DEFINITION of 'Controller'

An individual who has responsibility for all accounting-related activities within a firm. In most organizations, the controller is the top managerial and financial accountant. The controller supervises the accounting department and assists management in interpreting and utilizing managerial accounting information. A firm's chief financial officer (CFO) may distribute some of the financial management responsibilities between a controller and a treasurer. Functions of the controller include:

Financial accounting - the preparation of financial statements

Cost accounting - the preparation of the firm's operating budgets

Taxes - the preparation of reports that the firm must file with various local, state and federal agencies

Data processing - of corporate accounting and payroll activities

Also called "comptroller."

BREAKING DOWN 'Controller'

A controller can work at a corporation or government setting. For example, municipal, as well as state, governments often have a controller and "controller's office" or "office of the controller." A state controller may be responsible for administering the state's accounting system, processing and recording its financial transactions, collecting debts that are owed to the state and settling claims made against the state. Controllers for government entities are typically elected; controllers who work within corporate settings are hired.

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