CHANGE OXFORD ENGLISH DICTIONARY’S ARCHAIC DEFINITION OF THE WORD 'ACCOUNTANT'
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A person whose job is to keep or inspect financial accounts.
The Oxford English Dictionary is being urged to change its out of date definition of the word ‘accountant’ by Xero. The cloud accounting software developer Gary Turner, the MD & co-founder of Xero, has penned an open letter to the dictionary’s in-house experts to call for the term to better represent what it means to be an accountant in 2019.
The Oxford English Dictionary has long been a source for accurate and respected definitions of the English language worldwide. However, Xero is lobbying for the definition of ‘accountant’ which currently reads - a person whose job is to keep or inspect financial accounts - to be changed and updated to - a person whose job is to keep or inspect and advise on financial accounts - to shake off the ‘archaic’ perception of the industry and to reflect how much the role of an accountant has changed in the last two decades.
This change is to keep in line with the growing role of modern accountants, who now act as important business advisors, most notably with HMRC’s upcoming Making Tax Digital legislation which comes into play on 1 April 2019.
Accountants and bookkeepers are now seen as a vital part of any business, with research showing that 30 per cent of small business owners viewing accountants as their most trusted advisors, and one in four (27 per cent) admitting to asking their accountant for broader business advice.
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Gary Turner's open letter to the Oxford English Dictionary reads:
As one of the most reliable and respected sources for true definitions in the world, we at Xero are writing to request you Oxford English Dictionary change the definition of the word ‘accountant’ in your dictionary to what we believe it truly reflects
This is why we think the definition of the word ‘accountant’ needs to be updated:
The role of an accountant is far removed from what it once was. The adoption of new technologies such as cloud software and new regulations such as Open Banking are rapidly transforming business finance.
At Xero we are seeing an increasing number of practices embracing cloud technology. By using AI to their advantage, accountants are able to offer useful insights by analysing operational and financial data stored in the cloud. This enables them to establish areas where they could drive growth across different product lines, and work out how scenario planning (such as changing suppliers) will impact the bottom line.
Today, an accountant doesn’t just crunch the numbers and observe financial operations, but so much more. They advise business owners and aid and fuel business objectives such as business growth, improving efficiency, cost and productivity.
Insight from well-respected industry bodies such as ICAEW and IFAC finds that time and time again, accountants are a business owner’s most trusted advisor. We also know that accountants and bookkeepers are vital to the UK’s stability. Nearly two in three (65%) accountants believe that their jobs are having a major impact on the economy.
Furthermore, when asked about the qualities they value in an accountant, more small business owners cited good business advice (41%) than number crunching skills (34%).
We understand that the OED shows how words and meanings change over time. We have witnessed this first hand from our viewpoint at the front lines of this industrial change and through working with thousands of progressive modern day accountants. As the leading provider of accounting software to small businesses, around the world we are helping hundreds of thousands of accountants realise this new ambition.
Our suggestion for the updated definition is as follows: “Accountant: a person whose job is to keep or inspect and advise on financial accounts”.
We await your response.
Gary Turner, Co-founder and Managing Director at Xero.
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