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Survey: More than half of accountants make several errors each month

Written on Mar 1, 2024

Nearly three out of five accountants (59%) make several errors every month as already excessive workloads grow heavier still, Gartner found in a survey of employees involved in controllership worldwide. 

Seventy three percent of accountants said that regulations enacted during the past three years have increased their workloads, while 82% blamed economic volatility for mounting demands on their time, Gartner said, describing results of a survey of 497 accountants. 

“While capacity issues are not new to accounting, demands on accounting staff capacity continue to rise,” Mallory Barg Bulman, senior director for research at Gartner Finance, said in a statement. “If these financial and regulatory pressures continue to increase, as history suggests it will, the already limited capacity accountants will be stretched further and increase error rates.” 

Accountants “constrained for capacity” err in several ways, including through misinterpretation of data, while doing manual work, reopening books or in weak reviews of records, said Bulman. 

For example, “in the time-constrained close period, a late business partner submission may require accountants to rush through data quality review,” Bulman wrote. 

“The team may also need to spend a lot of time correcting data errors, but doing so would then leave little time for inter-company eliminations, which could then result in the improper accounting of a complex transaction,” Bulman said. 

Several new or altered regulations in recent years have ramped up pressure on accountants, she said, citing alterations to lease accounting standards (IFRS 16), the UK’s Transfer Pricing Records Regulations of 2023 and Making Tax Digital for VAT changes made in 2021 and 2023. 

Meanwhile, accountants in recent years have also strained to adapt to the record-keeping demands stemming from sluggish economic growth, according to Bulman. 

“Assets that drive performance in this environment aren’t the assets that have historically driven performance,” she wrote. “For instance, intangibles are important but difficult to account for — data is not valued as an asset, but it drives performance.” 

Companies can reduce financial errors by as much as 75% by making the adoption of technology easy to use, learn and customize, Gartner said. Also, an accountant should be able to view all needed information in one view. 

Gartner surveyed accountants in a variety of industries in the U.S., UK, Singapore, India, Australia and New Zealand. The respondents report directly or indirectly to the corporate controller, chief accounting officer or head of accounting. 

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