A comptroller (pronounced either the same as controller or as /kəmpˈtrlər/) is a management-level position responsible for supervising the quality of accounting and financial reporting of an organization. A financial comptroller is a senior-level executive who acts as the head of accounting, and oversees the preparation of financial reports, such as balance sheets and income statements.

In most Commonwealth countries, the comptroller general, auditor general, or comptroller and auditor general is the external auditor of the budget execution of the government and of government-owned companies. Typically, the independent institution headed by the comptroller general is a member of the International Organization of Supreme Audit Institutions. In American government, the comptroller is effectively the chief financial officer of a public body.

In business management, the comptroller is closer to a chief audit executive, holding a senior role in internal audit functions. Generally, the title encompasses a variety of responsibilities, from overseeing accounting and monitoring internal controls to countersigning on expenses and commitments.


The word is a variant of "controller". The "cont-" or "count-" part in that word was associated with "compt-", a variant of the verb "count". The term, though criticized by lexicographers such as Henry Watson Fowler,[1] is probably retained in part because in official titles it was deemed useful to have the title dissociated from the word and concept "control".[2]

A variant explanation is that comptroller evolved in the 15th century through a blend of the French compte ("an account") and the Middle English countreroller (someone who checks a copy of a scroll, from the French contreroule "counter-roll, scroll copy"), thus creating a title for a compteroller who specializes in checking financial ledgers.[3][1] This etymology explains why the name is often pronounced identically to "controller" despite the distinct spelling. However, comptroller is sometimes pronounced phonetically by those unaware of the word's origins or who wish specifically to avoid confusion with "controller".[4]

Business role

In business, the comptroller is the person who, independently from the chief financial officer in some countries, oversees accounting, and the implementation and monitoring of internal controls. In countries such as the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, Israel, and Canada, a comptroller or financial comptroller reports to the CFO in companies that have one.

Businesses typically use the spelling controller,[5] while government organizations use comptroller.[6]

Government role


In India, Comptroller is an appointment.


In Mexico, the comptroller, translated as 'contralor', was established in the public administration during the presidency of Miguel de la Madrid, when he created the Secretariat of the General Comptroller of the Federation [es] in 1982. This ministry was renamed as the Secretariat of the Civil Service by president Vicente Fox in 2003. Nevertheless, several states still name as General Comptroller Office their audit and oversight institutions. Namely, Mexico City has the Secretariat of the General Comptroller of Mexico City and Jalisco has the Comptroller General Office of the State of Jalisco.

United Kingdom

The title of comptroller is used in the Royal Household for various offices, including:

The Comptroller of the Navy is a post in the Royal Navy responsible for procurement and matériel.

The Comptroller and City Solicitor is one of the High Officers of the City of London Corporation, responsible for provision of all legal services. The post of comptroller dates from 1311, and that of City Solicitor from 1544; the two were amalgamated in 1945.

The Comptroller General of Patents, Designs and Trade Marks is the head of the UK Intellectual Property Office or Patent Office.

The Comptroller and Auditor General is head of the National Audit Office, and is the successor of the former Comptroller General of the Exchequer and the former Commissioners of Audit.

United States

The title of comptroller is held by various government officials.


In Spain, the word comptroller is translated as "Interventor".

See also


  1. ^ a b Etymology of comptroller at Merriam-Webster online, m-w.com. Accessed 2007-07-01.
  2. ^ ""comptroller, n."". OED Online. Oxford University Press. Retrieved October 17, 2019.
  3. ^ Etymology of comptroller at etymology online, etymonline.com. Accessed 2007-07-01.
  4. ^ "the definition of comptroller". Dictionary.com.
  5. ^ "Controller Vs Comptroller". The Strategic CFO. 23 July 2013. Retrieved 3 May 2016.
  6. ^ "What is the Difference Between a Controller and a Comptroller?". Top Accounting Degrees. Retrieved 3 May 2016.
  7. ^ "Home Page". U.S. office of the Comptroller of the Currency.