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ACCOUNTANTS may be described as persons engaged in the prepara tion, investigation, and auditing of accounts. They may be divided into three classes: official, public, and private. this general title may be mentioned the Accountants of the Crown. These are public officers who receive or collect public moneys, and are bound to account therefor into the Exchequer in manner prescribed by statute, or Treasury regulations. The Exchequer and Audit Departments Act, 1866, defines as "principal accountants " those who receive issues, directly, at the Banks of England and Ireland ; and as "sub-accountants " those who receive advances from the principal accountants, or who receive fees, or other public moneys, through other channels. The most important of the principal accountants are the Paymaster-General, and the officials of the various departments to whose accounts the necessary sums for public services are credited. The sub accountants are the collectors of the various branches of revenue, and receivers of public moneys, who may be required by the Treasury to render accounts to the comptroller and auditor-general.

person may call himself a public accountant ; and as such, assume to be a specialist in accountancy and to assist and advise the public. Accountants, as a profession, have at present no legal status as such. But the profession is making an endeavour to obtain legislation that will define the position of an accountant, and at the same time regulate accountancy on the lines of the learned professions. As a result of that endeavour it is possible to divide public accountants into three classes : Chartered Account ants, Incorporate Accountants, and public accountants simply. As to the last named, many of them are doubtless men of the highest efficiency ; but in view of the fact that any person without restriction can, as we have seen, set up in practice without submitting himself to any professional test, the pos sibilities are that the majority of this class is recruited from the ranks of failures in other vocations in life. It is to the Chartered and Incorporate Accountants that the patronage of the public would most safely extend. A

number of small associations of accountants have lately come into existence purporting to create and maintain professional efficiency in their members. Membership of such an association should not, however, be taken as any guarantee of efficiency.

The Chartered are so called because they are members'of, and certificated by the Institute of Chartered Accountants. The members of the Institute are Fellows and Associates, and are entitled to the use of the initials F.C.A.

or A.C.A. They may not follow any business or occupation other than that of a public accountant, or some business which, in the opinion of the council, is incident thereto or consistent therewith. With certain exceptions, those who desire to be members of the Institute must generally be articled for a period varying from 3 to 5 years to a member in practice, and must also pass certain examinations. Incorporate Accountants are members of the Society of Accountants and Auditors ; and use the initials F.S.A.A. or A.S.A.A. The rules And regulations of the Society are somewhat similar to those of the Institute, though more liberal—hostile critics might say more lax. There is, however, very little practical difference between the pro fessional aims of, and the standard attained by the two societies. In addition to investigating and auditing accounts, accountants act as bankruptcy trustees, liquidators and receivers. But they have no monopoly in this, for by the Bankruptcy Act, 1883, any " fit person whether a creditor or not" may be trustee. And under the Companies Act, 1890, any person appointed by the Court ; or in cases of voluntary liquidation under the Companies Act, 1867, any person selected by the company, may be liquidator. Accountants must do their work with such skill and care as would reasonably be expected of persons who hold themselves out as able to do the class of work they undertake. If they fail in this duty, they are liable in damages.

Private.—IL is usually, and not by any means improper, for any person who is employed in a fixed employment as a clerk, book-keeper, or cashier, to call himself an accountant. See AUDITOR.