"If the tax auditor certifies that these are the heads, the officer has no discretion. The Income tax Officer has to accept the tax audit certificate unless it turns out to be a patently false certificate. We will accept the certificate of the auditor." Stated the Union Finance Minister, Mr. P Chidambaram on the floor of the Lok Sabha while replying to the debate on the "Finance Bill 2005". He further added that the guidelines being laid out by the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India under the accounting standards would be taken as the base.
"Without the help of Chartered Accountants, we will not be able to reach out to the large number of dealers and assesses, and neither will be able to make them aware of VAT. If this does not happen, then VAT cannot be successfully implemented. was what Mr. Rosaiah Konejeti, Finance Minister of Andhra Pradesh commented while addressing delegates in a seminar on - Emerging Professional Opportunities in the WTO regime organized by Institute of Chartered Accountants of India in the year 2005.
The above statements stand testimony to the credibility of this particular profession in India. Chartered Accountants play a catalyst role in the Indian financial and accounting services space. On numerous occasions, we have proved our mettle and emerged as strong partners in the nation building exercise. The Central and State governments have found Chartered Accountants as strong allies. No wonder, time and again, they have reiterated their dependence on this particular community and encouraged it to give strategic inputs in the arduous task of policy making.
Till 1991-92, a Chartered Accountant was viewed by society as a very conservative person who had confined himself to play quite a restricted role in society. As an auditor, he knew how to put his head down and use colored pencils for ticking vouchers. As a tax practitioner, it was primarily the task of filing annual returns and 3CD reports that was considered as his forte. And as an employee, his duty would be to have the trial balance tallied by scratching his head for long hours. But then came the three magic letters of LPG (Liberalisation, Privatisation and Globalisation). And the rest they say is history.
The hitherto segment service provider now donned a new mantle and responded tactically to the challenges thrown in by the new economy. The rapid mutation of the species resulted in Chartered Accountants playing pivotal roles in the following responsibilities:
Sector specialists (in the areas of telecom, banking, insurance, real estate to name as few)
Internal control specialists.
Tax professionals in the Direct and Indirect taxes zone with exotic specialisms like Expatriate Tax, VAT, GST and International Taxation
Informational Technology specialists with computers becoming the lifeline of organization's day to day functioning
Energy Audit specialist
New areas like convergence of Indian Accounting Standards with IFRS and investment in Sarbanes Oxley Act (SOX) compliance now offer exciting possibilities for Chartered Accountants.
Apparently, the sky has become the limit for this 150,000 odd community. While UK and US have one CA/CPA for every 500/800 people, currently in India we have one CA for every 8,000 persons. Opportunities are high and so is employability. And going by the current trends, things are only going to get better with each passing day. Each and every factor at play, whether economic or demographic, augurs well for the Chartered Accountant community.
"Standing at the road side, gazing at the sky How will you reach there my boy, until you will try."
The above was a cliched statement often made by our Accountancy teacher in school. But this was what actually motivated us on to plan a career for ourselves, one that would help us carve a niche for ourselves in society. As we landed out of high school and entered college life, there was rampant confusion all around. Amidst the plethora of options CA, CS, CFA, ICWA and MBA, nothing seemed more worthwhile than slogging it out to become a Chartered Accountant, five years later, although honestly speaking, it had seemed too long a course duration at that particular junction. However wise people around made us realize that by the time we would be graduates, we would have already have sailed through two tiers of this course if we cleared in the first attempt. Just another couple of years of academic input and we would become full-fledged professionals ready to take up job responsibilities.
One would make no bones about the fact that the course is rigorous and heavily demanding in terms of the input it requires from a student on a continuous basis for five years. The unique blend of theoretical and practical training forces you to often stretch yourself beyond the limits of your imagination. You voluntarily put in hours burning the midnight oil and that too after spending an exhausting day at office serving your articles in an audit firm. The best part is that the course teaches you to endure it all with a smile. But then the course is meant to prepare you to for life. It offers you a voluminous syllabus, which putting in a state of mental dilemma. The Herculean task at hand makes you feel like a proverbial David pitted against the mighty Goliath, the little boy who is intimidated by the giant, challenging the prospects of his success with a smirk on his face. Just before each of the three-tier examinations, in moments of despair, you seem to question the prudence/sanity of your decision of opting for such a demanding lifestyle and literally contemplate surrender. But then it is this pressure, which separates the men from the boys. The same hammer shatters glass but forges steel. This character building is what one finds to be the most exciting part of the Chartered Accountancy course. It imparts values and as that is something you will find rarely in a course. The quote goes "Success shall come and go but Values shall remain forever". The moment you qualify in the Final examinations, you are suddenly catapulted to the pinnacle of success, become the cynosure of all eyes and bask in the glory of your achievements. Needless to say, with the alphabets CA. now acting as a prefix to your name, all that remains is pure exhilaration.
What prevails against all odds is the Persistence Quotient, on which I am sure CA students would be ranked very highly. While the Goliath had seemed "too big to hit" to the ordinary mortals who either lacked the courage to even join the course or concocted lame excuses like the demand factor and stuff to quit midway, the patient student who could rise to the occasion and display a judicious mix of sincerity and smartness, surprisingly found the monster - too big to miss. Each time you face a daunting task ahead in life and the noxious worm of self-doubt inadvertently creeps in; a simple reminder of the grilling preparation put in during these five years to become a Chartered Accountant would be enough to take us ahead. Isn't this reservoir of positive energy a priceless treasure on a personal front? And it would stay with you for life.
