Discussion of the Christian perspective on accounting ethics

The profession and practice: how God’s image and work inform the accounting profession and protect accounting practice

According to May (2001, 7), a professional is someone who professes something (an intellectual characteristic) on behalf of someone (a moral characteristic) in the setting of colleagues (an organizational characteristic). All three professional characteristics are part of the accounting profession’s identity and responsibilities. Table 9.5 incorporates these professional characteristics into Table 9.4’s presentation of a Christian perspective to ethics.

So, how can the Christian accountant protect these professional characteristics in the midst of the opportunities and incentives of professional challenges? The contributions of the Christian perspective to limiting the fraud triangle’s elements of trust violations (Cressey 1953) are presented in the right-hand column of Table 9.5. The Christian recognizes that God uses opportunities and incentives in situations and circumstances to test and train the heart (Proverbs 17:3; 1 Corinthians 4:5).” Managing blessings and burdens, treasures and trials reveals the spiritual condition of the heart and provides opportunities for training, development, and growth (James 1:2—4).’4 For the Christian, the process of growth embraces God's love in the middle of challenges. A heart attached to the love of Christ is better able to resist the attachments of economic and social incentives. A Christian secure in the sovereign provision, protection, and control of a loving God is able to exercise credibly self-control when presented with opportunities. A mind yielding to a loving God’s righteousness is guided to avoid rationalization. As a result, the Christian is prepared to respond appropriately to situations and circumstances.

Jesus’ encounter with Zacchaeus, a wealthy tax accountant, provides an example of how Jesus’ acceptance limits fraud and leads to performance of professional activities motivated by Jesus’ love (Luke 19:1—10). Although society considered Zacchaeus a sinner (Luke 19:7),” Jesus accepted Zacchaeus and wanted to enter his house and heart (Luke 19:5).’" |esus' love and acceptance transformed Zacchaeus' performance. With a new heart motivated by the love of Jesus, instead of incentives to accumulate wealth and cheat others, Zacchaeus wanted to follow Jesus and His righteous commands, avoiding rationalization and instead using the opportunity of his sovereignly God-given professional position and wealth to help the poor and compensate any person he had cheated (Luke 19:8).’' The first row of Table 9.6 summarizes how Jesus’ love

Rest (1984) Model

Code of Conduct Attribute and

Cardinal Virtue

Image and Character of Cod

Transform and Change

Our Character

Professional Characteristics (May 2001)

Fraud Iriangle 7 hreat

Moral will:

1 Moral Motivation: An individuals willingness to place the interests of others ahead of his or her own (Rest 1994).

Professional Public Service

1 Justice: Formulating and embracing ideals of fairness, equality, and lawfulness that provide the motives for action (Mele 2009).

The Love of God

Restores

Community

Instill Identity

Transforms

Calling

Identify Purpose

Organizational

Characteristic

Motive/Mission

Incentives

  • 2 Moral Awareness: The cognitive recognition that a dilemmas resolution may affect others’ welfare (Rest 1994).
  • 2 Moral Judgment: Deciding what ought to be done (Navarez and Rest 1995).

Professional Competence 2 Wisdom: An intellectual virtue by which important goods and principles are identified and ranked (Cheffers and Pakaluk 2011).

The Righteousness of God

Guides

Competence

Recognize

responsibilities

Judgment and

Reasoning

Intellectual

Characteristic

Management:

Rationalization

Moral skill:

3, 4 Moral Character. The virtues needed to carry out a chosen action.

Professional Character

  • 3 Courage: The ability to act appropriately when faced with challenges or threats.
  • 4 Self-control (moderation): The ability to act appropriately as regards physical pleasures, desires, cravings, and comforts.

The Sovereignty of God

Develops

Character

Moral

Characteristic

Means:

Opportunity'

[able 9.6 Christian Approach to Ethics Development and Accounting Practice

Activity in Accounting Practice

Limit

Incentives

Limit

Rationalizations

Limit

Opportunities

Biblical Example

Zacchaeus, the tax

accountant

Jesus’ love motivated a heart of love for God and others.

