Bookkeeper vs. Accountant vs. CPA: What’s the Difference?

When managing business finances, it’s common to interchange the words CPA, accountant, and bookkeeper. But these aren’t the same and refer to different levels of professional expertise. Not only that, but each individual also has a specific set of tasks and licence scope. And although all are involved with financial data, it’s critical to understand and distinguish between them, especially if you’re looking to hire one that fits your company’s requirements. In this article, we’ll distinguish them based on what they do to determine when to hire an accountant, a CPA, or a bookkeeper.

Accountants

An accountant is someone who has earned a bachelor’s degree but not necessarily related to accounting. An accountant can keep company books, but that function is typically reserved for a bookkeeper. All accountants in Central London typically work with detailed financial information necessary for management decisions. In addition to preparing these statements, they can also audit ledgers, books, and other data necessary for filing taxes. However, an accountant doesn’t have the authority to represent a company when it’s time to file taxes. They can’t sign any of the official documents submitted to the government.

Hiring an accountant is ideal when the company needs help analysing and preparing reports to gain a better view of the company’s finances. Making sense of massive amounts of data can be time-consuming, and accountants can lend their expertise in condensing information and painting the “big picture.”

Bookkeeper

Bookkeepers do most of the repetitive tasks associated with recording financial data. The brunt of the work usually falls to bookkeepers: updating ledgers, tracking invoices, and other statements. These days, however, they use software to automate some functions and work more efficiently. The main task of a bookkeeper is to keep an eye on the company’s cash flow. For most small businesses, it’s usually the owner who does the work. But as the business gets bigger, it’s better to hire a bookkeeper as things can easily get overlooked if you don’t have a person dedicated to working primarily with financial matters.

Most bookkeepers don’t need to earn a college degree, although some may have completed associate courses related to bookkeeping. They make considerably less than an accountant but are essential to businesses as they make sure daily transactions are detailed and organised.

Certified public accountants

A CPA is someone who has an accounting degree and has also passed the examination requirements to hold a licence. Although a CPA can also perform the same tasks delegated to an accountant, they’re primarily hired as consultants that audit and review financial documents. CPAs are also authorised to represent businesses when filing tax returns.

Which finance expert does your company need?

All businesses need someone who can keep the books, whether it’s a permanent employee or a contractual bookkeeper. For daily transactions, you don’t necessarily need an accountant. However, when it comes to preparing financial documents, auditing and preparing them for tax returns, you’ll need someone with higher expertise such as an accountant or a CPA.

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