Deontology and Utilitarianism in the Accounting Career

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Abstract

Society is ran by values in which all people should live. These values are referred to as philosophy. The principles and rules that are used to decide what is right or wrong are classified as moral philosophy. Ethics is the study that is concerned with the nature of ultimate value, and the standards by which human actions can be judged right or wrong (Singer, 1985). In the accounting world, the ethical decision-making model is utilized. It is a model that provides a systematic way to process ethical issues, establish a course of action, and decide what to do. In order to understand the difference between Deontology and Utilitarianism we should compare them. This paper is written to explain the difference between the Deontology and Utilitarianism theory.

Introduction

Accountants have important roles. In accomplishing their job task, they are often asked to take specific roles. Accountants accomplishes daily tasks in situations governed by a complex set of rules, principles, and practices (Douglas, Davidson, & Schwartz, 2001). In accomplishing their roles, accountants face strict and/or legal rules of behavior, but also ethical elements created by detailed situations. There are numerous groups of ethical perspectives or models of ethical thinking that are applicable to accounting. Two of those groups are utilitarian and the deontological. Accountants will understand these ethical views by comparing and contrasting the moral principles of each ethical theory and defining which ethics system is most suitable for the accounting profession.

Utilitarianism

Utilitarianism is an ethical decision-making theory that base an action to be either wrong or right based on the effects that comes at the end. The right or best decision is the decision with the greatest outcome. The most ethical thing to do is maximize happiness. The utilitarianism theory takes into consideration the total benefit to human society. One issue when it comes to utilitarianism is the belief that “the greatest good for the greatest number of people” (Shakil, 2015). Meaning that the problem or question of fairness surfaces and whether it is ethical or unethical. If a customer makes a partial payment on an account and because the business does not accept partial payments, the manager decides to put the money in his personal account to hold onto it. He feels he is doing the right thing but, in all reality, it is an unethical decision. The outcome is not in the best interest for all. What is good based on preference. Utilitarianism states that one should act so that it produces the greatest ratio of good to everyone (Tsalikis & Fritzsche, 1989).

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Deontology

The term Deontology derived from the Greek word deon, which means “duty” (Mintz & Morris, 2019). The principal of Deontology states that under the religious laws, we are obligated not to lie, cheat, or steal. Deontology is very important in the accounting profession; accountants are expected to exercise objective judgment when deciding the best course of action. Deontologists believe that a lot of choices are not acceptable regardless of how ethically they are; however, the do believe that making a choice acceptable is its conformity with an ethical standard (Shakil, 2015).

Deontological ethics is the ethics of responsibility and obligations. The most noteworthy implications of deontology are that a act of a person can be wrong if it results is in the best conclusion, and an act can be considered moral even if it results in a negative conclusion. It is the Deontologists obligation to satisfy valid claims. These claims are determined by applying reason to an ethical principle. Deontology is referred to as non-consequentialism, ethical formalism, or ethics of respect-for-persons (Ferrell & Fraedrich, 1997). The deontology principle states that choices should be judged by the situations in which they are made, rather than by their consequences. The deontological theory also says that people should stick to their responsibilities and duties when examining an ethical predicament; meaning that a person will follow his responsibilities to another person or culture because keeping his duty is what is considered ethical. For example, a deontologist will, keep his promises as well as obey the law. Anyone who follows this theory will create decisions that are reliable, since they will be created on the person’s set obligations (Shakil, 2015).

Logical and Thorough Arguments

The AICPA Code of Professional Conduct is made up of two main parts: Principles and Rules. The Principles are the foundation for the rules. The Rules provide specified direction in the act of professional services. The Principles are made up of six Articles and a Preamble. Article I is made up of the duties of the AICPA member. Article II states that the accounting profession has an obligation to serve the people’s interest. People such as clients, creditors, employers, and others who rely on the integrity of certified public accountants. Due to the fact that everyone relies on accountants, the accountant also has an obligation to be dedicated. Article III demands that an accountant act with integrity. This would require the accountant to be completely honest and without dishonesty.

Article IV specifies two traits of objectivity and freedom. Objectivity requires a freedom from conflicts of interest and honesty. Sometimes independence requires freedom that may create a problem with objectivity. Article V sets out the standards for the services rendered as “due care”. Finally, Article VI states that each person will take into consideration all the ethical principles (AICPA, 2005). Making the comparison between Deontology and Utilitarianism is important to the accounting and business world, so making the choice on one particular ethic system based on moral decisions is very important. Accountants will be confronted with moral predicaments. The key is to keep your faith and stick to what you believe in. This will continue to help you make the right decisions and choices. Based on this interpretation, Deontology is the best ethic system.

Conclusion

The Code of Professional Conduct sets the standards accountants, regarding their moral and obligations. Accountants must obey this code. After defining the two ethical systems, it is clear as to which one would be considered the best for the accounting world. The viewpoint of the Utilitarianism ethic states that humans are supposed to take actions that will give you the best outcome. The Deontology ethic is about moral responsibilities and duties. The AICPA created rules and principles with the hopes that they would be followed. All accounting choices will end up the way that they should but putting in the effort to make good choices is what all accountants should be working towards. The Deontological ethics will be considered the best choice for a lot of reasons, but more importantly because it follows all the codes of the AICPA.

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