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What’s the Difference Between Accountants and Bookkeepers

Accounting services in Malaysia offer a range of financial expertise, but when most people think about the difference between bookkeeping and accounting, they are often unsure. 


While bookkeepers and accountants share common goals, they support your business at different stages of the financial cycle.


Simply put, bookkeeping is more transactional and administrative, concerned with recording financial transactions. Accounting is more subjective, giving you insights into your business’s financial health based on bookkeeping information.


In this guide, we will explain the functional differences between accounting and bookkeeping, as well as the differences between the roles of bookkeepers and accountants.


Bookkeeping: The Foundation of Financial Records

To grasp the difference between accountants and bookkeepers, it’s essential to understand that bookkeeping is the foundation of financial records. 


In this section, we will explore how bookkeepers play a fundamental role in recording daily financial transactions, creating a reliable basis for accountants’ analysis and decision-making.

The duties of a bookkeeper include:
Close up of a man calculating his financial bills


Bookkeeping serves as the foundation of any successful business. It involves recording daily transactions consistently, creating a record of every financial move your business makes.


Bookkeepers are often responsible for payroll, ensuring employees are accurately compensated.


The complexity of a bookkeeping system depends on the business’s size and the number of transactions it handles. All business sales and purchases must be accurately recorded in the ledger. 



In addition to recording transactions, bookkeepers post debits and credits, ensuring the ledger remains balanced.

Maintaining and Balancing Accounts

The meticulous maintenance and balancing of subsidiary accounts, general ledgers, and historical accounts are key responsibilities of bookkeepers.

Preparation of Financial Statements

Beyond invoices, bookkeepers also contribute to the creation of financial statements, including the balance sheet, cash flow statement, and income statement.

Completing Payroll

Bookkeepers generate invoices, an essential part of ensuring you get paid for the services or products your business provides.

Accounting for Informed Decision-Making

Accounting is the key to informed decision-making. Here we will explore how accountants analyze financial data to provide valuable insights for smart business choices. 



While bookkeepers lay the financial groundwork, accountants offer strategic direction.



The role of an accountant includes: 


Preparing Adjusting Entries

Accounting is a more advanced process, involving the preparation of adjusting entries. These entries record expenses that have occurred but aren’t yet documented in the bookkeeping process.


Reviewing Company Financial Statements

Accountants review the financial statements generated by bookkeepers to provide a comprehensive view of the business’s financial health.

discussing the financial report in office

Analyzing Costs of Operations

Analyzing the costs of operations is another crucial aspect of accounting, helping businesses identify areas where cost efficiencies can be achieved.

Completing Income Tax Returns

Accountants are well-versed in tax regulations and are capable of completing income tax returns accurately and efficiently.

Aiding in Financial Decision-Making

Accountants offer valuable insights into the impact of financial decisions, helping business owners make informed choices. 


A significant part of the accounting process is analyzing financial reports, leading to a better understanding of actual profitability and cash flow. Business owners often turn to accountants for strategic tax planning, financial analysis, forecasting, and tax filing.


Bookkeepers vs. Accountants in Qualifications

Bookkeeper Credentials

Bookkeepers don’t require formal education, but they must be meticulous about accuracy and well-versed in financial topics. Their work is often overseen by accountants or business owners, as bookkeepers cannot claim the title of “accountant.”

Accountant Credentials

Accountants typically hold a bachelor’s degree in accounting or finance. They can pursue additional professional certifications, such as becoming a Certified Public Accountant (CPA), one of the most recognized accounting designations. 


To attain CPA status, accountants must pass a challenging examination and accumulate professional experience, making them highly qualified. 


Final Takeaways

Both accounting and bookkeeping have their merits, and choosing between them depends on your business’s specific needs and circumstances. 


Lower costs and direct assessments make bookkeepers a valuable choice, particularly for small businesses looking to maintain accurate records and streamline financial management.


In contrast, accountants offer in-depth analysis, expertise in complex financial matters, and the ability to provide legal assistance, especially in matters related to taxes. 


Accountants come at a higher cost, but their contributions can be indispensable for businesses aiming to make informed financial decisions.  


Ultimately, whether you opt for a bookkeeper, an accountant, or both, well-maintained financial records and a sound financial strategy will contribute to the long-term success of your business. 


With the right financial expertise, for instance, offered by an accounting firm in Malaysia, you can focus on your core business while ensuring your financial health remains robust.