This question has popped up more than once during my career as an accountant. I have a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration (majoring in accounting), which, according to academia, could lend itself to accounting being a science.
Thus far I have found that debits must always equal credits – a scientific formula. I understand that the balance sheet must always balance – a scientific conclusion. “Numbers” seem to overwhelm the accounting product and “numbers” are created within the science arena. Declining balance depreciation is computed very scientifically. The income tax computations are based on the scientific applications of adding, subtracting, multiplying and dividing. So can we conclude that “accounting” is a science?
Before we draw that conclusion, let’s consider some other applications. Should we use straight line or accelerated depreciation on an asset? What is the time period over which we should depreciate an asset or amortize an intangible? How should we compute our allowance for doubtful accounts? Should we record our contingent liabilities, and if so, for what amount? Is the “estimated” cost to complete a construction project set into a scientific and consistent formula? What percentage is that construction projected complete? What tax rate should we use for deferred income taxes? Are these questions answered with a mind guided by the science of accounting or the art of accounting?
One thing about which I am glad…I am glad this question was not on the CPA exam! What do you think?