Ever wonder what the difference between a bookkeeper and an accountant is? This is a frequently asked question among small business owners! Do you need a bookkeeper, an accountant, or maybe both? Read on to find out.
As someone who has some crossover skills myself, I am often called upon to answer this question for prospective clients.
First, I’d like to point out that these terms frequently relate to a job title and not necessarily a skill level. For example, I am an accountant by training; I have a Bachelor’s Degree and 20 years in governmental accounting. I choose to do bookkeeping because I love to help business owners by relieving that day-to-day stress.
I haven’t found a need to sit for the Certified Public Accounting exam with my career trajectory and therefore don’t have the CPA designation. In many states, Texas being one, a person cannot use the term accountant without having the CPA designation.
Now, you may find an accountant/CPA who *also* offers bookkeeping services. However, frequently, businesses end up paying a higher price for the bookkeeping in that case since that isn’t their firm’s primary focus.
Or you may find a bookkeeper who also does taxes. This can seem like a great idea; however, I have two main caveats for you to consider: First, it behooves a small business to have a second set of eyes on your financials. After all, we are human, and mistakes happen, but we can catch them faster with a check and balance system. Second, tax preparation is a world of its own and requires a great deal of time and study to keep up with the ever-changing tax code. I personally prefer that my tax preparer be an expert in that arena and, therefore, likely won’t also be providing ongoing bookkeeping.
Many highly-skilled bookkeepers have other certifications or have honed their trade with tons of experience over the years. It is still critically important that your bookkeeper knows the ins and outs of deductible expenses for your particular business, as they are responsible for correctly coding your ledgers all year long.
In the most general sense, you could say that a bookkeeper is responsible for supporting ongoing activities, and an accountant is responsible for supporting strategy and tax planning/preparation. Having both roles on your team is highly beneficial, as their skills and expertise will complement each other to ensure your compliance and advisory are working harmoniously.
UNLESS you find that UNICORN… Then always hire the unicorn!
Sending magical rainbows,