Ethical Dilemma for financial accounting
You have recently been hired as the assistant controller for Stanton Temperton Corporation, which rents building space in major metropolitan areas. Customers are required to pay six months of rent in advance. At the end of 2012, the company's president, Jim Temperton, notices that net income has fallen compared to last year. In 2011, the company reported before-tax profit of $330,000, but in 2012 the before-tax profit is only $280,000. This concerns Jim for two reasons. First, his year-end bonus is tied directly to before-tax profits. Second, shareholders may see a decline in profitability as a weakness in the company and begin to sell their stock. With the sell-off of stock, Jim's personal investment in the company's stock, as well as his company operated retirement plan, will be in jeopardy of severe losses. After close inspection of the financial statements, Jim notices that the balance of the Unearned Revenue account is $120,000. This amount represents payments in advance from long-term customers ($80,000) and from relatively new customers ($40,000). Jim comes to you, the company's accountant, and suggests that the firm should recognize as revenue in 2012 the $80,000 received in advance from long-term customers. He offers the following explanation: "First, we have received these customers' cash by the end of 2012, so there is no problem about their ability to pay. Second, we have a long-term history of fulfilling our obligation to these customers. We have always stood by our commitments to our customers and we always will. We earned that money when we got them to sign the six-month contract."
Discuss the ethical dilemma you face.