A Clear Understanding of the Legal Liabilities of an Accountant?

legal liabilities of an accountant

Accounting is not only a famed or renowned job but also a high-risk job. Accountants can be referred to as the ethical and financial backbone of a company’s health. It does not matter whether it is a product-based company or a service-based company; the tax files, the total amount of sales, or the client’s money is as important as the company’s guidelines. An accountant does all of these hard and irritating tasks on behalf of the authority. However, when it comes to the legal liabilities of an accountant, they are bound to give the company legal and financial security. They are the only “god-move makers” while auditing or developing any financial statement or documents for a company. But what are their exact legal liabilities in accounting?

Every “wants to grow” business mind should have a strong grip on finances. An accountant gives reliability to manage the finances of the owner. Well, if we talk about the legal liabilities of an accountant, then it should be clear to everyone that a professionally assigned accountant has to dive deep into legal liabilities. Such as every small expense of the company, every amount related to the payroll system, if the company has any loans, etc.

Now, this is not the risky part of this job. The risky part is accountants are committed to the company’s financial security. That means if any kind of fraud happens to the company, accountants will be the responsible character from the financial department. Now, the foremost liabilities of a CPA are:

  • Negligence.
  • Gross negligence.
  • Breach of contract.
  • Any kind of financial fraud in the company.

Statutory laws are passed by law-making bodies and are supposed to be followed by accountants in the US.

  • According to the security laws of 1993, it’s written in section 24 that it’s an accountant’s duty to audit financial statements with proper attention and diligence. If anyone violates any of the rules under this act, then they can get a fine of up to $10000 or five years of imprisonment.
  • During making annual financial statements and auditing them, SEC-registered companies need to do that properly. There is a huge possibility of fraud to save taxes. According to the securities exchange act of 1934, if anyone violates this act, then the CPA can fine up to $25,000,000 or 20 years of imprisonment.
  • CPAs do have a duty to inform illegal activities to SEC. if they don’t do, according to the private securities litigation act of 1995, a $500000 fine can add up to your firm’s account.

CPAs owe most of their legal liabilities to their clients. They are obliged to serve professional care to the client. An agreement is made between both sides. It clearly describes the rights of recovery. If CPAs are not performing according to the contract, that will be called a contract breach. In this case, the client can also claim negligence against the accountant. But first, they have to prove the following:

  • First, the client needs to prove the agreed duty of the CPA.
  • Breach of duty should be proved from the client’s side.
  • Losses that the client had to face because of negligence.

Accountants can also defend themself from the negligence of the CPA if they can prove that the loss occurred because of some other reason rather than negligence. If the CPA gets succeed in proving that, then they can claim comparative negligence.

Legal accountants have the liability to meet the balance sheet on behalf of the client. The investor’s money or the creditor’s money should be kept securely within reach of a CPA. This comes under the legal liabilities of an accountant.

Liability To a Third-Party Client

Every client does not hire a direct accountant. Third-party accountants also work as a freelancer or as outsourced one. In such cases, the client can also take legal action against the CPA. The same process will be followed in this scenario also. The third party must prove that negligence was the main reason behind the client’s loss. However, the legal liabilities of an accountant can be in a handful of numbers.

Accounting ensures liabilities that are agreed from both sides, the accountant and the company. The foremost legal liability in accounting is not to neglect any of the financial tasks from the accountant’s side. Accountants’ Negligence can be a very big issue for the accountant if the company suffers from any fraud or issue just because of not paying enough attention to the task. Accountant negligence is the thing that the parent company can claim on the accountant.

All CPA Liabilities in One Frame

There is a misunderstanding among many of the accountants that they cannot get involved under federal security laws as their practice does not carry any security charges. But unwillingly, accountants have to face a lot of security laws that are subject to expected to many lawsuits.

Accountants and auditors can make a place for professional CPA liabilities in their job role:

  • Security offense coverage in network and information.
  • If there is a security breach, the accountants have to take care of it.
  • Financial Insurance coverage on personal investment.
  • They have to fulfill fiduciary coverage on behalf of the company. Fiduciary means building trust between the trustee and the beneficiary.
  • They give coverage of crisis events. That means giving coverage to the company in a negative impact or events.
  • Accountants also give pre-claim assistance to a company. That means if there is any unhappy client, they will be prevented from making any demands from the company.

Now, these are basic and well-known insurance coverages that come from accountants’ or auditors’ liability lists.

CPA Liability for Tax Errors

When your savvier hunts you down, nothing can be worse than that. CPAs are hired for tax preparation. According to federal laws, a tax preparer was not liable to gift, estate, and generation-skipping tax returns. The liability used to stand for only income tax preparation.

But, as the law changed in 2007, CPAs got liabilities for all tax errors. And if a CPA makes a mistake intentionally or unintentionally in tax preparation, then the client can apply IRC (internal revenue code) penalty, as it changed its 6694 tax-related article. Generally, the penalty can be up to $1000 or 50% of the income. If there is any negligence or malpractice from the accountant’s side, then the client can also claim a refund. Obviously, 100%is not possible, but as per the jurisdiction, the client can claim $5000 or 50% of the derived income from the accountant. The list of legal liabilities of an accountant contains a financial risk if the accountant makes any mistake that can affect the client.

However, if you have a question like “are accountants payable to the liabilities?” then you can surely know that yes, they are payable to the legal liabilities in accounting. If there are any tax preparation mistakes, fraud, or any financial issues, then accountants are the only liable person from the financial department.

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Do accountants have legal and ethical obligations to the public?

According to AICPA (American institute of certified public accountants), accountants are obliged to serve the public interest and uphold the public trust in the profession.

Can accountants be liable under tort law?

Under common federal law, the client can sue the accountant for negligence, gross negligence, or fraud. Negligence is the most common among all evils, and this comes under tort law.

Can You Take Legal Action Against an Accountant?

If a client is suffering from financial shorttail due to the negligence of the accountant, then the client can pursue a claim and sue the accountant for the negligence.

What are the most common ethical issues in accounting?

The most common ethical issues in accounting are as followed:
1. Inaccurate reporting.
2. Lack of attention while building a financial document.
3. Issues with confidentiality.
4. Fraud and tax evasion.

Author Details
Financial Advisor , The Bookify
Hi! I am Madeline Ortega, a financial advisor. I offer free financial tips. Since 2016, I have written more than 1,000 articles on managing your small business finances.

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