Why we are calling for the definition of the word ‘accountant’ to be changed
28th Jan 2019
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It’s well-known that what it means to be an accountant today is a far cry from what it was before online accounting.
Around the world, we’re seeing more firms diversify their offering into the realm of business advisory. And in the UK, the growing role of modern accountants is particularly significant with HMRC’s Making Tax Digital legislation which comes into play this year.
So we are calling for The Oxford English Dictionary to change its out of date definition of the word ‘accountant’ to something that truly reflects what it means to be an accountant in 2019.
We’d like to encourage everyone to sign our petition on change.org. And you can read the letter that we’ve sent to the OED below:
As one of the most reliable and respected sources for true definitions in the world, we at Xero are writing to request you [Oxford English Dictionary] change the definition of the word ‘accountant’ in your dictionary to what we believe it truly reflects.
This is why we think the definition of the word ‘accountant’ needs to be updated:
The role of an accountant is far removed from what it once was. The adoption of new technologies such as cloud software and new regulations such as Open Banking are rapidly transforming business finance.
At Xero we are seeing an increasing number of practices embracing cloud technology. By using AI to their advantage, accountants are able to offer useful insights by analysing operational and financial data stored in the cloud. This enables them to establish areas where they could drive growth across different product lines, and work out how scenario planning (such as changing suppliers) will impact the bottom line.
Today, an accountant doesn’t just crunch the numbers and observe financial operations, but so much more. They advise business owners and aid and fuel business objectives such as business growth, improving efficiency, cost and productivity.
Insight from well-respected industry bodies such as ICAEW and IFAC finds that time and time again, accountants are a business owner’s most trusted advisor. We also know that accountants and bookkeepers are vital to the UK’s stability. Nearly two in three (65%) accountants believe that their jobs are having a major impact on the economy.
Furthermore, when asked about the qualities they value in an accountant, more small business owners cited good business advice (41%) than number crunching skills (34%).
We understand that the OED shows how words and meanings change over time. We have witnessed this first hand from our viewpoint at the front lines of this industrial change and through working with thousands of progressive modern day accountants. As the leading provider of accounting software to small businesses, around the world we are helping hundreds of thousands of accountants realise this new ambition.
Our suggestion for the updated definition is as follows: “Accountant: a person whose job is to keep or inspect and advise on financial accounts”.
We await your response.
Gary Turner, Co-founder and Managing Director at Xero.