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Bookkeepers and accountants working together

We’re often asked about the bookkeeper accountant relationship. Generally we see the two offering different services and by working together the client gets the best of both worlds.

Australian based Toni McCulloch from Accounting North (left) and Briohny de Vere of Bees Knees Bookkeeping  are case in point that collaboration works.

For Toni the best outcome is achieved when the incoming information her accounting practice receives is accurate and fully reconciled. “This gives us the scope to focus the real issues at hand for the clients such as growth of the business, profit and cashflow,” she says.

Taking the bookkeeper perspective, Briohny says: “Whenever I get an accountant to review work for end-of-year, I always ask for feedback (yes positive and negative). Having an open relationship between the accountant, bookkeeper and client makes everyone’s life easier”.

How it can work

To explain how the bookkeeper accountant relationship can work, Melanie Morris of Bookkeeping and Beyond Ltd offers this overview:

  • Generally day-to-day accounts functions can be undertaken by bookkeeper at a more cost effective rate than accountant such as Accounts Payable, Accounts Receivable, GST/ BAS returns.
  • Bookkeepers can notify and defer to an accountant on tricky transactions that require a higher level of expertise and which may have tax implications.
  • Accountants have a better understanding of the tax returns and get the best  outcome for clients in terms of company set up, large purchases and depreciation.
  • Bookkeepers will bring any issues to the accountant throughout the year rather than wait until year-end.
  • The year-end work (undertaken by the accountant) should be more streamlined if accounts have been prepared by a good bookkeeper rather than someone without specialist knowledge in this area.
  • Accountants can outsource their overflow accounts work to a bookkeeper.
  • If the bookkeeper is taking care of the day-to-day accounts and base compliance,  the accountant’s time is freed up to undertake the trusted financial advisor role by working with the client on business growth, strategic planning and cashflow budgeting.

Sometimes we hear about friction between the two groups but I believe this stems from the lack of visibility and transparency inherent when using desktop accounting systems, resulting in a lag in completing a client’s accounts. Products like Xero are paving the way for better collaboration between bookkeepers and accountants because both sides can now be working on the same set of data for their mutual clients.

We have always tried to support the relationship between bookkeepers and accountants beyond providing the software that allows  it, so it was gratifying to hear Toni’s perspective on this. “Xero has a hands on approach to working with both partners and the events, webinars and Xerocon not only provide a collaborative environment but both parties are encouraged to attend which is great for networking. Account managers also invest in both for success.”

We’d love to hear how you’ve found the bookkeeper accountant relationship – as a client or as one of these professionals. What works and what doesn’t?


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Cassandra Scott
27 April 2012 #

Yes! Yes! Yes!

Collaboration between the client, the accountant and the bookkeeper provides a streamlined, cost effective, high quality service to the clients.

I’ve some fantastic accountants that love working collaboratively with bookkeepers….. we explain the relationship to our clients as the bookkeeper works from the ground up, the accountant works from the top down, and we both meet in the middle to provide a comprehensive, knowledgeable and compliant service to our clients.

If your an accountant who wont work with a bookkeeper, or a bookkeeper that is resentful of working with an accountant, I’d suggest that the shelf life of your business will start to expire.

Paul Bulpitt
27 April 2012 #

Great post Anna! Says it all really…

Gayle Buchanan
28 April 2012 #

With Cassandra 100%, especially the expire part! Working with both bookkeepers and accountants now around the world with Xero which is groundbreakingly awesome.
Us number geeks need to stick together – who else gets our jokes lol?

Kirsten Blake
29 April 2012 #

Totally agree. As bookkkeepers and BAS agents I think we need to actively re-educate the small business community along these lines. We recently put a survey up to our business contacts asking them the difference between an accountant and a bookkeeper. Most people didn’t know how to answer and those who did mostly alluded to cost being the only real difference. This was my favourite answer however: Bookkeepers keep books. Accountants keep you out of jail.!

Stephanie Crawford
11 May 2012 #

Melanie’s comments above are spot on. The relationship betweeen bookkeeper and accountant can and should be a synergistic one, both working together in the best interests of the mutual client.

In my experience accountants and bookkeepers are usually two very different roles; one day-to-day process management and the other more tax management, big picture overview and financial analysis. Fortunately most accountants also see it that way, however I recently came across one who seemed to feel threatened and resentful of us and I think his kind are still out there, albeit in the minority. But I think in his case he didn’t fully understand the volume of work that we were doing, and his comment when he eventually came in and saw it was ‘how do you get all of this done in two days?’ He seemed to back off after that!

Cassandra I love your analogy of bottom up vs top down and meeting in the middle!

I feel that we add so much value to the client/accountant relationship that outsourced bookkeeping is here to stay.

Trish Reeve
20 May 2012 #

Have done some doorknocking and have had my worst knockbacks from accountants who are rude & dismissive… they fail to see what I can bring to their client, not to replace them, but to ensure that they can add value to their services.
I LOVE this article and Cassandra’s response. Thanks for both! :)

Trish Reeve
20 May 2012 #

And I like this other analogy too:

As bookkeepers, our job is to record the history, of what was spent and done.
As accountants, your role is to pave the future to their personal & business success!

In short:
We record the history so you can help build their future!

Lisa Martin
21 May 2012 #

Nailed it! Fantastic commentary, I’ve been on this journey for 10 years and the best relationships with fantastic outcomes for the clients (and let’s face it they are the reason for our work not an interuption to it) is a harmonious working relationship between the bookkeep and the account-ant who utilise their strengths and skills in the chain of service we all uphold with pride.

Mary Moore
22 May 2012 #

I so agree. And the accountants I work with have been very supportive in what I do with (our mutual) clients. I think most accountants are aware that if a business doesn’t use a bookkeeper, then routine accounts work will be done by someone in the business itself, who may or may not have the experience and knowledge to get things done correctly.

Oskari Julin
31 July 2012 #

I agree bookkeeper accountant relationship really have differences on what they offer,in Helsinki most of bookkeeper are really successful and lot of business have their own accounting firm.I really love this article it reminds me a lot on being accountant.

Mel Dowie
27 September 2013 #

Great post! I think in the UK this relationship is yet to be realised. Yes there are some great Xero accountants here who are willing to work with bookkeepers and form a great team of support for their clients but I feel through experience there is still an unfortunate divide and really hoping as Xero grows here and encourages the Accountants to take on more of an advisory role they will start to put some trust into bookkeepers and see them as strategic partners. There are still a lot of accountants offering bookkeeping services in the UK more so than ever now I think so to provide an all round service to their clients. But does this work? Does this make sense for accountants to be doing this? Or in the UK is it because accountants struggle to find good bookkeepers they can trust? If so why?


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