A bookkeeper is responsible for processing the paperwork for a company’s business transactions. Ultimately the transactions will be recorded in accounts within the company’s general ledger. Today this often involves the use of cost effective software such as Xero.
Bookkeepers are expected to be accurate, efficient, and knowledgeable about debits and credits, the chart of accounts, accounts payable procedures, sales and accounts receivable, payroll, and more. Each bookkeeper’s specific responsibilities will vary by type and size of the business.
The bookkeeper’s role may be expanded to include adjusting entries in order for the bookkeeper to generate income statements and balance sheets from the accounting software.
The bookkeeper’s work is usually overseen by an accountant and/or the small business owner.
A bookkeeper is usually employed by a small to mid-size company to record its transactions such as sales, purchases, payroll, collection of accounts receivable, payment of bills, etc. A very small company might use the services of a bookkeeping firm that employees bookkeepers.
Since bookkeepers typically do not have a four-year accounting degree, an accounting firm will review the financial statements prepared by a company’s bookkeeper.
A bookkeeper today is expected to be comfortable using accounting software.
Generally, a bookkeeper is a person without a college degree in accounting who performs much of the data entry tasks. This includes entering the bills from vendors, paying bills, processing payroll data, preparing sales invoices, mailing statements to customers, etc.
The accountant is likely to have a college degree with a major in accounting and takes over where the bookkeeper leaves off. The accountant will prepare adjusting entries to record expenses that occurred but are not yet entered by the bookkeeper. (Examples include interest on bank loans since the last loan payment, wages earned by employees that will be processed next week, etc.) Other adjustments to accounts include the calculation and recording of depreciation, establishing allowances for uncollectible accounts, etc.). After making the adjusting entries, the accountant prepares the company’s financial statements (income statement, balance sheet, statement of cash flows.) The accountant also assists the company’s management to understand the financial impact of its past and future decisions.
The distinction between accountant and bookkeeper keeps changing as accounting software and other software evolves. For many years, companies used the title of accounting clerks for employees doing the tasks formerly performed by bookkeepers. The accounting clerks are usually supervised by an accountant.
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