Since nothing is handed over to a student on a platter, there are no escape routes whatsoever for the ones looking for shortcuts. In our Indian society structure, distorted by gross inequalities, the sharp rich-poor divide hits you below the belt so often. In the midst of all this, the CA course stands as the symbol of social justice and equality. There is just one criteria of demarcation and it is your examination performance. A student who is not up to the mark as regards his academic credentials will not be awarded the degree, irrespective of his social, economic or political affiliations. He cannot use (or rather misuse) money or power to hide his shortcomings. This transparency stands in stark contrast to that of the MBA/Engineering/Medical Sciences space. There are institutes - a dime a dozen', both domestic as well as international, which offer on sale, these high-sounding degrees. Just throw up a few millions of currency notes and you may well land up in the prestigious Whartons and the Stanfords. But fortunately, there is no backdoor entry to our institute. You will get only you deserve and you don't have the luxury of buying success. The powerful degree comes with no price tag. It is earned with your sweat and blood. Unlike so many other professions, no one would ever have to give up his dreams of becoming a CA because of economic constraints. The Institute charges only nominal fees to bear the administrative costs. Compare this with the course fees charged by MBA institutes that amounts to no less than a few lakh of rupees. In addition, a CA student does not need the crutches of electives to sail through examinations. You are forced to get out of your comfort zone and force yourself to meet the needs of each and every subject. E.g. ISCA in CA Finals
The arduous task of appearing for eight papers at a stretch in CA Finals can be undertaken successfully only by a student who is high on the physical and mental fitness front. This in turn prepares you also for a rigorous work regime ahead. The clause "ATTEMPT ALL QUESTIONS" in papers like Accountancy and Direct Taxation intimidates you in the examination hall but in fact prepares you psychologically for life. While the MBA degree often is perceived to be a strong competitor to our course, one needs to understand that the CA course gives you a broad based academic foundation, which an MBA course often may not. The Internet is replete with articles posted by Chartered Accountants who have subsequently gone for a PGDM course, which talk on similar lines. It is an established fact that the 18 subjects spread across the three- tier CA course have been structured so as to give a student quite a fascinating insight into a diverse range of topics, ranging from financial reporting to tax panning, from risk management to information systems audit. Never would you get the feeling that you were studying something superficially, just for the heck of it. Moreover you have an edge in terms of your understanding of the regulatory framework. Legislation is a subject, which is vast and expansive and subject to frequent changes. Having the skills to comprehend the ramification of each clause and section on the fortunes of your business operations certainly gives you a competitive edge in the real life. For e.g. a Chartered Accountant not only would be able to apply Capital Budgeting techniques while evaluating an international project but will also be able to think from the FEMA and RBI approval angle.
This course undoubted empowers us with an integrated view of the manifold facets of running a business and serves as the ideal launch pad in the financial domain You get a firm footing in terms of financial reporting, a field, which has come into prominence with the rising number of Indian companies raising capital abroad via ECBs and GDRs and increasing FII inflows into India. The financial statements of Indian companies are required to live up to the expectations of the global investor community at large. Framing and executing the stipulations of the accounting standards is an onerous responsibility cast on the members of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India to think global and act local. Similarly in the wake of the recent accounting scandals like the Enrons and Worldcoms, audit no longer remains as a gift but has turned into a responsibility that needs to be shouldered even more carefully. While the CEO/CFO of a company would swear by the rosy numbers, in the financial statements, only when they bear the stamp of approval of a Chartered Accountant that the doubts in the minds of stakeholders would be laid to rest. Ethics and trust is the lifeline of this profession. On so many occasions has Chartered Accountants refused to be deterred even by the fear of death in the discharge of their attest function. The joy of providing stakeholders credible financial information is simply like living the quote "With great freedom and power come great responsibilities. No other course gives you this quantum of hands on exposure to the dynamics of the practical world while you are still studying. You get an insight into the real life application of concepts learnt in textbooks. You learn to work in a team and liaison with clients on your firm's behalf. No wonder you often get a chance to interact with senior management of client in the league of CFO/CEO/Senior Manager Accounts. I believe that such an interaction eventually proves to be invaluable for someone in the learning stage of his life .You gets empowered with the drive to execute assignments with confidence. The experience will help you to assume responsibility as a mature and capable professional when you enter the job field. The Institute has taken initiatives of the likes of the Compulsory Computer Training and the GMCS course to further equip its students skill sets found lacking in students as per popular perception.
While you are simply a part of the alumni association of any school/college/institute, once you clear the CA course, you are considered as a member of the Institute itself. Bread winning can never be a problem for anyone. If you take a certificate of practice and set up a practice of your own, assignments plethora would be offered to you merely by dint of your degree. E.g. Bank Audits allotted pro-rata to all members in practice. The Institute ensures your Continuous Professional Upgradation (CPE) so that you continuously sharpen your axe. Recently this concept was extended even to members in service also. Pursuing CA is like forging a relation of a lifetime with a professional body responsive to your needs and not just clearing an exam and getting a pass certificate Life is like a cup of tea. You sit by the window, lift the cup and take a careless sip, only to realize that somebody forgot to add sugar. Too lazy to go it, you somehow struggle through the sugarless tea till you discover lying at the bottom. That's life in general and the profession of Chartered Accountancy in particular. Ultimately it is the individual who has to seize the initiative, overcome his lethargy and make things happen .IF he is able to do that, no one can stop him from achieving great heights in his career. In fact the sky would be the limit for him, irrespective of his academic credentials. However equipped with a powerful CA degree in his arsenal, his chances of doing the same are certainly brighter.
CA. Anurag Singal secured All India Ranks 22 and 25 in CA Final and Inter respectively. He has authored the book 'Auditing Mantras for CA IPCC'. http://www.auditingmantras.com/ . He has also established a job portal exclusively for CAs. http://www.cajobportal.com/ . He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com