What is a Controller?

Definition: A controller is an employee or officer who typically heads the accounting department and is responsible for the accurate preparation and reporting of financial statements and budgets as well as overseeing expenditures and cash flow management. In other words, this is the person in a company who has charge over decisions regarding the execution of corporate accounting processes.

What Does Controller Mean?

What is the definition of controller? The process of budgeting is very important to a business. Budgeting allows organizations to control their spending according to how much income they plan to take in weekly, monthly, and annually. A controller’s job is to oversee this process and to be the person in charge of managerial and financial accounting in an accounting department.

Controllers are also responsible for the preparation of financial statements. This becomes increasingly important for publicly traded companies that need to submit these financial statements to the Securities and Exchange Commission. While the CFO is the absolute top management official responsible for the validity of financial statements in most companies, the controller is very involved in this process. Top management often looks to controllers for managerial advice regarding financial information.

Let’s look at an example.


Anderson is the owner of a mid-sized manufacturing company in Santa Monica. He has decided that he needs to hire a corporate controller and is coming up with a job description. Of the following duties, which would a controller be responsible for?

  1. Cost accounting
  2. Entering payroll information
  3. Issue financial statements
  4. Approve budgets
  5. Disputing requests for unemployment
  6. Comply with tax filings on a local, state and federal level
  7. Forecasting

All of these with the exception of numbers 2 and 5 are typical responsibilities of a controller. Unemployment falls under the umbrella of human resources. While this position may oversee payroll, he or she does not enter the data.

Summary Definition

Define Controller: A company controller means an officer or employee who is in charge of overseeing the expenditures, cash flows, and high-level accounting of a company.