BookkeepingBusiness StrategyGeneral
A woman faces two coworkers in the midst of a decision

Do I Need a Bookkeeper, an Accountant, or Both?

As a small business grows into a medium- or large-sized operation, it may no longer make sense for the founder to balance the books. Imagine a time-starved back office employee trying to itemise and code transactions. With what time? While office managers can fill some of the gaps, a bookkeeper or an accountant must eventually be welcomed into the fold. 

The terms bookkeeper and accountant are often used interchangeably, but in fact, they are not one and the same. The educational requirements, daily schedule, and specific skills of these two roles can overlap but are not synonymous. Let’s look at why accountants and bookkeepers can each help your business–and how to tell if you need a bookkeeper or an accountant

What does a bookkeeper do?

Bookkeepers are responsible for the day-to-day record keeping of your business’s money. The duties of a bookkeeper can include documenting financial transactions, posting credits and debits to a balance sheet, processing payroll, generating invoices, and merging accounts. The bookkeeper may also stay on top of the vital records required by the Australian Tax Office (ATO) or New Zealand’s Inland Revenue Department (IRD). 

In short, bookkeepers create the financial records that an accountant can later analyse and use to create more complex reports or file full tax returns. A bookkeeper is the first stage in the accounting process. They benefit your business by tackling daily financial records that must be accurate in order to create useful reports later. 

Who is a bookkeeper? Some bookkeepers are trained by their employers, but other bookkeepers learn their skills by getting a Certificate in Accounting and Bookkeeping and registering to become a BAS Agent. You may want to hire a bookkeeper if you have a tax accountant but need someone to handle your office’s in-house financial records at medium-sized companies. 

What do accountants do?

Not only will an accountant use the records that a bookkeeper created, but they will also crunch the numbers on their own reports. Their work tends to be more senior level and they may even advise the company regarding high-level company decisions. As a result, the salary of an accountant can be nearly double that of a bookkeeper. 

The typical role of an accountant encompasses things like prepping for taxes, preparing financial statements, plotting the growth of your business, verifying that the company’s finances are government compliant, examining revenue and recommending budgets, resolving accounting discrepancies, and setting up accounting processes. When you’re deciding between a bookkeeper or an accountant, you know you’re ready for a full-time accountant if you have the need for financial analysis and advice regarding the impact of financial decisions. 

An accountant may have a Diploma of Accounting or another advanced degree. Many businesses can get by with one in-house accountant, but you may need the expertise of a whole team as you grow and scale. 

When you need both an accountant and a bookkeeper

OK, but when might you need both a bookkeeper and an accountant? There are some benefits to having both roles working side by side. The separation of duties may help you remain compliant with government reporting and provide a built-in cross-checking system. The books recorded by the bookkeeper will be double-checked by the accountant. This can eliminate some mistakes. 

A complicated tax structure may also call for both roles. You want one professional to keep an accurate general ledger and track daily expenditures (the bookkeeper) and another to analyse the books, look for available tax credits, and prepare tax reports (the accountant). If your business is growing and in search of investors, having both a bookkeeper and an accountant also strengthens the financial picture of your growing organisation. 

Do you need a bookkeeper or an accountant, or both? Bookkeeping services keep your day-to-day financial tasks done on time. You’ll never miss payroll again. Meanwhile, an accountant offers more robust analysis and internal financing advice. Larger companies probably need both. Bookkeeping services keep you running smoothly in the present day and accountants make sure the future remains stable. 

If you need a team of financial experts to keep your company’s ship upright, contact Visory. Our virtual teams are tailored to the expertise you need and we can tackle bookkeeping and accounting projects large and small. We’ll become such a part of your team you’ll want to invite us to the holiday party (after we tell you if that can be expensed).