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10 Differences Between Bookkeeping and Accounting

bookkeeping and accounting

Bookkeeping and accounting are two fundamental aspects of financial management in any business, but they cater to different stages of the financial cycle. Bookkeeping is the initial step, focusing on the accurate and systematic recording of financial transactions. In contrast, accounting builds upon these records to provide an analysis and interpretation that supports business decision-making and compliance with financial regulations.

Put simply, bookkeepers look back on past financial events, making sure that the company has accurate records of transactions and past financial reports. While accountants strategize, provide valuable insights, and assist with financial planning in considering past financial records. The strategies of an accountant may include business planning, operations management, tax planning, rearranging business structure, or planning business growth objectives to ensure a financially successful company.

For a thorough overview on whether you should hire a bookkeeper or an accountant.

Here are 10 Key Differences Between Bookkeeping and Accounting.

Services Provided:

  • Bookkeeping Services: Bookkeeping is primarily concerned with accurately recording financial transactions. In general, bookkeepers keep track of all revenues and expenses made, as well as issue invoices and supplier payments, and additional tasks such as account reconciliation, process payrolls and government remittances (GST, PST, Payroll, tax, WorkSafe, etc.), and may also oversee preparing financial statements for the company. 

  • Accounting Services: While entry-level accountant duties may be like a bookkeeper, accounting generally involves interpreting, classifying, analyzing, reporting, and summarizing financial data for the business. With the recorded information of bookkeepers, depending on the type of accounting, or all of them, such as an auditing, tax accountant, or financial advisory, an accountant plans the future financial success of the company. Accountants may also offer tax preparation services.

Scope of Services:

  • Bookkeeping: Generally, bookkeeping has a much narrower scope, focusing on daily recording of transactions and maintaining detailed ledgers and journals. This more micro-level scope of services provided is one of the major differences between bookkeepers and accountants.

  • Accounting: A professional accountant typically has a much larger scope revolving around internal and external factors surrounding the business, which can include the preparation of financial statements, forecasting, and tax planning.

Financial Reporting:

  • Bookkeeping: Bookkeeping professionals provide financial reports that show the business transactions made in the past, and in day-to-day operations.

  • Accounting: Accountants analyze these reports to produce financial statements and conduct ratio analysis, offering deeper insights into the business's financial health.

Financial Statements:

  • Bookkeeping: Although bookkeepers can prepare financial statements, their responsibilities do not typically involve creating them.

  • Accounting: Professionals in accounting positions are usually responsible for generating income statements, balance sheets, and cash flow statements from bookkeeper-prepared books.

Decision Making:

  • Bookkeeping: The bookkeeping process typically does not involve decision making or taking on an advisory role. It's purely about recording daily transactions and other financial activities, maintaining accuracy and producing a proper financial history for the company.

  • Accounting: Accountants provide financial insights based on bookkeeping records that aid in decision making that either reduces risks or improves the business finances of the company.

Skills Required:

  • Bookkeeping: Becoming a bookkeeper usually requires less specialized skills, focusing on routine, an understanding of the businesses' transactions, and accurate data entry. This varies depending on the organization and the duties involved.

  • Accounting: Requires higher-level skills, including analytical skills, presenting skills, and understanding of financial reporting standards.

Tools and Systems Used:

  • Bookkeeping: Often uses simpler tools and software designed for data entry and ledger management. QuickBooks and Xero are popular software platforms used to enter daily sales information.

  • Accounting: Accountants typically use more complex software that includes all the features of bookkeeping software but adds advanced functionalities that enable complex analysis and reporting. QuickBooks and Xero may be used by accountants, but other software like Sage 50cloud, Oracle NetSuite, and Microsoft Dynamics GP are popular among professional accountants.

Regulatory Expertise:

  • Bookkeeping: Bookkeepers are qualified in handling the day-to-day adherence to regulatory principles in transaction recording.

  • Accounting: Accountant positions require a better understanding of regulatory standards such as GAAP or IFRS, which guide the preparation of financial statements.

Educational & Professional Requirements:

  • Bookkeeping: Qualification are important when becoming a bookkeeper, but generally less strict. Entry-level positions as a bookkeeper might only require a certification in bookkeeping and a Microsoft Office Specialist certificate, or a 2–3-year associate’s degree in accounting.

  • Accounting: A position as an accountant usually requires a higher level of education, such as a bachelor’s degree in accounting or finance. Accountants often hold professional designations and licenses such as CPA, requiring contiuous education and exams.

Hiring Costs:

Bookkeepers generally charge less than accountants due to the nature of their work. Bookkeeper rates typically range from $20 to $50 per hour. For ongoing services, bookkeepers might offer monthly packages from $200 to over $2000.

Accountants may charge between $50 to $300 per hour, depending on their qualifications and the complexity of the work involved. Overall, due to their expertise in specialized financial services, accountants might offer higher fees than bookkeepers for their service packages.

Bookkeeping and Accounting Services in the Bay Area

KAD Alliance offers full-service bookkeeping and accounting services in the California, Bay Area, from San Ramon to San Francisco. This includes performing financial audits and providing tax advisory services where we help with both tax preparation and planning, but also forecasting to help potentially lower corporate taxes for businesses.

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