History of Accounting

See Also:
History of Factoring
Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP)
International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS)
Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB)
Certified Public Accountant (CPA)

History of Accounting

The accounting history timeline presented below is a general overview of larger events which have all contributed to modern day accounting. It encompasses primitive accounting, with the use of an abacus, to the accounting software and regulation that we use today.

History of Accounting Timeline

2500 B.C. – Historical accounting records have been found in ancient civilizations like the Egyptian, Roman, and Greek Empires as well as ancient Arabia. Back then accounting records were kept by rulers for taxing and spending on public works.

1000 B.C. – The Phoenicians created an alphabet with accounting so that they were not cheated through trades with ancient Egyptians.

500 B.C. – Egyptians carried on with accounting records and even invented the first bead and wire abacus.

423 B.C. – The auditing profession was born to double check storehouses as to what came in and out the door. The reports that were taken by these accountants were given orally hence the name “auditor.”

1200 – 1493 – The first requirement for businesses to keep accounting records spread across many of the Italian Republics in the 13th century. These records were mainly taken to keep track of the day to day transactions and credit accounts with other businesses.

1494 – Luca Pacioli, the father of accounting, writes his famous paper “Everything about Arithmetic, Geometry, and Proportion.” The treatise that he writes is mainly a study that Pacioli performs on the common practices of merchants in Venice, Florence, and Milan. He revealed that several merchants kept books of debits which means “he owes” as well as credits which means “he trusts.” With this early double entry accounting system merchants were able to maintain records so that they could improve the efficiency of their businesses. With these records came the primitive income and balance sheet statements.

1500 – 1700As the time progressed large and small innovations were added to the double entry records. For example, the East India Company develops invested capital and dividend distribution during the 17th century. This also created the need for a change in financial accounting and managerial accounting. The first for presentation to gain investors and the next was used so that the business could be run as efficiently as possible.

1700 – 1900- During the Industrial Revolution accounting really took off as industrial companies sought out to gain financing and maintain efficiency through operations. Several of the double entry accounting methods was truly developed in this area as there was a focus on business as never before. Shortly after the first accounting organization was developed in New York in the year 1887. The title and professional license of the Certified Public Accountant followed shortly in the year 1896.

1920 – 1940- The 20s accounting really became important to reduce the amount of fraud and scandals that were performed in businesses around the country. U.S. GAAP was developed shortly after by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) and the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) in the year 1939.

1940 – Present- Since this time the AICPA and FASB have been working together with the Securities Exchange Commission (SEC) to develop accounting standards for business. Through the help of technology and computer systems all standards created for U.S. GAAP have been centrally located into what is known as the “codification.” The codification reveals all of the current practices and standards, and even reveals developing areas of standards of accounting that are currently being debated upon. Several accounting systems like Peachtree and Quickbooks have also made the accounting profession automated. These programs not only ease the reporting of transactions, but are also programmed to comply with GAAP. Because of this there is a lesser need for accountants to post transactions, and more of a need for the review of these transactions. This change is unrealized in some firms as they still employ a full accounting staff. As time moves forward it is necessary for accountants to move into a role of reviewing transactions rather than posting them.

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