Is Accounting An Art Or A Science?

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6 Answers

Sam Easterbrook Profile
Sam Easterbrook answered
Both, or neither, depending who you ask. Accounting is, above all, a continuum. Management accounting uses a different set of rules to personal accounting, just as calculus and geometry use different sets of rules, while being subsets of the continuum that is mathematics. Practitioners of each have yet to agree on a common definition even of these elements of accountancy, let alone of the discipline itself.

What’s more, the question does not get any easier to answer the further we consider it. Accountancy generally has a set of arcane rules and principles, and has a direct practical use in the day-to-day world, making it seem to have more in common with other sciences. It is also to some extent universally true, which means it really should be classified as a science. But the key difference between a science and an art is whether you could successfully remove the human being from the equation without altering the result - essentially, much of accountancy satisfies this demand; much of it could be replicated by a sophisticated computer.

But much is not the same as all, and many people, including many accountants, make the case that were you to entirely remove the human being from the equation, you would be mathematically likely to increase the catastrophic levels of financial errors made, because accountancy still depends at high levels on human subtleties of interpretation, contextualisation and understanding. This absolute necessity for the human element makes accountancy at least partly an art.

So as a discipline, it is highly scientific, but dependent on artistic impulses. Like many similar disciplines, such as piloting planes or steering ships, this is likely to skew further and further towards pure science as our ability to produce more ‘intuitive’ computer modelling tools improves over time.
bernajane abalos Profile
It is both an art and science.
Accounting is an art of recording financial transaction in a set of book: Classifying in desired categories and summarizing the information for presentation in a suitable manner to the concerned persons for their benefit.
Accounting is also science in the sense that it comprises of rules, principles, concepts, convention and standards.
Anonymous Profile
Anonymous answered
Accounting is both an art and science.
An art because it can be learnt by practice and not by mere listening to it like scientific rules. Every accountant is not same. Many are good and other make mistakes, like every person is not a great artist. A person who is having more experience in accouting, will be able to understand every new transaction, new developments and new changes in accounting more easily than an inexperienced one.

It is science because it is based on many rules, concepts, conventions and assumptions. If everything goes accordingly, your balance sheets match, trial balances match and profits can be calculated correctly. But even if a single accounting concept is mishandled and transaction is entered incorrectly, it brings propagation errors. We need to go back every step to trace it, which is very exhausting. So its a science.
Stewart Pinkerton Profile
Excellent question! Ostensibly, it is a cold, hard science, but an artistically creative accountant can save you a *lot* of money. Don't be surprised if the IRS take a great interest in your accounts, however.

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