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What Does a Government Accountant Do?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Shereen Skola
  • Last Modified Date: 16 November 2016
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Government accountants review financial documentation on behalf of the government and the taxpayers. Their work can range from the auditing of tax accounts to confirm their accuracy and completeness to investigating the financial accounts at government agencies for signs of financial misdeeds. Working as a government accountant usually requires a college degree and may involve special licensure, depending on the job title and the agency. It may also be necessary to pass a background check to become a government accountant.

Within government agencies, government accountants participate in the process of preparing budgets and financial declarations. This can be important for agencies as they plan activities over a given financial period, like a quarter or fiscal year. These same reports are also important for legislators who may be responsible for allocating funds. Some are open to members of the public with an interest in how the government spends its money, while others may be confidential because they could contain information pertaining to national security.

Individual agencies need government accountants to prepare accounting statements, handle payroll, and perform similar activities. This work requires a thorough knowledge of all relevant laws and agency policies so the accountant can file accurate and complete declarations. The government accountant may network with human resources and other personnel at the agency to discuss concerns and exchange information about new hires, changes in pay grade for existing employees, and other matters of importance.

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Legislators and government agencies can also request audits. In an audit, a government accountant evaluates all the financial information from an agency, including bank statements, accounting records, and forth. Government accountants look for any indicators that an agency is spending funds illegally, and check for signs of embezzling and other illegal activities. These audit accounts become part of the records associated with the agency, and can be grounds for legal penalties if members of the agency have committed crimes.

Taxpayers can be subject to review from government accountants. Tax agencies typically select random accounts for a closer look in an audit, and may initiative investigations in response to concerns or reports from members of the public. The accountants arrive on site to collect financial documentation, compare it to tax declarations, and look for signs of hidden accounts or other illegal activities. In the investigation, a government accountant may be able to seize assets and receive court ordered judgments against targets who have not paid taxes or filed declarations incorrectly.

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