Controller vs Comptroller

Controller vs Comptroller

What is the difference is between a controller and a comptroller? At the end of the day, the controller vs comptroller relationship is not all too diverse. A controller is a person that is at the highest accounting level in an organization. In other words, he/she is the head of the financial division of a company. Controllers are responsible for the financial accounting reporting, analysis and interpretation to the executive management team. They also administer the internal controls within an organization. A comptroller must possess the same duties of a financial controller. There is not a significant difference in the roles of a controller versus comptroller. A comptroller definition is a senior accountant in a government organization, however, the duties of a comptroller and controller do not differ. However, there seems to be a slight difference between the two entities when examined at a closer level.

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Origins Of Comptroller Vs Controller

Because both definitions seem strikingly similar, why have two terms in the first place? Years ago in the 1800’s, the term “comptroller” arose from a careless misspelling of the term “controller.” At the same time, if one was to examine the etymology of the term “comptroller,” the word itself has French roots that date back to the 15th century. The original English word, countreroller, is a word that means “one who specializes in checking financial ledgers.” From then on, the spelling, along with the duties of a regular controller, stuck and the term “comptroller” became a similar term referring to a financial officer in the government sector.

Controller in the United States

While in the United States, where capitalism seems to have caused a consolidation of the terms controller versus comptroller, it seems that the term “comptroller” seems to have developed a slight difference in the European sector. The difference in question seems to be one involving the expenses involved with products in a company. A comptroller seems to oversee the overall costs that go into the services a company is providing.

On the other hand, the controller is merely concerned with the bottom line; more specifically, the costs that are associated with the final product within a company. Because the controller is more concerned with the bottom line at the end of the day, his job seems to carry a little more weight financially. Therefore, you would most likely pay a person with the title controller more than a comptroller. Though, the amount paid most certainly depends upon the company hiring. If nothing else, the New York Times, when referring to the controller-comptroller relationship states: “the official title controller, in all laws, public records, and documents, be spelled controller, that being historically and etymologically the true and right spelling; and that the false and offensive form ‘comptroller,’ born of ignorance and continued in darkness, be discarded.”

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controller vs comptroller

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controller vs comptroller

See Also:

Controller
Controller vs CFO

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4 Responses to Controller vs Comptroller

  1. S.Foi October 3, 2014 at 5:44 pm #

    I always thought growing up that the Comptroller trumped the Controller, by being a financial officer of the corporation, whereas the controller was a hired hand merely head of the accounting department, not necessarily an officer of the company.
    That’s my spin on it.

  2. ger August 5, 2015 at 5:06 pm #

    Comptroller was always referred to the head in the financial sector of financial institutions and governental sector. While the Controller was in the head in the accounting department in Corporate sector under the Treasurer.

  3. shub September 6, 2015 at 10:47 am #

    The New York Times is wrong and so are you. “Compte” is a French word meaning account. The “p” is silent. THAT”s where the spelling came from originally. It is wrong to spell it “controller”.

  4. Sned October 14, 2017 at 5:41 am #

    I believe shub is correct. According to my research, only as an accountant, not a linguist. The original word Comptroller, is actually pronounced Controller. Des Moines, Des Plaines.

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