Not all bookkeepers and accountants are good at their job. Each has a different sets of skills. Bookkeepers do the day to day record keeping for your business, whilst accountants are better qualified to look at the overall picture of the business and advise on tax savings and planning.
So why would you ask an accountant to do your day to day bookkeeping? Accountants take several years to qualify and through qualification gain a much wider range of knowledge than a bookkeeper can achieve through gaining bookkeeping qualifications. Accountants will generally go on to work in practice achieving knowledge and experience from the qualified accountants they work alongside and from the wide ranging businesses they work with.
Bookkeepers, on the other hand, generally work alone and can only gain experience from the work they do and knowledge from the research and continuing professional development they undertake. Many will not be qualified. Qualified bookkeepers working in a practice like ours will have access to a much wider range of businesses and industries than they would if they worked alone and this increases their experience. They have the support of other bookkeepers to develop their knowledge and understanding of industry specific accounting.
However it doesn't matter whether an accountant or a bookkeeper works alone or as part of a practice. What is most important is whether they can do the job properly.
If you choose to have an accountant to do your bookkeeping, your payroll, your auto enrolment, your tax return, your VAT returns, your Corporation Tax and your statutuory accounts you put your trust 100% in that person to do that work. You don't tell them how to do it or when to do it - you trust them just as you would trust a mechanic to fix your car when it doesn't work or a dentist to sort out the pain in your tooth. You wouldn't tell either a mechanic or a dentist what steps they need to take to fix the problem, so you don't expect to have to tell your accountant what steps to take to do your accounts. You may not even know what needs to be done, you just know that you have to do your accounts. You put your trust in the person doing your accounts.
The same applies if you choose a bookkeeper to do your accounts. Are you sure they have the knowledge to do everything that should be done?
Business owners put their trust in the professional they choose to do their accounts and to do it properly but how do you know? You won't know until it is too late that they didn't or couldn't do what you expected them to. Why put your trust in one person? If your bookkeeper is not good your accountant will soon tell you when they look at your accounts and if your accountant is not doing what the bookkeeper would expect them to they will let you know too. But if your bookkeeper and your accountant work alongside each other you may never find out!
Over the years I have been a bookkeeper I have seen numerous situations which have been both surprising and shocking. You should be able to trust a professional to do their job but sadly it is not always the case. The bookkeepers in my team support each other so there is always someone to help and work is monitored so I know it is being done properly. We work with a number of good accountants and can always recommend two or three to contact to see if they are right for you and your business.
Its good to have accounting professionals on your side to add value to your business but don't assume they all know what they are doing! Recommendation is your best option. Talk to other business owners to find out what value their bookkeeper and/or accountant adds to their business and find out if they are happy enough with the service they receive to recommend them. If the same names keep cropping up you know you are on to a winner! I will always recommend having both an accountant and a bookkeeper because I know that is good for your business.