What does a professional bookkeeper DO? And why would I NEED one?

With the advent of computerised ‘accounting packages’ – think MYOB, Quickbooks, Reckon, Xero – it’s easier than ever for the small business to think they don’t need a bookkeeper. After all the computer does it all for them right? The problem with this thinking, is that – as with any computer system – the information you get out of the system, is only as good as the information that goes in. So, just because you can now enter the data to the system yourself, it doesn’t mean that you should. The requirements on a bookkeeper are many, and varied.
Changes in GST laws, and the requirement to lodge Business Activity Statements – BAS’s – have resulted in changes to how bookkeepers work, and what they are required to do. For example, did you know that you are required to check every suppliers Australian Business Number, and their GST Registration Status every year?

Professional bookkeepers have extensive training, have to meet minimum hours of practicing, and regular Continuing Professional Education requirements in order to both achieve their BAS agent registration, and to maintain it. A professional bookkeeper is required to hold both Public Liability, and Professional Indemnity insurance.

A Professional Bookkeeper can provide a whole host of information and advice regarding your business, from the third-party view of someone who is not emotionally involved in the business itself. They can take a management view – and oversee the actual bookkeeping work being performed in-house, or they can perform part – or all – of the bookkeeping on your behalf. Or, they can be a specialist who is called in for certain tasks and processes.

But wait, I hear you say… I already have an accountant, why a bookkeeper too? In my experience, accountants are generally not all that interested in helping with the day-to-day running of a business’s books. And this day-to-day management, is precisely what a bookkeeper is interested in, and wants to help with. Your bookkeeper and accountant should work hand-in-hand to assist you manage the business.

An example may go: You as the business owner plans the future of your business, along with your business coach. Your accountant helps you with the budgeting, and planning for purchases of equipment, and property, and also of course your tax planning. Then you take your budget, and plans to your bookkeeper, who helps you manage the cash needed for the budget, and equipment purchases. The bookkeeper can then also prepare and lodge your BAS, and then at the end of the year, hand over to the accountant who will prepare your tax returns, and assist with planning for the next 12 months and longer. During all of this, plans are being revised with your business coach as you adjust to changing business environments, or (un)expected changes in your business. The bookkeeper assists with the provision of accurate and timely information to help you plan, and see what is happening in your business. In many instances, with the correct software, this information can be accurate to the day or at least week. (With the advent of new cloud-based technology, we are moving towards what is being called ‘live’ accounting….)

In addition to tis day-to-day assistance, a professional bookkeeper can be used as an external specialist. They can:

• Review your systems to ensure that they are sufficient, efficient, and current

• Review your entire bookkeeping system to ensure that you are using the most appropriate software, which will make sure that your books are run as close to ‘live’ as possible, as accurately as possible, and in some cases, with as much automation as possible

• Act as a third-party, external ‘check’ to your internal systems. For example: Do you deal in a large amount of cash? If you do, your staff could receive cash from customers, and enter that receipt to the bookkeeping system, then the bookkeeper could bank the cash, and reconcile the bank records…. This would very quickly determine if all cash being received by the business is making it to the bank, and being recorded correctly.

• As a regular reviewer of the operations of your business – in preparing month-end or BAS work the bookkeeper has a good overall, current view of what is happening in your business.

• As a source of information in your planning processes – if I do x, what happens to the cashflow?

• As a valuable member of the business who will ensure that all FairWork (payroll) and GST requirements are met, and who is firmly ‘on your side’.

Above all, a professional bookkeeper wants to see your business succeed almost as much as you do, and they will bring a wealth of information and experience which can be used to benefit your business