History of Accounting

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

Below is the history of accounting timeline 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

The history of accounting timeline starts in 2500 B.C.

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, rulers kept accounting records 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. They 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 accountants took 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. They took these records mainly to keep track of the day to day transactions and credit accounts with other businesses.

Want to take your financial leadership to the next level? Download the 7 Habits of Highly Effective CFOs. It walks you through steps to accelerate your career in becoming a leader in your company.

Download The 7 Habits of Highly Effective CFO


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 – 1700

As the time progressed, double entry records had large and small innovations added. 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. They used the first presentation to gain investors, while they used the next presentation for business efficiencies.

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 ease the reporting of transactions, but also 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. In some firms, they don’t realize the change 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.
Download the 7 Habits of Highly Effective CFOs to find out how you can become a valuable financial leader.
history of accounting

Strategic CFO Lab Member Extra
Access your Flash Report Execution Plan in SCFO Lab. The step-by-step plan to manage your company before you prepare your financial statements.
Click here to access your Execution Plan. Not a Lab Member?
Click here to learn more about SCFO Labs

history of accounting
Related Blogs
WIKICFO® - Browse hundreds of articles
Skip to content