Rise of the bean counters: Accountants complain Oxford English Dictionary definition is 'old-fashioned'

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The definition of an accountant is old-fashioned compared to what the job now involves, industry body Acca says (Source: Getty)

Accountants should not be dismissed as dull bean-counters, a major industry body has said as it takes issue with the Oxford English Dictionary's definition of the role.


The Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (Acca) said it supports an effort by Gary Turner, the managing director of Xero, who claims that the word experts need to find a better definition of what being an accountant really means in 2019.

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The current definition lists an accountant as “a person whose job it is to keep or inspect financial accounts”. However this “archaic” definition misses out the new role to advise companies on their accounts, Turner claims.

“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,” he wrote in an open letter to the dictionary’s adjudicators.


Now more small business owners cite good business advice as a more valuable quality in an accountant than number crunching.

Acca head Claire Bennison said: “Technology is offering accountants greater opportunity to offer provide valuable business insight and advice to their clients.

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“Xero’s proposed revision to the dictionary definition of the term accountant to add a small but vital verb – ‘advise’ – is a positive development we fully support as it reflects the changing role of a professionally qualified accountant as a trusted advisor to business.”

Cheryl Price of CH Accountancy said: “In the next five years, accountants will continue to undergo a dramatic shift, moving from paper, spreadsheets and outdated desktop software to digital technology that is continuously built on and updated that evolves with new legislation.”

A spokesperson for Oxford University Press told City A.M: “Oxford Dictionaries welcomes input from the public about the content of our dictionaries and our editorial staff consider such feedback when revising our texts.”