Bookkeeper vs. Accountant: A Phoenix SBO’s Guide

Bookkeeper vs. Accountant: A Phoenix SBO's Guide

Do you understand the bookkeeper vs. accountant differences?

Some Phoenix small business owners might get them confused, but we’re here to make sure you don’t.

When people think of accountants and bookkeepers, the nerdy, socially awkward character with a passion with numbers often comes to mind. And often, accountants and bookkeepers get looped into the same role. 

While the two roles do inner-lap, accountants and bookkeepers play different roles in business. Whether you’re a business owner or someone with questions about your finances, it’s good to know the difference between the two.

In this article we’ll compare bookkeeper vs. accountant roles and when to hire one. 

What is a Bookkeeper?

The title bookkeeper comes from before most records were digital. Bookkeepers would keep track of money spent and received within a physical ledger.

Today, bookkeeping is mostly done digitally. A bookkeeper keeps track of the daily operating costs of a business. And they make sure money goes where it’s supposed to like payroll, bills, or suppliers.

Bookkeepers record financial transactions and produce invoices. All sorts of businesses, from the medical field to restaurants, require some sort of bookkeeping protocol. 

What is an Accountant?

Where bookkeeping ends, accounting begins. Bookkeepers track and organize essential data about finances. Accountants take that data and analyze it to find out how businesses can improve their finances. 

Accountants can be essential contributors to making financial business decisions. They show where businesses can cut back or where they should focus on gaining revenue.

They can also give in-depth financial forecasting, which is helpful when seeking out investors or negotiating business deals. 

Another role of accountants is planning for taxes and filing for tax returns. Both companies and individuals utilize an accountant’s expertise to handle complex financials.

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Bookkeeper vs. Accountant

Bookkeepers and accountants often work together on a business’s finances, though with different specialties. An accountant can do bookkeeping, but a bookkeeper cannot do an accountant’s job.

The two positions have different credentials and qualifications. If you’re an individual, you may benefit differently than a business would from accounting and bookkeeping services.

Let’s go into the differences between the two roles.


Bookkeepers manage the small details of a business’s financial interactions. Accountants work from a big picture standpoint. 

Bookkeeper tasks: 

  • Record and categorize transactions 
  • Post debits and credits 
  • Create and deliver invoices 
  • Keep up and balance general ledgers and historical accounts 
  • Payroll
  • Record keeping 

Bookkeepers play an essential role in daily business operations. Some business owners decide to do their own bookkeeping. But as their finances grow, the need for an outside bookkeeper becomes apparent. 

Bookkeepers play an essential role in daily business operations. Some business owners decide to do their own bookkeeping. But as their finances grow, the need for an outside bookkeeper becomes apparent. 

Accountant tasks: 

  • Prepares to adjust entries 
  • Prepare financial statements 
  • Income tax returns 
  • Financial analysis and strategic planning
  • Financial forecasting

Accountants assist businesses with financial decisions and meeting government regulations around taxes. Large businesses hire accountants to “crunch the numbers” and find out where they can make cuts or additions. 


There are major differences in what it takes to be an accountant vs. a bookkeeper. That difference in credentials also translates to how much each service costs. 

There is no requirement for someone to work as a bookkeeper, other than perhaps experience. But there are optional certifications for bookkeepers from different associations of bookkeepers. 

To be a bookkeeper, a person needs to be detail-oriented, organized and focused on accuracy. A bookkeeper typically works under an accountant or a business owner. 

Accounting is typically a four-year degree. They can receive a degree in accounting or another financial specialty like economics or math. 

On top of their degree, many accountants also choose to pursue extra certification as a CPA (certified public accountant). To become a CPA, an individual must have professional experience as an accountant and pass the CPA exam. 

Understandably, there would be different qualifications for bookkeepers and accountants due to their responsibilities within a business.

Which Do You Need?

An accountant can technically do everything a bookkeeper can do. But bookkeepers often have more experience in keeping track of numbers, which makes them very valuable assets. 

To determine whether you need an accountant or a bookkeeper, you need to ask some questions about the scale of your business, and what kind of services you’ll benefit most from. 

How big of an inventory do you have?

How many employees do you have? 

What industry does your business operate in?

Small businesses often benefit from having a bookkeeper, because they handle the payroll and manage the cash flow from buying and selling inventory. 

Once businesses start to get more complex finances, it’s time to hire an accountant. Certain industries like medicine and education benefit greatly from having an accountant because your financial situation is immediately more complex. 

How To Find an Accountant or Bookkeeper?

Finding a good accountant or bookkeeper can be tricky. Accountants may have the credentials, but not the relevant experience you need.Along the same lines, you want to look for a bookkeeper with experience with similar financial situations as yours. 

When you’re interviewing accountants and bookkeepers, ask questions about their credentials, experience, and services.

Bookkeeping Services in Phoenix, AZ

HR Wise provides services that assist small and medium-sized businesses to handle their bookkeeping services. We‘ve been in the industry for several years and have hundreds of happy clients. 

Some of our services include:

If you’re a small to medium-sized business in Phoenix, AZ, then our services might be perfect for you.

Our experienced consultants are happy to answer all your questions about hiring a bookkeeper vs. accountant and what our service provides. 

Get a free consultation and find out how our services would benefit your business. 

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