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Bookkeeper vs. Accountant: Which is right for your small business?

bookkeeper 1Taking care of your company’s financials is a numbers game, but sometimes it can be a tricky proposition determining whether your monetary matters require the expertise of a bookkeeper or an accountant.


Yaritza Delorenzo is the founder and principal bookkeeper at A Bookkeeper's Corner, an accounting firm for small to medium-sized businesses in the San Francisco Bay area. According to Delorenzo, “a bookkeeper books the transactions and reconciles the accounts. They deal with the tedious day-to-day details, like paying the bills, invoicing clients or customers or just record sales,” she says. They also handle refunds, term vendor accounts, pay overhead expenses and manage payroll.

Conversely, an accountant “oversees the work of a bookkeeper and looks at the entire financial picture of a business or individual,” says Delorenzo, who adds that accountants work on and/or review all areas of the financials of a business. An accountant also records adjustments and reconciles balances of all assets, liabilities and equity accounts, although a bookkeeper can also assist in the process.

Another important distinction between the two professions is that an accountant “handles amortization and depreciation (of inventory and other assets) and prepare and file taxes,” she says.

So, just how does a small business owner know which financial assistant their entity’s needs?

According to Delorenzo, a small business needs “both, whether one or both are outsourced or in-house, although a smaller enterprise might get away with only contracting an outside tax accountant or CPA overseeing the financials and filing the taxes if they have administrative personnel recording the daily transactions.” However, she says, that’s only wise if the outside tax accountant or CPA has an in-house bookkeeper supporting their efforts.

Therefore, she says, “when contracting with an outside accountant, you’re usually contracting a team of bookkeepers and accountants.”

Meanwhile, the amount of profit and income a business generates should have nothing to do with whether a small business utilizes the services of an accountant, bookkeeper or both, suggests Delorenzo. “A business should contract, or at least consult with an accountant from the beginning to ensure they’re following tax guidelines, reporting income correctly and maximizing their deductions,” she says. Some business owners with an accounting background, experience or knowledge will be able to oversee these financial matters until their enterprise grows too large for their expertise to keep up.

“The more a business grows, the more you need accounting professionals overseeing or handling your finances,” she says.



Tami Kamin Meyer is an Ohio attorney and writer who tweets as @girlwithapen. She is the Chair of the Marketing Committee of the American Society of Journalists and Authors.
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