Management Accounting – Definition, Objectives, Scope and Limitations


Management accounting is not a specific system of accounting. It could be any form of accounting which enables a business to be conducted more effectively and efficiently. It is largely concerned with providing economic information to mangers for achieving organizational goals. It is an extension of the horizon of cost accounting towards newer areas of management. Much management accounting information is financial in nature but has been organized in a manner relating directly to the decision on hand.

Management Accounting is comprised of two words ‘Management’ and ‘Accounting’. It means the study of managerial aspect of accounting. The emphasis of management accounting is to redesign accounting in such a way that it is helpful to the management in formation of policy, control of execution and appreciation of effectiveness. Management accounting is of recent origin. This was first used in 1950 by a team of accountants visiting U. S. A under the auspices of Anglo-American Council on Productivity.

  • Anglo-American Council on Productivity defines Management Accounting as, “the presentation of accounting information in such a way as to assist management to the creation of policy and the day to day operation of an undertaking”
  • The American Accounting Association defines Management Accounting as “the methods and concepts necessary for effective planning for choosing among alternative business actions and for control through the evaluation and interpretation of performances”.
  • The Institute of Chartered Accountants of India defines Management Accounting as follows: “Such of its techniques and procedures by which accounting mainly seeks to aid the management collectively has come to be known as management accounting”

From these definitions, it is very clear that financial data is recorded, analyzed and presented to the management in such a way that it becomes useful and helpful in planning and running business operations more systematically.


The fundamental objective of management accounting is to enable the management to maximize profits or minimize losses. The evolution of management accounting has given a new approach to the function of accounting. The main objectives of management accounting are as follows:

  • Planning and policy formulation: Planning involves forecasting on the basis of available information, setting goals; framing polices determining the alternative courses of action and deciding on the programme of activities. Management accounting can help greatly in this direction. It facilitates the preparation of statements in the light of past results and gives estimation for the future.
  • Interpretation process: Management accounting is to present financial information to the management. Financial information is technical in nature. Therefore, it must be presented in such a way that it is easily understood. It presents accounting information with the help of statistical devices like charts, diagrams, graphs, etc.
  • Assists in Decision-making process: With the help of various modern techniques management accounting makes decision-making process more scientific. Data relating to cost, price, profit and savings for each of the available alternatives are collected and analyzed and provides a base for taking sound decisions.
  • Controlling: Management accounting is a useful for managerial control. Management accounting tools like standard costing and budgetary control are helpful in controlling performance. Cost control is effected through the use of standard costing and departmental control is made possible through the use of budgets. Performance of each and every individual is controlled with the help of management accounting.
  • Reporting: Management accounting keeps the management fully informed about the latest position of the concern through reporting. It helps management to take proper and quick decisions. The performance of various departments is regularly reported to the top management.
  • Facilitates Organizing: “Return on Capital Employed” is one of the tools of management accounting. Since management accounting stresses more on Responsibility Centers with a view to control costs and responsibilities, it also facilitates decentralization to a greater extent. Thus, it is helpful in setting up effective and efficiently organization framework.
  • Facilitates Coordination of Operations: Management accounting provides tools for overall control and coordination of business operations. Budgets are important means of coordination.


Management accounting involves furnishing of accounting data to the management for basing its decisions. It helps in improving efficiency and achieving the organizational goals. The following paragraphs discuss about the nature of management accounting.

  • Provides accounting information: Management accounting is based on accounting information. Management accounting is a service function and it provides necessary information to different levels of management. Management accounting involves the presentation of information in a way it suits managerial needs. The accounting data collected by accounting department is used for reviewing various policy decisions.
  • Cause and effect analysis: The role of financial accounting is limited to find out the ultimate result, i.e., profit and loss; management accounting goes a step further. Management accounting discusses the cause and effect relationship. The reasons for the loss are probed and the factors directly influencing the profitability are also studied. Profits are compared to sales, different expenditures, current assets, interest payables, share capital, etc.
  • Use of special techniques and concepts: Management accounting uses special techniques and concepts according to necessity to make accounting data more useful. The techniques usually used include financial planning and analyses, standard costing, budgetary control, marginal costing, project appraisal, control accounting, etc.
  • Taking important decisions: It supplies necessary information to the management which may be useful for its decisions. The historical data is studied to see its possible impact on future decisions. The implications of various decisions are also taken into account.
  • Achieving of objectives: Management accounting uses the accounting information in such a way that it helps in formatting plans and setting up objectives. Comparing actual performance with targeted figures will give an idea to the management about the performance of various departments. When there are deviations, corrective measures can be taken at once with the help of budgetary control and standard costing.
  • No fixed norms: No specific rules are followed in management accounting as that of financial accounting. Though the tools are the same, their use differs from concern to concern. The deriving of conclusions also depends upon the intelligence of the management accountant. The presentation will be in the way which suits the concern most.
  • Increase in efficiency: The purpose of using accounting information is to increase efficiency of the concern. The performance appraisal will enable the management to pin-point efficient and inefficient spots. Effort is made to take corrective measures so that efficiency is improved. The constant review will make the staff cost — conscious.
  • Supplies information and not decision: Management accountant is only to guide and not to supply decisions. The data is to be used by the management for taking various decisions. ‘How is the data to be utilized’ will depend upon the caliber and efficiency of the management.
  • Concerned with forecasting: The management accounting is concerned with the future. It helps the management in planning and forecasting. The historical information is used to plan future course of action. The information is supplied with the object to guide management for taking future decisions.


Management Accounting is in the process of development. Hence, it suffers from all the limitations of a new discipline. Some of these limitations are:

  • Limitations of Accounting Records: Management accounting derives its information from financial accounting, cost accounting and other records. It is concerned with the rearrangement or modification of data. The correctness or otherwise of the management accounting depends upon the correctness of these basic records. The limitations of these records are also the limitations of management accounting.
  • It is only a Tool: Management accounting is not an alternate or substitute for management. It is a mere tool for management. Ultimate decisions are being taken by management and not by management accounting.
  • Heavy Cost of Installation: The installation of management accounting system needs a very elaborate organization. This results in heavy investment which can be afforded only by big concerns.
  • Personal Bias: The interpretation of financial information depends upon the capacity of interpreter as one has to make a personal judgment. Personal prejudices and bias affect the objectivity of decisions.
  • Psychological Resistance: The installation of management accounting involves basic change in organization set up. New rules and regulations are also required to be framed which affect a number of personnel and hence there is a possibility of resistance from some or the other.
  • Evolutionary stage: Management accounting is only in a developmental stage. Its concepts and conventions are not as exact and established as that of other branches of accounting. Therefore, its results depend to a very great extent upon the intelligent interpretation of the data of managerial use.
  • Provides only Data: Management accounting provides data and not decisions. It only informs, not prescribes. This limitation should also be kept in mind while using the techniques of management accounting.
  • Broad-based Scope: The scope of management accounting is wide and this creates many difficulties in the implementations process. Management requires information from both accounting as well as non-accounting sources. It leads to inexactness and subjectivity in the conclusion obtained through it.

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