Government accounting is comprised of different accounting fields and specialties working together towards an important public service goal—transparency.
It is important for public service agencies to report to the public how the government budget is being spent. Transparency justifies government operations that contribute to economic growth and development.
Transparency also informs the public about how efficient the government is when it comes to multi-level (federal, state, county and city) financing.
Government accountants are the people who are tasked to track and manage the budgets and expenses of different government agencies, organizations and institutions, as well as the revenue generated from their operations.
Different specialties are required for different levels of accounting in the government. That is why accounting degree holders who plan to pursue government positions can expect to undergo multi-level hiring processes for the following government accounting careers:
Treasury Enforcement Agent
Enforcement agents, as they are called internally, are positions in the U.S. Department of Treasury tasked to investigate financially involved crimes like identity theft, credit card fraud or tax law offense. Their investigations aim to find and collect evidences, and analyze and track financial records. Their main responsibilities include the following:
- Investigations involving interviews, intelligence gathering and data analysis
- Application of laws and regulations to individual cases
- Presentation of evidences in court
- Preparation of detailed reports
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) auditors are tasked to audit federal taxes, as well as the levies that businesses and individuals owe. The auditors are also tasked to collect the taxes and levies in certain circumstances. It is also their responsibility to manage cases and assist taxpayers by educating them about the auditing process. The following are the general responsibilities of IRS auditors:
- Evaluation for accuracy of tax return documents
- Evaluation for regulatory compliance of tax return documents
- Gathering and review of financial data
- Analysis of financial data for case recommendations
- Maintenance of audit case records
- Communication with taxpayers about audit results
- Keeping knowledge of changing tax codes
Public Accountants, Budget Analysts, and Auditors
Accountants, analysts and auditors in the local, state and federal levels of the government are tasked with the common financial accounting procedures. Their services focus on the following responsibilities:
- Organization of financial data, documents and reports
- Maintenance of financial documents
- Participation in budget development
- Monitoring of resource allocation, costs and expenses
- Identification of financial trend through data analysis
- Review of accounting records
- Evaluation of data accuracy and regulatory compliance
- Preparation and distribution of financial reports
Forensic accounting is an important field in government accounting. Forensic accountants are tasked to track and monitor financial records of the private sector or corporations to detect criminal activities and funding. They perform investigative tasks to find and collect evidences of illicit or suspicious transactions. Forensic accountants are found in investigative government departments like the IRS, FBI and CIA. Their responsibilities involve the following tasks:
- Investigation of financial history of criminals, spies and terrorists
- Presentation of evidences in court as expert witnesses
- Participation in strategic planning with prosecutors
- Organization of data to build financial profiles for suspects
- Collection of evidence to reinforce execution of search warrants
- Tracking of external sources of illicit funding
- Participation in interrogations
- Compilation of financial investigation reports
These government accounting positions may require years of training or related job experiences to ensure that only the most capable accountants can serve the public. Aspiring candidates must therefore research their target positions to know the documentary requirements and examinations that they must prepare for.