Now, we have the opportunity to discuss accounting fundamentals. Forget everything you thought you knew about accountants: debits, credits, even addition and subtraction. None of that actually matters in practice. Accountants rely on Tickmarks and equally, if not more important, Tickmark Legends, to accomplish anything. Accountants have to take a pen that dollar stores would be embarrassed to sell and use it to mark up workpapers into a frenzy of ink to signify work was performed. Note that overachieving accountants make Tickmarks in Excel or Word.
Tickmarks are simply arbitrary symbols to represent work performed. Examples range from (1), (2), to ###, @, %, and *. There is no limit to what can be used as a tickmark. Generally the more arbitrary and confusing, the better, since it allows an accountant to express their individuality and demonstrate that they spent 2 hours scribbling around the edges. People have even been known to take the letters W, T, and F and “cleverly” (by which I mean not clever at all) arrange them into a tickmark.
Tickmark Legends are the index or summary of all the tickmarks used on those workpapers. There is no mystery here, and tickmarks would be useless without the prerequisite legend.
You will find in your experiences working with accountants that more senior accountants have developed increasingly convoluted and arbitrary tickmarks that they must use on every document. Failure to include these tickmarks may incur the wrath of the PCAOB or something like that.
If you are trying to understand an accountant, how they use tickmarks says a lot about their character. Do they meticulously use the same tickmarks in a systematic way to make it clear to an independent third party what has been performed? Or are they illegible chicken scratches that are inconsistent and make no sense at all? Trust me when I say that you DO NOT want to work with an accountant who does not have a good tickmark system in place. An accountant who cannot properly tickmark is not an accountant in any sense of that title, period.