In part, qualifications, but also their different areas of expertise. Accountants are “big picture” people. They generally have more qualifications in a greater breadth of subjects and deal with the strategic finances of a company and preparing end of year accounts. Bookkeepers are specialists in detailed day-to-day transactions such as money in and money out, chasing payments and payroll. But the line between the two is becoming more blurred these days as some bookkeepers take exams leading them deeper into traditional accountancy areas such as tax planning, while accountants frequently offer bookkeeping services as well.
A good bookkeeper will be able to keep you up to speed with the week-by-week, month-by-month finances of your business. They will make sure you really understand your ongoing financial picture and so help you make good decisions.
They can show you how to set up good systems, which you then take over part or all of. There is huge flexibility and a much greater degree of informality to the relationship than you are probably used to with your accountant.
Some small business owners do their own day-to-day books believing it will save them money. But more often than not, they have neither the skill nor the inclination to give them the attention they deserve. For a business to run properly, everyone involved needs accurate and up-to-date figures to work with.
Together, then, your bookkeeper and accountant can make up a crack financial team who'll keep on top of your business' finances while you pilot the helm.
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