In and out of business, people can be confused about what a bookkeeper vs accountant vs CPA does. At face value, they seem to do the same thing, which is deal with numbers. But in reality, there are distinctions and some similarities in their roles and we can only understand them if we take an in-depth look.
The short(ish) answer: bookkeepers write down and gather all your financials, accountants gather the financials and put them into accounts to analayze and strategize, cpas are certfied through educational requirements and licenses to take accounts of your financials and further strategize by incorporating tax strategies and help you file your taxes.
That is not an all encompassing answer, and there is always overlap (like bookkeepers on our team who do more analyzing, strategizing, and accountant work than most accountants and CPAs combined).
The next question is how can a bookkeepers, accountants, and CPAs help bring our business to success? Their jobs are not easy and business owners like you could use their help especially if numbers give you a headache. First, we take a closer look at what is accounting vs bookkeeping, what bookkeepers vs accountants vs CPAs do, and what their value is in your company.
Accounting vs Bookkeeping Definition
Bookkeeping vs accounting are two closely related but distinct activities within the financial management of a business. They both involve the systematic recording, organizing, and analysis of financial transactions, but they serve different purposes in the overall financial process.
Bookkeeping is practice of meticulously documenting your company’s financial transactions and organizing them into structured accounts on a daily basis. In doing so, bookkeepers use various recording techniques and they play a vital role in your company’s overall accounting process.
So to speak, bookkeeping provides the foundation for accounting by creating a detailed record of financial transactions. These records are then used by accountants and CPAs for analysis and decision-making.
Accounting involves the meticulous recording of a business’s financial transactions. Recording instead of just documenting means you are looking at the accounts the financial transactions go into, and setting them up in the correct “buckets” or places to be recorded for taxes. This comprehensive process covers the summarization, analysis, and reporting of these transactions to regulatory bodies, oversight agencies, and tax collection entities like the IRS. Accountants generally don’t report to these agencies directly, but rather CPAs use where they record financial information to determine how to file their taxes and report to those agencies.
What About Bookkeeping vs Financial Accounting?
We know now that bookkeeping is the systematic recording and organization of daily financial transactions, providing the foundation for financial accounting. While bookkeeping is more transactional and detail-oriented, financial accounting, like accounting is analytical and geared towards providing insights for decision-making and external reporting.
The difference between accounting and financial accounting is that financial accounting broader and mostly involved in managing a company’s assets and liabilities, as well as financial planning for the future growth of the business.
Bookkeeper vs Accountant vs CPA: Differences, Similarities, and Overlaps
If you are in business, you have surely encountered the terms “bookkeeper,” “accountant,” and “CPA” (Certified Public Accountant). You may have used these titles interchangeably, but in reality, each position plays a distinct role in the financial ecosystem of an organization. What are the roles of a bookkeeper vs accountant vs CPA? What contributions and expertise do they bring in the financial management of a company? Understanding these distinctions is essential for businesses seeking to build a robust financial team and make informed decisions about their financial management.
What Does a Bookkeeper Do vs Accountant?
The roles of a bookkeeper vs accountant differ widely in terms of daily record-keeping. Bookkeepers document day-to-day financial transactions, such as sales, purchases, receipts, and payments, in a clear and organized manner.
They organize and maintain general ledgers, which are categorized records of financial transactions.
Bookkeepers ensure that financial records are accurate by reconciling accounts and resolving any discrepancies.
Managing Subsidiary Books:
They may manage subsidiary books, such as the cash book, sales book, and purchase book, to further categorize transactions.
Bookkeepers monitor and track business expenses, ensuring that all expenditures are properly documented.
Generating Financial Reports:
While not typically responsible for the analysis, bookkeepers may generate basic financial reports, such as income statements and balance sheets.
Bookkeepers help ensure that financial records comply with relevant accounting standards and regulations.
They perform data entry tasks to input financial information accurately into accounting software or ledgers.
Some bookkeepers handle payroll processing, including calculating wages, deductions, and ensuring timely payment to employees.
Overall, the role of bookkeeper vs accountant is fundamental to the financial health of a business. Their meticulous record-keeping lays the groundwork for more advanced financial analysis and decision-making conducted by accountants and/or CPAs.
Change Orders and Variations
Change orders and variations in project specifications can impact both costs and revenue. Properly documenting and accounting for these changes is crucial to avoid financial discrepancies.
Many construction projects involve subcontractors. Managing and accurately accounting for subcontractor costs, progress, and payments is essential to maintaining financial transparency.
Compliance with Accounting Standards
Bookkeepers may not be accountants but they are still bound by the Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP). Staying compliant with such accounting standards is crucial and failure to adhere to these standards can result in financial reporting issues and legal consequences.
Bookkeeper vs Accountant vs CPA on Software and Technology Integration
Implementing and integrating construction accounting software can be challenging. Inadequate training or improper use of software, such as QuickBooks, may lead to data entry errors and reporting inaccuracies. Bookkeepers are known to be proficient QuickBooks users compared to accountants or CPAs who may have no idea how to operate it.
