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What is the difference between an accountant and an auditor?

Posted by: Intouch | 20.05.13

Intouch Accounting

Accountant vs auditor

At first glance it may appear that the two functions are almost identical. In fact there are several significant differences between the roles. At its simplest level it can be said that:

Accountants – are concerned with the gathering, recording and analysis of the day-to-day financial transactions of a company within a particular accounting period.

Auditors – are concerned with the examination of accounting records – or ‘books’ – once the accountants work has been completed. An auditor’s remit is to confirm that the books are an accurate, ‘true and fair’ representation of the financial position of the business within a particular accounting period.

There are also a number of other key differences between these roles, which are detailed below.

Differences in relationship with the business

An accountant has a close direct relationship with the business. They need this proximity in order to gather information to prepare items such as cashflow reports, management and final accounts. Usually they work with the business on a regular basis throughout the year and will often also offer tax and investment advice.

An auditor must necessarily be independent of the business. Although they are usually appointed by the company they audit, they do not interact with the business on a regular basis. They are only appointed for the period of the auditing exercise, with the purpose of producing a final report which, hopefully, verifies the company’s accounts.

Differences in responsibility to the business

The main purpose of an accountant is to give the company’s directors or senior management reliable information about the status of their assets and liabilities. They do this by producing accounting reports like income statements and the balance sheet. They will also help ensure that all legal and tax elements are accurately prepared and submitted on time. Under usual conditions their main responsibility is to these same directors or senior management team.

The auditor also has responsibility to the directors or senior management, but they also have responsibility to the company’s shareholders. In this respect the auditor has two functions:

  • Responsibility to the company’s directors and management – the auditor will critically analyse the accounts to confirm that they comply with the regulations of the Companies Act 2006 and appropriate professional standards of accounting. They will also offer advice to the business if needed on areas such as investment planning or budgetary measures. They will work with the company’s accountants to get information and answers to queries, but will otherwise remain independent.
  • Responsibility to the company’s shareholders – The shareholders in the company will want to know if their investment is on track to pay them healthy dividends. An independent audit is one of the key ways that they can determine this. Published audited accounts let the owners, employees and investors know how well – or otherwise – the business is doing.

As you can see, although both roles are concerned with the financial aspects of the business, they have different key tasks, purposes and responsibilities.


This blog has been prepared by Intouch Accounting. While we have made every attempt to ensure that the information contained in this blog has been obtained from reliable sources, Intouch is not responsible for any errors or omissions, or for the results obtained from the use of this information. This blog should not be used as a substitute for consultation with professional accounting advisers. If you have any specific queries, please contact Intouch Accounting.