Public vs. Private Accounting: Everything You Need to Know

Public vs. Private Accounting: Everything You Need to Know

That also means the Controller is not going to have enough time to review in much detail. Much like public accounting, a lot of errors are caught in reconciling the balance sheet and performing fluctuation analysis between the current and prior month. I worked in Public Accounting at one of the “Big 4” firms for seven years, and am now well into my second tech company as the Controller. Public Accounting was, and still is, an excellent way to start your career. Plus, for some hiring managers, Public Accounting and a CPA are must-haves on the resume.

What is difference between public and private accounting?

Public accounting refers to a business that provides accounting services to other firms. Public accountants provide accounting expertise, auditing, and tax services to their clients.


Public accounting is when an accountant works with a range of clients, from individuals to corporations, and helps to prepare financial documents. Public accountants act as a third party to review the financials of a company for public disclosure. They may also prepare tax returns for both individuals and organizations. Other duties might involve audits, consulting services and tax advising.

If he uses the cash-basis accounting method, because no cash changes hands, the carpenter doesn’t have to report any revenues from this transaction in 2004. In this case, his bottom line is $1,200 less with no revenue to offset it, and his net profit (the amount of money the company earned, minus its expenses) for the business in 2004 is lower.

The cash accounting method is, of course, the method most of us use in managing personal finances and it is appropriate for businesses up to a certain size. If a business generates more than $5 million in annual sales, however, it must use the accrual method, according to Internal Revenue Service rules.

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there were about 1.4 million accountants working in the United States as of 2018, mostly concentrated in urban centers. It’s a diverse field that presents a lot of options for anybody with the right skills.

In cash-basis accounting, cash earnings include checks, credit-card receipts, or any other form of revenue from customers. Cash basis is a major accounting method by which revenues and expenses are only acknowledged when the payment occurs. Cash basis accounting is less accurate than accrual accounting in the short term. Accrual accounting is based on the matching principle, which is intended to match the timing of revenue and expense recognition.

By matching revenues with expenses, the accrual method is intended to give a more accurate picture of a company’s true financial condition. Under the accrual method transactions are recorded when they are incurred rather than awaiting payment. This means a purchase order is recorded as revenue even though fund are not received immediately. The same goes for expenses in that they are recorded even though no payment has been made. Cash accounting is an accounting method that is relatively simple and is commonly used by small businesses.

In cash accounting, transaction are only recorded when cash is spent or received. In cash accounting, a sale is recorded when the payment is received and an expense is recorded only when a bill is paid.

Data collected by BLS indicates that nearly a quarter of accountants work for firms specializing in public accounting, tax preparation, bookkeeping, and payroll services. About eight percent worked in government, while seven percent were self-employed that year. The other 15% were split about evenly between company management and jobs in the financial services and insurance industry.

You should be able to close the books in the first 2 weeks of the month. This does not give you much time to spend on each area (eg. cash, prepaids, accruals, etc).

If you work in public accounting, you will interact with a wide variety of clients and will generally be a licensed certified public accountant (CPA). Private accounting is concerned with the inner workings of businesses, governments and agencies. Private accountants work for specific companies and are an important part to the success of any organization. For this reason, many public accountants eventually work in the private sector. The way a company records payment of payroll taxes, for example, differs with these two methods.

Why is public accounting important?

The key difference between Public and Private Accounting is that Public accounting is the accounting of financial documents which is required to be disclosed to the public by the individual or corporation whereas Private accounting is the accounting of financial information of the company in which the accountant is

  • According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there were about 1.4 million accountants working in the United States as of 2018, mostly concentrated in urban centers.
public accounting

A Certified Public Accountant (CPA) license is required to work as a public accountant. If the same carpenter uses accrual accounting, his bottom line is different.

Career Prospects and Salary Potential in Public Accounting

Companies may use a hybrid of the two methods, which is allowable under IRS rules if specified requirements are met. Under accrual accounting, the construction company would recognize a percentage of revenue and expenses corresponding to the portion of the project that was complete. How much actual cash coming into the company, however, would be evident on the cash flow statement.

The value of accrual accounting becomes more evident for large, complex businesses. A construction company, for example, may undertake a long-term project and may not receive complete cash payments until the project is complete. Under cash accounting rules, the company would incur many expenses but would not recognize revenue until cash was received from the customer.

Public vs Private Accounting Infographics

So the book of the company would look weak until the revenue actually came in. If this company was looking for financing from a bank, for example, the cash accounting method makes it look like a poor bet because it is incurring expenses but no revenue. Accounting method refers to the rules a company follows in reporting revenues and expenses. Cash accounting reports revenue and expenses as they are received and paid; accrual accounting reports them as they are earned and incurred.

Becoming Licensed as a Certified Public Accountant

The entry goes into a tax liability account (an account for tracking tax payments that have been made or must still be made). If the company incurs $1,000 of tax liabilities in March, that amount is entered in the tax liability account even if it hasn’t yet paid out the cash. That is, the company records revenue when it earns it, even if the customer hasn’t paid yet. For example, a carpentry contractor who uses accrual accounting records the revenue earned when he completes the job, even if the customer hasn’t paid the final bill yet. For example, if a painter completed a project on December 30, 2003, but doesn’t get paid for it until the owner inspects it on January 10, 2004, the painter reports those cash earnings on her 2004 tax report.

This method would show a prospective lender a much more complete picture of the company’s revenue pipeline. Typically offered as a Bachelor of Science, a four-year degree in accounting is a highly specialized program that prepares graduates to work in varied capacities within the accounting industry. This level of education may be ideal for students who are not looking to become certified public accountants (CPA), as the certification requires additional coursework at the graduate level. Graduates of an accounting degree program will have an in-depth and holistic knowledge of the business cycle and the accounting principles governing responsible practices.

He also records the income when he completes the job on December 31, 2004, even though he doesn’t get the cash payment until 2005. The Internal Revenue Service requires taxpayers to choose an accounting method that accurately reflects their income and to be consistent in their choice of accounting method from year to year. This is because switching between methods would potentially allow a company to manipulate revenue to minimize their tax burdens.

Difference Between Public and Private Accounting

This scenario may not necessarily be a bad thing if he’s trying to reduce his tax hit for 2004. Public accountants provide auditing, tax, advisory and consulting services. The Big Four (Deloitte, Ernst and Young, KPMG and PWC) are the largest accounting firms in the world.