We extend the literature on accountability in an experimental setting to examine the influence of formal accountability, individual-level perceived accountability and their interactions on accountants’ aggressive judgements in China. Individual-level perceived accountability is based on the phenomenological perspective, which recognises that its intrinsic nature is derived from multiple sources known as the ‘web of accountabilities’ in socialisation processes. Researchers suggest that perceived accountability is fidelity to ‘personal conscience’ in individuals’ moral values and their internal sense of moral obligations. Our findings show that when formal accountability was imposed, accountants were not aggressive in making their reporting judgements, irrespective of their scores on perceived accountability measures. In contrast, when formal accountability was not imposed, accountants who scored higher (lower) on perceived accountability measures were less (more) aggressive in making reporting judgements. Our results further show that imposition of formal accountability is not equally important in influencing the judgements of accountants who scored higher on perceived accountability measures and those who scored lower on those measures. Our findings have implications for determining which accountability frameworks could be developed to assist global standard setters, national regulators and organisations, including accounting firms, constrain aggressive financial reporting so as to improve financial reporting quality.
- aggressive reporting judgements
- formal accountability
- perceived accountability