Bookkeepers and Accountants are two different roles, and are both important to have on a businesses team.
Bookkeepers look back at what happened. Accountants look forward and help plan based on what happened.
Record Keepers input data. If the Record Keeper (sometimes the office manager) also happens to know and understand bookkeeping, then they do bookkeeping roles also. But not always. Record keepers are generally 'live', that is, real time. They help with the AR and AP. In bigger companies they are dedicated clerks for just AP and AR. Record keepers can be clerks, office managers, admin help, etc.
A bookkeeper makes sure all entries are entered correctly. They may or may not be tasked with doing all of the data entry. Often they are. But their main value is that they make sure it's entered correctly, and that all accounts are reconciled against the bank statement, the credit card statement, the loan statement, etc to make sure nothing was missed, and correct any typos or double entries. Bookkeepers are generally 'after the fact', not 'real time' like record keepers. Business owners often have already paid the bills and invoiced their clients, and bookkeepers are making sure those transactions have been recorded, and if not, they put them in. Bookkeepers are the 'control' on the final totals, they verify they are all in properly. Bookkeepers understand double sided accounting, assets vs costs, interest vs principal. Loan payments are entered correctly. Bookkeepers can tell you how much to pay for sales tax, how much to remit for payroll taxes. The bookkeeping software takes these totals, and presents them as draft financial reports: the Income Statement (or Profit and Loss), and the Balance Sheet. If your bookkeeper cannot properly reconcile, enter loan amortization, or confirm the accounts to real life, then they are not bookkeepers, they are record keepers. Record keepers also are valuable if you're looking to economize! You're Financial team can have three players! Just don't expect them to understand how to put in an asset purchase correctly.
Next the accountant reviews the totals. They help analyze and interpret these totals. They may need to make adjustments, such as depreciation, and dividends issued. They may suggest strategies such as management bonuses, and input those entries also. They use these totals to assist with business planning including tax planning, business growth and business structure. You must not wait until the year is done to have your accountant review these totals. You should go mid year, and also in the third quarter, to help with future looking tax planning and advice. It's hard to fix what has happened. It's better to have a plan. The taxes you'll save by planning and being intentional are huge. Accountants also prepare the final financials that go with the business's tax return. These financials are more streamlined, and are the final prepared reports that governments and banks want to see.
People often use their accountant as bookkeepers. This is foolish and a waste of money. This is not where their value lays. If a business tries to input their own records and expects the accountant to reconcile the bank and fix their errors instead of using a bookkeeper to do so, they will waste their money and not use the accountant for what their value really is. When a business owner uses an accountant to 'fix' their work, they are forcing their accountant to focus on compliance only, and getting something reasonable filed with the government. And the message you send to your accountant is "I am just using you for compliance". No one is going to care more about your bookkeeping and tax planning than you do. If you use your accountant for compliance, that's all you'll get.
Bookkeepers look back, and make sure the totals are reconciled, verified, and correct. Accountants look forward, and though they prepare your tax returns, their value lies in PLANNING your tax returns before the year is done, and what to do next year. But they can only advise you on what the totals are saying. If you have bad totals, then the advice will match.
One person can wear many hats, but it's important to know, they are three different hats.
Some accountants focus more on compliance than on planning. When interviewing for an accountant, be sure to ask them if the offer advisory services, and will meet you mid year to go over the mid year totals and future planning.
#BeThatBusiness that has their financial team set up for Success!