up of several important functions:

  • Recording

The basic objective of financial accounting is to record economic information of a financial kind. It entails assessing individual business transactions as they occur, identifying the kind of account involved, determining the laws of debits and credits, and so forth. Following the analysis of commercial transactions, they must be documented methodically in a book known as the book or original entry. Journalizing refers to the entire process of documenting a commercial transaction. Subsidiary journals are used when segregated journals are employed.

  • Classifying

The classification of financial information is concerned with the systematic study of the collected data. It entails publishing journalized transactions in the relevant ledger accounts by combining them into accounts of identical nature and balancing them. It is worth noting that the digital revolution has substantially facilitated this process. When a specific application designed for financial accounting is used, ledger accounts are automatically balanced.

  • Summarizing

After the transactions have been posted and classified in accordance with the relevant ledgers, they are summarized in a specific manner to prepare the financial statements such as trial balances, income statements, and balance sheets.

  • Interpreting

This function entails analyzing and interpreting financial data. Accounting, as a business language, offers its users with the essential and required information through which the profitability and financial situation of a firm can be discovered, which is highly important for planning and implementing various policies.

  • Communicating

The financial information is presented to the target users after it has been thoroughly evaluated and understood. The process includes creating a variety of reports, including primary financial statements, cash flow, funds flow, ratio analysis, graphical representations, etc.

Types of Financial Accounting

Cash Accounting Method

Payment receipts are documented during the time in which they are received, and costs are documented during the period in which they are incurred. In other words, revenues and expenditures are recorded when cash is collected and paid.

When transactions are recorded on a cash basis, they affect a company's books with a deferral from the time the transaction is completed. As a result, cash accounting is frequently less precise than accrual accounting in the near term.

Accrual Accounting Method

In financial accounting, accruals relate to the documenting of revenues that a business has collected but has yet to be paid for, as well as costs that the firm has incurred but has yet to pay. The matching principle states that income and costs should be acknowledged in the same period in which they were incurred.

In other words, regardless of when cash transactions occur, the income generated is recorded in the company's accounting records. Except for extremely small businesses and individuals, most corporations use accrual accounting as their typical accounting approach. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) permits small companies that meet certain criteria to pick their preferred mode. If a company's revenue falls below a certain level defined by the IRS, known as the gross receipts method, it can adopt the accrual method of accounting.

Who Benefits from Financial Accounting?

Unlike firm management or internal stakeholders, external audiences of financial information are not actively involved in the running of the business or organization. They are industry outsiders with little awareness of the company's operations, financial situation, and overall health. In other words, external users want financial information about organizations in order to make informed financial decisions.

The ultimate goal of financial accounting is to integrate corporate transactions and other pertinent documents such as invoices and sales receipts into general-purpose financial statements that are understandable to outside audiences.

The essential premise here is that while making business decisions, external stakeholders must be able to interpret and utilize financial facts. It's worthless to have information if you can't use it. The Financial Accounting Standards Board FASB developed a set of accounting rules or guidelines to ascertain that financial statements are comparable and understandable.

Branches of Financial Accounting

Accounting is classified into three types or branches: financial accounting, cost accounting, and management accounting.

  • Financial Accounting

It is involved with record-keeping for the purpose of preparing trial balances, profit and loss accounts, and balance sheets. Accounting is the most popular name for it. Accounting is defined by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants as "the art of recoding, categorizing, and summarizing in a substantial manner and in terms of money, transactions, and occurrences that are at least in part of a financial nature, and analyzing the consequences thereof."

  • Cost Accounting

The process of accounting for expenses is known as cost accounting. It is a methodical process for calculating the unit cost of output generated or services supplied. The essential roles of cost accounting are to determine the cost of a product and to assist management in cost control.

Cost accounting is useful because it can show where a company's money is being spent, how much it is earning, and where money is being lost. Cost accounting seeks to report on, evaluate, and enhance internal cost controls and efficiency. In a nutshell, cost accounting is an operational analysis approach for management.

  • Managerial Accounting

Management accounting is mainly concerned with the provision of information to assist management in making decisions, boosting corporate efficiency, and maximizing profitability. Management accounting is concerned with the application of financial and cost accounting information to managers inside businesses in order to give them the knowledge they need to make sound and conscious decisions and improve their functions of management and control.

Managerial Accounting Vs Financial Accounting

Financial and management accounting are critical to a company's long-term profitability and growth. Both types of professionals rely on precise financial data to support their reporting and analysis. Financial and management accountants frequently collaborate to track the efficiency of corporate operations and identify opportunities for improvement. The underlying ideas and practices of various accounting specialties, however, are noticeably different.

Three key distinctions between financial vs managerial accounting are highlighted below:

  1. Historical Data vs. Future Trends

Because financial accounting only deals with past data on corporate performance and financial health, accuracy and transparency are of the utmost importance. Financial accounting reports are often generalized for the broadest possible audience and lack projections. The information presented is succinct, detailed, and founded on actual facts or evidence-based estimations that can be validated by a financial audit.

Managerial accounting takes a less strict approach to financial analysis since professionals must deal with altering market trends, unpredictable customer needs, and other complicated variables on a regular basis. Managerial accountants, for example, are frequently more concerned with the mechanisms that enable a corporation to make a profit than with the output itself. Managerial accountants can boost performance and increase profit margins by investigating operational inefficiencies and wasteful spending.

  1. Compliance and Regulation

As previously stated, financial accounting must follow the guidelines established by the FASB, SEC, and other industry partners in order to remain compliant. This is due to the fact that financial accountants' statements are distributed both internally and externally. Income statements, balance sheets, and cash-flow statements are heavily regulated and produced routinely by public corporations to benefit regulators, investors, and the general public. Failure to follow GAAP can result in significant financial and legal consequences, which is why public firms' financial statements must be audited by qualified public accountants.

Managerial accounting, on the other hand, is far less regulated and centralized because the information is intended for internal use. This enables management accountants to do exploratory analysis and non-traditional reporting that does not comply with GAAP. According to the Accounting Institute for Success, many people in this field become certified management accountants (CMAs) in order to advance their careers, while no formal qualification is required.

  1. Reporting

Financial and management accounting address reporting in very different ways. Financial accountants are required to generate financial statements at the conclusion of their company's fiscal year, while most organizations do it regularly to assess continuing business success. The data they collect is for the entire company, not for particular departments or product lines.

Managerial accounting reports are produced on a much more regular basis and do not necessarily focus on the bigger picture. Some reports, for example, assess daily business operations, whilst others analyze sales numbers to assist estimate future revenues. In both circumstances, the job of management accountants offers the background that corporate executives and managers require to make better, more informed decisions.

While financial and management accounting have certain parallels, they also have some important distinctions. The aim, end users, and scope of financial and managerial accounting are all different. Financial accounting is primarily concerned with analyzing previous organizational performance, whereas management accounting takes a more forward-looking approach, focusing on creating reasonable estimations and forecasts of future financial implications. Business owners require and benefit from both financial and management accounting.