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The responsibilities placed on accounting professionals by the three ethics codes and the related professional standards have many similarities. All three require professional competence, confidentiality, integrity, and objectivity. Accounting professionals should only undertake tasks that they can complete with professional competence, and they must carry out their responsibilities with sufficient care and diligence, usually referred to as due professional care or due care. The codes of ethics of the AICPA, IMA, and IIA all require that confidential information known to accounting professionals not be disclosed to outsiders.
The state government issues a CPA's license to practice, usually through an organization known as the state board of accountancy. Since state laws governing the practice of accountancy typically include important parts of the AICPA Code, the Code thus gains legal enforceability. Consequently, ethical violations can result in the state's revoking a CPA's license to practice on a temporary or even permanent basis. Because a licensed CPA is also likely to belong to the AICPA and the state society of CPAs, investigations of ethics violations may be carried out jointly by the AICPA, the state society, and the state board of accountancy.
Specific responsibilities of the accounting profession are expressed in the various codes of ethics promulgated by major organizations such as the AICPA. The AICPA's first principle of professional conduct states: "In carrying out their responsibilities as professionals, members should exercise sensitive professional and moral judgments in all their activities."
A profession is formed on the basis of (1) a generally accepted body of knowledge, (2) a widely recognized standard of attainment, and (3) an enforceable code of ethics. A code of ethics is a crucial element in forming a professional. The three major accounting professional organizations have an ethics code.