Bookkeeping vs Accounting

One of the most common questions we hear from clients is, “What’s the difference between bookkeeping and accounting? Is there a difference at all?” The answer is yes, there’s a big difference between accounting and bookkeeping. Although the terms are sometimes used interchangeably because bookkeepers and accountants share common goals, they actually refer to two different kinds of financial services.

What is bookkeeping?

Accurate bookkeeping is the cornerstone of any successful company. Bookkeeping refers to the daily recording, storing, and retrieving of financial transactions for your business (in QuickBooks or other software). The most common business transactions include:

  • Purchases
  • Sales
  • Receipts
  • Payments
  • Invoices

In general, bookkeepers are required to have at least 2-4 years of experience, or an associate’s degree in the field. Bookkeepers need to focus on accuracy and be fluent in key financial topics. In most cases, the bookkeepers work is overseen by an accountant.

Many business owners who aren’t sure which service to choose begin with bookkeeping, and then add on accounting services as their business grows.

What is accounting?

While bookkeeping simply involves recording your business’ financial transactions, accounting services take things a step further and also include interpreting, classifying, analyzing, reporting, and summarizing your financial data.

That means accountants won’t just record your numbers and send you a report—they actually review and analyze everything and tell you what it all means and what you should do with that information. Accountants provide higher level financial services than bookkeepers.

Depending on your specific needs, accounting services can include things like:

  • Financial statements
  • Classification
  • Bank & credit card reconciliations
  • Analyzing sales data & stats
  • Financial projections
  • Cash flow management
  • Consulting & training
  • And more!

Accountants usually have a degree in accounting or a related financial field, and can also get additional certifications (like a CPA). To become a CPA, an accountant must pass the Uniform Certified Public Accountant exam and have experience as a professional accountant.

Which is right for you?

In general, the larger or more complex your business is, the greater the need for both an expert bookkeeper and a certified accountant. Many smaller businesses begin with bookkeeping services, and then add other accounting services as they grow.

Bookkeepers and accountants work in tandem to give you a complete financial picture: Bookkeepers look to the past, while accountants look to your financial present and future. Together, they can provide you with the sound financial information and advice you need to make good decisions for your business.

In the end, the most important thing is that someone with experience and expertise is handling your finances—you can’t afford to just wing it! Unless you’re an accountant yourself (and most business owners aren’t), you shouldn’t try to handle your own books or accounting needs. Not only will it eat up your precious time, but without a sound accounting background it’s easy to get lost amid a sea of paperwork and reports. Ultimately, your business will suffer (not to mention your stress level).


Chris Giorgio