Certified public accountants: Ethical perception skills and attitudes on ethics education

Abstract

This study investigated the proficiency of CPAs in recognizing and evaluating ethical and unethical situations. In addition, CPAs provided attitudes on ethics education. Respondents were asked to evaluate the ethical acceptability of CPA behavior as presented in six vignettes involving a variety of ethical dilemmas from questions of conflict of interest to questions of personal honor. The results tend to signify that CPAs can, to a degree, distinguish ethical and unethical behaviors. It appears that ethical behaviors and very specific unethical behaviors were more easily identified by practitioners. This may reveal uncertainty and apprehension as to exactly what constitutes unethical behavior since, in many circumstances, this resolution is made on a case-specific basis rather that via a universal rule. In addition, it is interesting to note that CPAs tend to picture themselves as more ethically-oriented than their peers.

With respect to ethics education, the CPAs indicated that instruction in ethical concepts and literacy was important and should definitely be embodied in the accounting curriculum as well as at all educational levels. However, the CPAs were remarkably uncertain and ambivalent as to the qualifications of university faculty to provide this instruction and guidance.

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Suzanne Pinac Ward, CPA, is an Associate Professor of Accounting at the University of Southwestern Louisiana in Lafayette, LA 70504. She received her Ph.D. in Accounting. Dr. Ward is a member of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, the Louisiana Society of Certified Public Accountants, and the American Accounting Association.

Dan R. Ward is a Professor of Accounting at the University of Southwestern Louisiana in Lafayette, LA 70504. He received his DBA in Accounting. Dr. Ward is a member of the International, Taxation, and Accounting Behavior and Organizations Sections of the American Accounting Association, the Society of Petroleum Accountants, and the Academy of Accounting Historians.

Alan B. Deck, CMA, is an Assistant Professor of Accounting at the University of Southwestern Louisiana in Lafayette, LA 70504. He received his Ph.D. in Accounting. Dr. Deck is a member of the Institute of Management Accountants and the American Accounting Association.

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Ward, S.P., Ward, D.R. & Deck, A.B. Certified public accountants: Ethical perception skills and attitudes on ethics education. J Bus Ethics 12, 601–610 (1993). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF01845897

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Keywords

  • Economic Growth
  • Educational Level
  • Ethical Behavior
  • Unethical Behavior
  • Ethical Dilemma