Larry McClanahan, Financial Advisor
The similarities and differences are largely a matter of scope of responsibilities and credentialing/licensing. Titles alone don't always tell the story. For example....
A Bookkeeper may maintain your business' accounting records pertaining to billing, receivables/collection, general ledger, maybe payroll, and so on. Very basic bookkeeping may not involve preparation of financial statements. A "Full Charge Bookkeeper" may provide the whole menu of services including certain tax filings. While a bookkeeper should have appropriate training in accounting basics, there is no particular licensing requirement nor ongoing requirement for continuing education.
An Accountant is sometimes used interchangeably with bookkeeper in a small business setting but an accountant would usually prepare financial statements (and may do all the books up to that stage as well). An accountant may or may not hold a degree with an accounting emphasis, but typically has more accounting education and experience than a basic bookkeeper.
A Certified Public Accountant (CPA) is a state license issued to those who've completed a state-approved course of education (including accounting coursework), passed a very challenging four-part examination, and stay current with continuing education requirements. The work a typical CPA does is usually well beyond the other two and may include financial statement preparation and analysis, business coaching, audit, tax preparation, representing clients before the IRS, and so on. Of course, not all CPAs provide all those services, but you get the picture.
Craig Smalley, Tax Professional
An accountant and a bookkeeper are two completely separate things. A CPA, or an EA, have more experience and knowledge in the area of taxation then does a bookkeeper. It would be fine for this person to do your internal bookkeeping, but you may want to find an accountant to do your tax planning.
Craig W Smalley EA
Admitted to Practice before the Internal Revenue Service
Lemuel Wyatt, Facilitator
Bookkeepers handle the day-to-day tasks of recording financial transactions, while accountants provide insight and analysis of that data and generate accounting reports.
Keep in mind that there's no hard line between the two terms. As long as they do misrepresent their qualifications, almost anyone can call themselves an accountant. This isn't true of CPAs (Certified Public Accountants), which is a designation that requires specialized training.
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