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9 Min. Read

Bookkeeper vs Accountant: What is the Difference?

Bookkeeper vs Accountant: What is the Difference?

Most people, when asked to define the difference between a bookkeeper and an accountant, would need help giving a clear answer. That is likely because both of these roles are responsible for the financial health of a small business or company, and sometimes the terms are used interchangeably. If you do not work in the financial world, you may have never considered that there actually is a difference between bookkeeping and accounting at all. 

Each of these jobs is important, with their own unique duties and responsibilities. You may want to think of it this way: The bookkeeper’s role is part of the accounting process, whereas an accountant is responsible for a broader scope of duties.

Key Takeaways

  • Bookkeeping is part of the accounting process in a business, but a bookkeeper is not an accountant.
  • A bookkeeper is the record keeper of a company who maintains, summarises, and organises financial documents and is in charge of recording financial transactions . 
  • Accountants interpret and analyse data whilst generating financial reports, summarising a company’s operations, cash flow, and financial position.
  • Each position has an important role to play in a company, and many companies will have accountants and bookkeepers on staff for financial support.
  • Bookkeeping does not require any formal certification, while accounting requires a minimum of an AAT qualification, followed by continuing education and an internship or junior position.
  • You may want to hire a bookkeeper to complete monthly financial reports, do your company taxes, and data entry.
  • You may want to hire an accountant for tax guidance and big-picture financial advice.

In this article, we’ll cover:

What is a Bookkeeper?

A bookkeeper is a person who works for a company, a small business, or an organisation and provides current and accurate financial information about a business. They are responsible for tracking the daily transactions and making a record of these transactions. 

Bookkeepers do financial data entry, maintain and monitor financial records, record expense receipts and track debits. They maintain and balance ledgers, accounts, and subsidiaries, recording the amounts from sales and the expenses incurred within a specific timeframe. 

A bookkeeper in an office may also be responsible for managing payroll, doing taxes, ordering office supplies, and other important organisational office tasks, depending on the place of work.

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What is an Accountant?

An accountant takes on a very important role within a company. They are professionals who work within accounting firms, or they may belong to an accounting department in a big corporation, or they can also set up their own private practice. 

An accountant’s role is to analyse accounts, act as an internal auditor, and create financial statement analysis that help small business owners and managers understand the overall health of their business, utilising bookkeeping data. They may review financial statements and financial reports to ensure accuracy, prepare taxes, and provide invaluable advice regarding cost savings, inefficiencies, legal issues, and more. Some financial accountants provide risk analysis and forecasting. 

FreshBooks can help you find a qualified and certified public accountant in your area who can help small businesses with their accounting needs. Simply click here to find online accountants near you. 

Accountant vs Bookkeeper

If you are wondering about the difference between an accountant and a bookkeeper, you are not alone. These two positions often overlap in a few key areas, but they require different skill sets, and they support the company at different points of the financial cycle. 

You can think of a bookkeeper’s work as being centred around record keeping. They are the ones who focus on creating the records that allow accountants to do their jobs. 

There is no formal education or accreditation needed to become an entry-level bookkeeper, but there are accreditations one may acquire, like an Associate of Accounting Technicians (AAT) certificate in bookkeeping. Knowing standard bookkeeping practices and understanding how to use bookkeeping software like FreshBooks is necessary. 

What makes a bookkeeper good at their job is a keen eye for detail, accurate record-keeping skills, strong communication and organisational skills, and financial knowledge. A bookkeeper is not an accountant, but a bookkeeper records the information that an accountant can use. 

An accountant may be put in charge of the same tasks as a bookkeeper, but they can also be the person who oversees a bookkeeper in an accounting department. The accountant’s job is to analyse financial data to generate accounting reports and provide insight to assist in managing and growing a business. 

Accountants are often needed to provide subjective insights into a business’s financial health. This means they use their expertise to help business owners understand how their company is doing and offer advice about the changes that can be made to improve or grow the business based on the information provided by bookkeepers. 

