What a week! So many social media posts, blogs and articles about the relationship between bookkeepers and accountants. Which begs the question – what is the difference anyway?
And that, in my mind, is part of the problem at the moment. Many bookkeepers are qualified accountants, and many accountants are providing bookkeeping services. This blurs the line and causes overlaps in service offerings.
Here is why the line is often blurred …
- An Accountant will hold a certificate such as CPA (Certified Practicing Accountant) or CA (Chartered Accountant). To become a CPA or CA an individual generally has to have a university degree and also pass the graduate year program to receive this accreditation. However you will often see a self professed accountant who has none of these credentials and holds an accounting degree from University.
- Bookkeepers often hold a Cert III or Cert IV in Bookkeeping from an Educational Institution such as TAFE. They are often members of ICB and/or ABN. But many, many bookkeepers also hold University degrees and Accounting credentials.
Qualification with the TPB (Tax Practitioners Board)
- An Accountant is a Registered Tax Agent.
- A Bookkeeper is a Registered BAS Agent.
- Accountants often obtain experience with public practice firms or as an in-house accountant in commercial roles. Some accountants have no experience other than an accounting degree from University.
- Bookkeepers often obtain experience with bookkeeping firms, accounting firms, or working for themselves.
- Accountants most commonly offer business services such as year end tax compliance, audits, business advice, lodgement of BAS returns, PAYG summaries, bookkeeping and assistance with bookkeeping queries.
- Bookkeepers do all of the above, except the audit and tax return bit.
CONFUSED … You Should be! That is the problem!! It is my view that there is very little difference between accountants and bookkeepers, and if we as a profession are confused, the client has NO CHANCE of understanding the difference. And, if bookkeepers can provide the same service offering as accountants, at a much more reasonable rate and with better relationship skills and customer service, then why would the client use an accountant other than for tax and audit services?
This is a very recent debate and discussion because before the advent of products like Xero and XPM, bookkeepers did not have the tools available to fully service clients in the same way accountants have done. For example, XPM and Xero Tax are now free of charge to most bookkeepers, and these tools allow the bookkeepers to access the client’s record in the cloud, make corrections on the client’s ledger, provide training and feedback to the client, and prepare and lodge the client’s BAS using professional software. Now accountants and bookkeepers are using the exact same tools.
This, ladies and gentleman, is why accountants are feeling so very prickly about bookkeepers. This is why the larger firms are attempting to discredit third party bookkeeping service providers and trying to take these services in house. Accountants are feeling hot under the collar because clients are seeking the bookkeeper’s opinion and services over that of the accountant.
I’d love your thoughts about this issue. I’m feeling particularly prickly about the topic myself having seen numerous posts in Facebook from fellow bookkeepers about losing a client to their accountant.
I think the line will continue to blur as compliance services become increasingly automated. Perhaps tax returns won’t be the sole domain of accounting firms in the future. Our industry is being disrupted and ultimately those providing their clients the best value and service will succeed.