Motivated by Jesus’ love, Zacchaeus decided to follow God's righteous guide to love others by helping the poor and compensating any person he cheated.

Zacchaeus used the opportunity’ of his position to glorify God by serving others with honesty, trusting God’s sovereign provision.

Tax Accounting Example

Use of tax strategies and structures like tax shelters

Jesus’ love intrinsically motivates a heart of love for God and others that protects the tax accountant from extrinsic economic and social incentives and pressures.

Motivated by a love for God and others, the tax accountant applies the spirit of the tax law in developing tax strategies and performing compliance activities to serve others — the public, the tax system, and the client.

The tax accountant uses the opportunity of his/ her position to glorify God by managing tax information that serves others by fulfilling responsibilities to the tax system (i.e., tax system administrative responsibilities) and responsibilities to the client (client advocate responsibilities)

Financial Accounting Example

Managing reported financial results and information

Jesus’ love intrinsically motivates a heart of love for God and others that protects the financial accountant from extrinsic economic and social incentives and pressures.

Motivated by a love for God and others, the financial accountant applies the spirit of accounting standards and uses professional judgment to produce relevant, reliable, and useful financial reports to serve others — financial statement users and the investing public.

The financial accountant uses the opportunity of his/her position to glorify God by managing reported financial information that serves others by fulfilling responsibilities to financial statement users, the company, and others

Auditing Example

Providing auditing and assurance services to the investing public

Jesus’ love intrinsically motivates a heart of love for God and others that protects the auditor from extrinsic economic and social incentives and pressures.

Motivated by a love for God and others, the auditor applies the spirit of accounting standards and uses professional judgment to carry out auditing and assurance services that serve others — the investing public, clients, and others in the financial system.

The auditor uses the opportunity’ of his/her position to glorify God by providing auditing and assurance services that serve others by fulfilling responsibilities to the investing public, clients, and others

(Continued)

Table 9.6 (Continued)

Activity in Accounting Practice

Limit

Incentives

Limit

Rationalizations

Limit

Opportunities

Managerial Accounting Example

Presentation and use of information for management, performance measurement, and control

Jesus’ love intrinsically motivates a heart of love for God and others that protects the management accountant from extrinsic economic and social incentives and pressures.

Motivated by a love for God and others, the managerial accountant uses professional judgment to produce relevant, reliable, and useful managerial accounting information for planning, management, and control to serve others — management.

The managerial accountant uses the opportunity of his/her position to glorify God by managing reported managerial accounting information that serves others by fulfilling responsibilities to managers, the company, and others

and the Christian approach transformed and protected Zacchaeus’s accounting activity from incentives, rationalizations, and opportunities for fraud.

In a similar way, Christian accounting professionals motivated by God’s love to resist incentives for ill-gotten gains and led by God’s righteous guides to avoid rationalization can use the opportunities of professional accounting positions sovereignly provided by a loving God to manage reported information resources to help others for His glory. For example, the Christian tax accountant motivated by God's love to glorify Him by loving others resists incentives to minimize tax liabilities and avoids rationalizing aggressive tax strategies like tax shelters. Instead, the Christian tax accountant uses the opportunity of his/her position to glorify God by managing tax strategies and information that serve others by fulfilling responsibilities to the tax system and clients. The Christian financial accountant motivated by God’s love to love others resists incentives for gain by rationalizing obscuring and manipulating reported results through accounting treatments (e.g., off-balance sheet financing) or earnings management practices (e.g., adjusting accounting estimates and methods, channel stuffing). Instead, the Christian financial accountant uses the opportunity of his/her position to provide useful reported information that meets responsibilities to serve the investing public, financial statement users, the company, and others. The Christian auditor motivated intrinsically by the incentive of God’s love to love others uses the opportunity of his/her position to glorify God by providing auditing and assurance services that serve others with rational judgments that fulfill responsibilities to the investing public, clients and others. The motive and incentive of God’s love to love others guides the Christian managerial accountant to use the opportunity of his/her position to glorify' God by using rational judgment to produce relevant, reliable, and useful accounting information serving and fulfilling responsibilities to managers, the company, and others.

 
Source
< Prev   CONTENTS   Source   Next >