Public finance accountant

Public finance accountant illustration


Public finance accountants head the treasury department of a governmental institution. They manage the institution’s financial administration, expenditure and income generation, and compliance with taxation and other financial legislation. They perform administrative duties to ensure record keeping, develop plans for budget management and perform financial forecasts.

Public finance accountants typically do the following:

  • develop and manage financial management systems and policies
  • ensure the effective financial management of public money by supporting the planning and implementation of policy objectives
  • make financial decisions and advise key bodies and individuals, such as management boards and budget holders, using financial management information
  • prepare and monitor budgets and accounts
  • control expenditure and cash flow
  • undertake financial administration
  • prepare reports on annual accounts and budget information for the auditor
  • control the overall capital and revenue budgets for departments
  • assess and advise on estimates for project funding and continue running costs
  • prepare recommendations on large-scale projects
  • check that funding is properly distributed
  • conduct internal audits, e.g. working on wage reviews
  • check creditors’ invoices
  • charge customers for services
  • liaise with managerial staff, colleagues and clients
  • examine financial records and statements to check for accuracy
  • balance the costs of specific public services against income
  • keep up to date with developments in public sector financial and management accounting practices
  • manage and train staff, when employed at a senior level.

Working conditions

Most public finance accountants work in offices, but some work from home. Although accountants usually work in teams, some work alone. Accountants may travel to their clients’ places of business.

Most public finance accountants work full time. Longer periods of work are typical at certain times of the year, such as for quarterly audits or during tax season.

Other titles

The following job titles also refer to public finance accountant:

public finance manager
treasury accountant
treasury manager
finance accountant
finance accountant of government administration
treasury officer
public finance officer

Minimum qualifications

A bachelor’s degree in accounting and finance, business and management, mathematics, politics and economics, or public administration is generally a strong asset to work as a public finance accountant.

A professional certificate delivered by accountants institution is another way to get the job. In some locations, the certificate is a requirement in addition to the degree to practice in certain areas of accounting; while in others, it can partially replace the degree.

ISCO skill level

ISCO skill level is defined as a function of the complexity and range of tasks and duties to be performed in an occupation. It is measured on a scale from 1 to 4, with 1 the lowest level and 4 the highest, by considering:

  • the nature of the work performed in an occupation in relation to the characteristic tasks and duties
  • the level of formal education required for competent performance of the tasks and duties involved and
  • the amount of informal on-the-job training and/or previous experience in a related occupation required for competent performance of these tasks and duties.

Public finance accountant is a Skill level 4 occupation.

Public finance accountant career path

Similar occupations

These occupations, although different, require a lot of knowledge and skills similar to public finance accountant.

city councillor
civil service administrative officer
secretary general
tax policy analyst
court administrator

Long term prospects

These occupations require some skills and knowledge of public finance accountant. They also require other skills and knowledge, but at a higher ISCO skill level, meaning these occupations are accessible from a position of public finance accountant with a significant experience and/or extensive training.

accounting manager
bank treasurer
budget manager
corporate treasurer

Essential knowledge and skills

Essential knowledge

This knowledge should be acquired through learning to fulfill the role of public finance accountant.

  • Public finance: The economic influence of the government, and the workings of government revenue and expenditures.
  • Financial forecasting: The tool used in performing fiscal financial management to identify revenue trends and estimated financial conditions.
  • Budgetary principles: Principles of estimating and planning of forecasts for business activity, compile regular budget and reports.
  • Accounting techniques: The techniques of recording and summarising business and financial transactions and analysing, verifying, and reporting the results.
  • Tax legislation: Tax legislation applicable to a specific area of specialisation, such as import tax, government tax, etc.

Essential skills and competences

These skills are necessary for the role of public finance accountant.

  • Inspect government expenditures: Inspect the financial procedures of a government organisation which deals with budget and resource allocation and spending to ensure that no faults are being made and no suspicious activity occurs in the handling of financial accounts, and that the expenditures are compliant with financial needs and forecasts.
  • Monitor financial accounts: Handle financial administration of your department, keep the costs down to only necessary expenses and maximise the revenues of your organisation.
  • Control financial resources: Monitor and control budgets and financial resources providing capable stewardship in company management.
  • Inspect government incomes: Inspect the resources available to a national or local government organisation, such as tax incomes, to ensure that the incomes are compliant with the income expectations, that no faults are being made and no suspicious activity is present in the handling of government finances.
  • Conduct financial audits: Evaluate and monitor the financial health, the operations and financial movements expressed in the financial statements of the company. Revise the financial records to ensure stewardship and governability.
  • Develop account strategy: Create the strategic goals and actions for future interaction with an account for the organisation.
  • Create a financial report: Finalise project accounting. Prepare an actual budget, compare the discrepancy between the planned and actual budget, and draw final conclusions.

Optional knowledge and skills

Optional knowledge

This knowledge is sometimes, but not always, required for the role of public finance accountant. However, mastering this knowledge allows you to have more opportunities for career development.

  • Bookkeeping regulations: The methods and regulations involved in the process of accurate bookkeeping.
  • Debt classification: The different classifications of debt such as public and publicly guaranteed debt, private non-guaranteed credits, central bank deposits, etc.
  • Debt systems: The processes needed to obtain goods or services before payment and when a sum of money is owed or overdue.
  • Civil law: The legal rules and their applications used in disputes between different parties.
  • Public law: The part of law which governs relationships between individuals and the government, and the relationships between individuals which concern society directly.

Optional skills and competences

These skills and competences are sometimes, but not always, required for the role of public finance accountant. However, mastering these skills and competences allows you to have more opportunities for career development.

  • Manage budgets: Plan, monitor and report on the budget.
  • Calculate tax: Calculate the taxes which have to be paid by an individual or organisation, or paid back by a governmental institution, compliant with specific legislation.
  • Manage staff: Manage employees and subordinates, working in a team or individually, to maximise their performance and contribution. Schedule their work and activities, give instructions, motivate and direct the workers to meet the company objectives. Monitor and measure how an employee undertakes their responsibilities and how well these activities are executed. Identify areas for improvement and make suggestions to achieve this. Lead a group of people to help them achieve goals and maintain an effective working relationship among staff.
  • Comply with legal regulations: Ensure you are properly informed of the legal regulations that govern a specific activity and adhere to its rules, policies and laws.
  • Manage administrative systems: Ensure administrative systems, processes and databases are efficient and well managed and give the sound basis to work together with the administrative officer/staff/professional.
  • Manage financial risk: Predict and manage financial risks, and identify procedures to avoid or minimise their impact.
  • Advise on public finance: Advise public organisations such as governmental organisations on their financial operations and procedures, to ensure optimal efficiency.
  • Delegate activities: Delegate activities and tasks to others according to the ability, level of preparation, competence and legal scope of practice. Make sure that people understand what they should do and when they should do it.
  • Ensure cross-department cooperation: Guarantee communication and cooperation with all the entities and teams in a given organisation, according to the company strategy.
  • Manage accounts: Manage the accounts and financial activities of an organisation, supervising that all the documents are correctly maintained, that all the information and calculations are correct, and that proper decisions are being made.
  • Handle financial transactions: Administer currencies, financial exchange activities, deposits as well as company and voucher payments. Prepare and manage guest accounts and take payments by cash, credit card and debit card.

ISCO group and title

2411 – Accountants

  1. Public finance accountant – ESCO
  2. Accountants and Auditors : Occupational Outlook Handbook – U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
  3. Public finance accountant | Explore careers | National Careers Service
  4. Featured image: Photo by RODNAE Productions
Last updated on August 28, 2023