What Does an Accountant Do?
Accountants play a crucial role in the financial management of a business. Their responsibilities go beyond the daily recording of transactions and cover a more comprehensive analysis and interpretation of financial data. Basically, they look at the books and fine-tune the financial statements. Often, accountants work with CPAs to plan for the future of the business and make changes in terms of expenses if necessary.
Among their key duties include:
Accountants analyze financial data to assess the financial health and performance of a business. This includes trends, variances, and financial ratios.
They prepare financial statements, including the income statement, balance sheet, and cash flow statement, to provide a comprehensive overview of the business’s financial position.
Budgeting and Forecasting
Accountants contribute to the budgeting process by creating financial forecasts, helping businesses plan for future expenses, revenue, and overall financial goals.
Accountants provide insights and recommendations to management based on financial analysis, assisting in strategic decision-making.
Tax Planning and Compliance
They ensure that businesses comply with tax laws, prepare tax returns, and provide advice on tax planning to optimize financial outcomes. Again, it is important to note that most accountants AREN’T CPAs and therefore may not be certified to work on taxes.
Accountants establish and monitor internal controls to safeguard assets and ensure the accuracy of financial records.
Some accountants may be involved in internal or external auditing processes to review financial practices and ensure compliance with regulations.
Accountants analyze and allocate costs within a business to help understand the profitability of products, services, or business units.
Financial Software Management
They may oversee the implementation and management of financial software systems to streamline accounting processes.
Accountants may provide financial advice to clients or management, helping them make informed decisions about investments, mergers, acquisitions, and other financial matters.
What Does a CPA Do?
A Certified Public Accountant (CPA) is a highly qualified accounting professional who has met specific education, experience, and examination requirements set by the relevant accounting regulatory body. Some of them may have limited knowledge on processes like cost estimation or progress invoice, etc., but that’s because CPAs often have a broader scope of responsibilities compared to regular accountants and bookkeepers. And unlike bookkeepers, CPAs have limited to no background in accounting software like QuickBooks.
In essence, a CPA is the person you call to prepare your tax return accurately. They can also make journal entries and move figures around where needed. They do not get involved in the day-to-day financial transactions as this is a bookkeeper’s specialization.
Here are some key aspects of what a CPA does.
CPAs often perform auditing services to ensure the accuracy and reliability of financial statements. This may involve examining a company’s financial records and internal controls.
CPAs are skilled in the preparation and analysis of financial statements. They play a crucial role in ensuring that financial reports comply with accounting standards and regulations.
Tax Planning and Compliance
CPAs have extensive knowledge of tax laws and regulations. They provide tax planning advice, help businesses comply with tax laws, and prepare complex tax returns.
CPAs offer a range of advisory services, including financial consulting, business planning, and strategic decision-making. Their expertise extends beyond routine accounting functions.
Some CPAs specialize in forensic accounting, investigating financial discrepancies and fraud. They may be called upon to provide expert testimony in legal proceedings.
CPAs provide management consulting services, helping businesses improve their financial performance, streamline operations, and implement effective financial strategies.
CPAs assess financial risks and develop strategies to mitigate them. This includes evaluating internal controls and recommending improvements.
CPAs are often involved in valuing businesses for mergers, acquisitions, or other financial transactions. They use various methods to determine the fair value of a company.
CPAs are required to engage in ongoing professional development to stay current with changes in accounting standards, tax laws, and business regulations.
CPAs adhere to a strict code of professional ethics, ensuring integrity, objectivity, and confidentiality in their work.
Understanding the roles of Bookkeeper vs Accountant vs CPA Can Change the Way You Do Business
The roles of a bookkeeper vs accountant vs CPA are complex. Determining their relative value hinges on the specific needs and complexity of your business.
Bookkeepers play a crucial role in maintaining accurate financial records, providing the foundation for financial processes. Accountants bring a higher level of analysis, aiding in financial decision-making and strategic planning. CPAs, with their advanced qualifications, offer expertise in auditing, tax planning, and complex financial matters.
The value each professional brings depends on the organization’s requirements; bookkeepers excel in meticulous record-keeping, accountants contribute to financial analysis, while CPAs provide a spectrum of advanced financial services, making them particularly valuable for businesses navigating intricate regulatory landscapes and complex financial scenarios.
If you are a business owner considering hiring a financial expert, and you are torn between CPA vs accountant vs bookkeeper, you should look into the needs of your business first. Often, a bookkeeper alone can manage your finances, especially if your firm is small.
And when it comes to bookkeeping, Bookkeeping Services Columbus is here to help you effectively manage your finances. We can take care of your books and perform other financial processes while you concentrate on taking your business to the next level. Call us today at (614) 205-5676 or leave us a message through our website to know how we can help!