What do bookkeepers actually do, compared with accountants?

People often ask me ‘what exactly is the difference between a bookkeeper and an accountant?’. The answer depends on the qualifications held. A ‘level two’ bookkeeper does ‘data input’, meaning they record figures in an accounting system. This may be on paper, in a spreadsheet, or better still, accountancy software such as Xero, Sage or QuickBooks Online. A ‘level three’ bookkeeper can take things further by producing year-end accounts plus a variety of management reports. They might also run their own bookkeeping practice and/or hold additional qualifications in self-assessment, software-consultancy or payroll for example. Unlike level two bookkeepers, who must work under supervision, they are expected to be able to work independently. What about accountants though? They start off by gaining qualifications in bookkeeping, but they take things further still by becoming qualified to give business advice, and that’s the crucial difference! I’m always careful to let my clients know that I can’t advise on their business performance or strategy, but I can provide the period-end accounts, so that their accountant can provide this service.

One great advantage of emergent, digital, cloud-based, accounting technology is that business owners, accountants and bookkeepers can collaborate from the same accounting platform, and this means that business owners only need pay the higher fees of the accountant where it’s really needed. Like many bookkeepers in practice, I work from home which means lower overheads for me and competitive fees for my clients.

Whether you choose to use an accountant, a bookkeeper or both, do make sure that they belong to one of the recognised professional bodies. you’re a lot safer that way because you’ll know they are insured, regulated and qualified. Anyone can call themselves a ‘bookkeeper’ or an ‘accountant’ and there are plenty of rogues out there, believe me!

Call me on 01803 363089 if I can help in any way with your bookkeeping or accountancy-software needs.

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