What is a Comptroller?

David White

A comptroller, also known as a controller, is a very important person in any business. The comptroller supervises income and expenditures, keeping track of all ingoing and outgoing money.

Man holding a globe
Man holding a globe

The comptroller is the chief accountant in a business or other entity. Governments, for example, also employ a comptroller. Naturally, this kind of comptroller is responsible for tracking many more accounts payable and accounts receivable than the comptroller who tracks such activity for a run-of-the-mill company. Nevertheless, such companies need a comptroller just as much as governments do.

As a business grows, its monetary activity increases. More sales bring in more money and more receipts, and potentially, more headaches. A company needs a dedicated and determined comptroller to keep track of such monetary inflows. The same need exists for payouts. Companies necessarily have expenditures as well. Ideally, the inflows will exceed the outflows, resulting in profits for the company.

It is vital for a company's comptroller to be dedicated to tracking the money in and the money out. In most cases, this person should have no other responsibilities. If the company is small and its accounting needs are not very large, then perhaps the comptroller's responsibilities can be part of a larger job description. However, the more the money that flows in and out, the more vital the need of a dedicated comptroller.

One prime responsibility of a comptroller is performing an audit. Audits are performed for various reasons, not just to determine why companies didn't pay enough taxes – although that is the reason that gets the most press. Companies commission audits in order to determine which products sell the best and why certain strategies work or don't work. The comptroller, who is already in charge of monetary outflows and inflows, leads the audit and makes the final report to the company.

In some cases, audits are performed by outside entities, and the comptroller might be in charge of a business's accounting only for that instance. This is the kind of audit that the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is famous for. Most audits, however, are of the garden variety, reports commissioned by companies as part of an overall business strategy.

Businesses that provide financial services, especially those that buy and sell financial commodities like stocks, bonds, and government notes, have a special need for the services of a comptroller. These businesses basically make their living by buying and selling different forms of money, and the tracking of those monies and their performance over time is vital to the success of such businesses. These businesses absolutely depend on their comptroller to assure them that their business practices are on the right track. After all, such a business is subject to the whims of its customers, which sometimes change with the wind.

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Discussion Comments


@BambooForest: Working in an office all day long, does take its toll, but I find that there are many challenges and mistakes that I am able to catch and address before they become financial discrepancies.

I am also able to teach those who are making these mistakes so that they grow within the organization. A really big benefit to this position is getting to work with other departments and teaching them how the affect a finance department while learning from them.



Yes, it does make sense, but it is simply not the case. The spelling was altered due to this false association.



But the french word "compte" means "to count," so it would seem that this word is appropriate, since it is used to describe a person in charge of controlling the counting of moneys.


The spelling of comptroller is a misspelling of controller. When French forms began to dominate English spelling, certain words such as this, which were not originally meant to be spelled with added consonants, had consonants added to them. The association with French was mistaken. I find the overly officious look of this word to be distasteful and pretentious.


While some people have told me that my almost obsessive compulsive attitude towards things like detail and organization would make me great for a job as a comptroller in a company or some other, similar position, I could not imagine working an office job all day.

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