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Every business needs to keep track of their financial records and when it comes to balancing the books more than one person often looks at them in order to balance them. Bookkeepers and accountants will look at the figures so that they can write up reports, but they both perform different functions. In the eyes of some, the terms bookkeeper and accountant are the same thing, but that is not the case.
Accountants and bookkeepers have not undergone the same schooling. They obtain different degrees and certifications. Bookkeepers are responsible for more of the actual financial recording than the accountants. Once they have recorded the numbers in the ledger, it is time to move on to another. Analysis and planning are not asked of bookkeepers. This is simply an indication of different training, not one of incompetence. Bookkeepers usually do their job in monthly cycles. Usually it requires recording transactions, writing reports, and making whatever minor adjustments are needed.
The more advanced planning and analysis tasks are more often given to the accountants than to the bookkeepers. Accountants often create the bookkeeping processes for large businesses and then take on monitoring duties. The bookkeeping team enters the figures and creates reports which are then given to the accountants who analyze the numbers in order to plan future financial moves. Since accountants must have bookkeeping knowledge and skills, they are often the bookkeepers’ supervisors. The accountants look at the ledgers and calculate things such as new interest numbers and upcoming wages to be paid out to the employees. They create financial statements for the business based on the numbers.
A single person can usually complete the job of both bookkeepers and accountants in a small business. This is due to the fact that bookkeeping is one component of accounting. Smaller businesses do not move the same volume as a large corporation, so one person can take care of the recording and analyzing duties and no distinction is needed. There are regulations in some states, though, that rigidly govern the financial duties a person is qualified to perform. States such as these give only licensed accountants permission to do the job of an accountant and provide guidelines to the business detailing these jobs. In some places, the distinction between a bookkeeper and an accountant is one of prestige. Those that have taken the extra schooling and taken the tests to become an accountant can be especially sensitive to the difference between the two.
The lines between accountants and bookkeepers are becoming less clear with the assistance of computer software. With the help of these programs, accountants and bookkeepers are beginning to do one another’s job. The differentiation may continue to disappear as time goes on.
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