If you are looking for the right accountant for your company, Mazuma’s accounting services will ensure that you receive accurate financial reporting and the strategic guidance you need to achieve long-term business success. 

To become a chartered accountant in the UK, you must hold at least an AAT qualification but will be expected to progress to ACCA, ACA, or CIMA qualifications over time. Many will have a bachelor’s degree or master’s degree as well. Although a university accounting degree is not necessary, it is helpful. 

The first step in most accounting careers is an apprenticeship or a junior position, where they will gain the expertise required for a successful career. 

There are two main specialities in accounting: Management accountants provide information to people within a company, while financial accountants provide financial information to those outside the company, with careers branching into areas like audits, corporate finance, and forensic accounting. 

When to Hire a Bookkeeper vs an Accountant

So how do you know whether to hire a bookkeeper or an accountant? Although each position will work toward the goal of helping your company thrive financially, each has its own pros and cons. 

Bookkeepers have a detail-driven job with plenty of data entry. A business owner would hire a bookkeeper to maintain their records, generate financial reports, record financial transactions, manage  accounts receivables, reconcile bank statements, and maintain the chart of accounts. 

Some bookkeepers also manage payroll, including reading timesheets and calculating deductions. The bookkeeping process is done according to accounting standards and conventions and is clerical in nature.

Chartered accountants often need to take a broader look at your business’s overarching financial health. You will want an accountant if you are looking for somebody to analyse money-based information like finances, compliance, and taxes provided by the bookkeeper. 

An accounting professional can also help you prepare and file taxes, help you apply for business loans, provide sound advice regarding cost-saving methods and business growth, and provide financial forecasting services. Accounting procedures and jobs vary depending on where they are working and their education type. 

Conclusion

Many companies utilise both bookkeeping and accounting professionals because these two jobs each have a lot to offer any small business. While a bookkeeper takes care of the day-to-day entries, records financial transactions, maintains records of financial information, does the monthly reporting, and maintains the general ledger, an accountant will use this data to look at a business’ finances within a broader scope. 

If you are still determining whether your company could benefit from hiring bookkeepers and accountants, you can reach out to Mazuma. They have online accountants and bookkeepers who will guide you in building and growing a profitable business. 

Bookkeepers and accountants will take a lot of work off of your plate, and their expertise will likely play a key part in how you run your business moving forward. Using their professional experience, knowledge, and skills, they will ensure you stay on track to hit your financial goals and that you take advantage of all opportunities to improve or grow your company in the future.

Filling taxes alone
Filling taxes with mazuma

FAQs on Bookkeeper vs Accountant

Can a bookkeeper do tax returns?

Yes, experienced bookkeepers in the UK can do tax returns. There is no legal requirement that a person does your taxes with an accounting degree. Choosing an accountant or a bookkeeper with experience will ensure everything is correct and all tax benefits and deductions are applied.

How can I tell if I need a bookkeeper, an accountant, or both for my business?

If you are finding you cannot keep up with your business paperwork and your books are never up to date, you may want a bookkeeper. An accountant will be more helpful if you are looking for recommendations regarding financial decisions or strategies. Many businesses use both. 

What are the benefits of hiring a bookkeeper and an accountant for my business?

Hiring a bookkeeper and an accountant will eliminate financial risks, help you avoid losses, and reduce the paperwork you must do. You will save time and money while receiving professional advice regarding future business health and growth. 

Do bookkeepers and accountants have different qualifications or certifications?

Yes, in the UK, bookkeepers do not need to take any professional certifications, whereas there are several routes an accountant can take. The minimum qualification for an accountant is an AAT qualification, with the expectation of progression to ACCA, ACA, or CIMA qualifications. Certified public accountants often work as an apprentice before branching out on their own.

How can I find a reputable bookkeeper or accountant in my area?

Research is key. Look online through reviews and think of your needs vs. the services offered. Ask about rates and fees. Do they have experience in your field and carry the proper credentials? To make this process easier, Freshbooks services will help you find a qualified, experienced online accountant.


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