Financial accounting refers to the processes used to generate interim and annual financial statements. The results of all financial transactions that occur during an accounting period are summarized into the balance sheet, income statement and cash flow statement. The financial statements of most companies are audited annually by an external CPA firm. For some, such as publicly traded companies, audits are a legal requirement.6 However, lenders also typically require the results of an external audit annually as part of their debt covenants. Therefore, most companies will have annual audits for one reason or another.
Managerial accounting uses much of the same data as financial accounting, but it organizes and utilizes information in different ways. Namely, in managerial accounting, an accountant generates monthly or quarterly reports that a business’s management team can use to make decisions about how the business operates. Managerial accounting also encompasses many other facets of accounting, including budgeting, forecasting and various financial analysis tools. Essentially, any information that may be useful to management falls underneath this umbrella.
Just as managerial accounting helps businesses make decisions about management, cost accounting helps businesses make decisions about costing. Essentially, cost accounting considers all of the costs related to producing a product. Analysts, managers, business owners and accountants use this information to determine what their products should cost. In cost accounting, money is cast as an economic factor in production, whereas in financial accounting, money is considered to be a measure of a company’s economic performance.