What are the duties of a bookkeeper?
Bookkeepers are responsible for maintaining an organisation’s key accounting records, known as ledgers. Day-to-day activities include recording transactions such as income and outgoings, and posting them to various accounts. Being a broad and varied role, a Bookkeeper job description should emphasise the need for a strong sense of time management and organisational skills. With exposure to many aspects of the accounting function, it can be a stepping stone to a more senior or specialised accounting role.
What is a Bookkeeper?
A Bookkeeper is responsible for recording and maintaining a business’ financial transactions, such as purchases, expenses, sales revenue, invoices, and payments. The bookkeeper will record financial data into general ledgers, which are used to produce the balance sheet and income statement. The bookkeeper is generally responsible for overseeing the first six steps of the Accounting Cycle, while the last two are typically taken care of by an accountant. While there is a general overlap between the two professions, there are a few distinctions that are later discussed in this article.
What does a Bookkeeper do?
A Bookkeeper provides important services to businesses by recording and processing financial transactions and producing statements. Some bookkeepers are tasked with maintaining the accounts for an entire organisation, referred to as the general ledger. In contrast, others function as accounting clerks, managing particular duties as part of a team. They verify receipts, prepare bank deposits, send payments and monitor overdue accounts. In many cases, a Bookkeeper will also be responsible for the preparation and lodgement of Business Activity Statements (BAS).
But what do bookkeepers do regularly? If you’re looking to hire a bookkeeper, here are the things they can do to start helping you and your business succeed.
Your bookkeeper will manage all your financial transactions by entering them into the system regularly and accurately, allocating them to the correct accounts in your accounting software, and producing weekly or monthly reports that provide useful information on your business performance.
All of your business expenses need to be recorded and reconciled to any purchase orders and receipts of delivery to ensure you are getting what you paid for.
Your bookkeeper will carry out this role as well as enter any petty cash and credit card purchases into your accounting system.
They can also monitor who is spending what and identify any potential excess expenditure.
Invoicing and receipts management
A key cash flow driver of every small business is collecting money from customers.
A good bookkeeper will ensure invoices are sent promptly, follow up on late payments and manage all cash coming into the business. This role can often be the make or break of a small business.
If you employ staff, payroll can become a large task. Paying your staff can involve checking timesheets, allocating any commission payable, calculating payroll tax and superannuation, and keeping accurate employee records including their bank account details. Of course, then the payroll needs to be processed through both the accounting system and the bank account.
Having a bookkeeper will save you an enormous amount of time if your payroll is done weekly or fortnightly.
Most online accounting software packages now link directly to business bank accounts.
Your bookkeeper can download banking information directly into your accounting system and allocate payments and receipts into the system.
Reconciling the bank transactions to your accounting system is important because you need to make sure all transactions are accounted for.
Your bookkeeper should be a registered BAS Agent, which means that they can prepare your BAS in line with the ATO requirements.
They will also be able to prepare any payroll tax and superannuation records and payments.
If you have any business loans or other areas that require regular reports, they will be able to do this as well.
Finally, your bookkeeper will provide regular financial reports: profit and loss, balance sheet, budgets and cash flow forecast that will give you all the information you need to improve the financial performance of your business. They will be able to guide you on what areas need improving, and those that are performing well that can be taken to the next level.
Bookkeepers record income and outflow of money, property and other financial assets. The most important bookkeeper duty is to record and review all financial data accurately. To excel at this job, you must pay close attention to details and be very accurate when recording numerical data. Your job will also require you to be ethical and to maintain the confidentiality of a client’s financial records.
Most bookkeepers now manage financial information electronically, such as employee payroll. This might require that you master the use of spreadsheets, databases or specialised computer software. Bookkeepers also write or print financial reports. Some bookkeepers handle bank deposits, track purchasing, submit bills for a client’s accounts receivables or prepare files for federal and local taxes.
Responsibilities of a bookkeeper
Bookkeepers are responsible for providing accurate, up-to-date financial information about a business. They’re always taking the pulse of a business.
Most often, their reports go to business owners and managers to help them make decisions. Some bookkeepers, however, are actually involved in strategy development.
Bookkeepers may also share some jobs with accountants, such as the preparation of annual financial reports and tax returns.
The two foundational tasks in small business bookkeeping are data entry and bank reconciliation. Without these, all other bookkeeping tasks fall over. Let’s walk through the core duties, common additional duties, and advanced bookkeeping.
Recording financial transactions and balancing the books. Learn more.
Cross-referencing the books against bank statements and other source documents to confirm accuracy.
Summarising the business’s financial position.
Accounts receivable (and credit control)
Creating and sending invoices, and following up to get them paid. Learn more.
Making sure invoices from suppliers are accurate and paid promptly.
Calculating pay and deductions.
Preparing tax returns. Learn more.
End of year reporting
Assisting with annual profit and loss and balance sheet reports.
Creating budgets and forecasts and advising on how to improve the business.
Reviewing, researching, and implementing software solutions and internal controls to streamline the business and enhance performance.
Working with staff on best practice bookkeeping and the use of software solutions.
Providing a full-service virtual office, for example, telephones, postal address, and email communications.
Meeting with accountants, on behalf of their clients, about financials and tax queries. Acting on behalf of the client with the tax authorities.
Most employers hire bookkeepers with more education than a high school diploma. You should have completed basic accounting courses and some post-secondary math classes. However, it is possible to find a job as a bookkeeper with only a high school diploma. When you start a job as a bookkeeper, you will often receive on-the-job training that supplements your previous education. This training might include procedures and systems that your employer uses in-house. With a minimum of two years of bookkeeping experience, you can become a Certified Bookkeeper. Passing the American Institute of Professional Bookkeepers exam shows that you have mastered common knowledge and specific skills needed to perform key bookkeeping tasks.
Some people get their first bookkeeping role with a high school qualification, then learn everything else on the job. But it certainly helps to get further education. A degree isn’t required. Most bookkeeping qualifications are a diploma or certificate level.
How to Become a Bookkeeper
You’ll need some training and certification to become a professional bookkeeper. It’s also a good idea to check out local government requirements for setting up a bookkeeping business as they require you to be a registered BAS agent if you’re providing BAS and GST services.
Bookkeepers are responsible for maintaining the financial records of a business or company, monitoring transactions, updating statements and ensuring accuracy in addition to producing financial statements and other reports for management and supervisors.
Using accounting software, spreadsheets and databases, Bookkeepers record information from receipts, invoices and bills in order to generate reports and collate data. They will also often be given additional responsibilities like purchasing, payroll and invoicing, occasionally requiring them to communicate with clients.
Do numbers, databases and spreadsheets soothe you? Do precision and order fill you with satisfaction? Follow these steps and become a bookkeeper.
Step 1: Complete a certificate course.
The first step towards becoming a bookkeeper is to complete a certificate IV or higher in bookkeeping or accounting. This will teach you how to prepare reports, work with accounting programs and maintain records. It is also recommended that you complete GST and BAS units within the certificate courses in order to apply for BAS Agent registration.
A Certificate IV course provides the fundamental skills you need to start working as a bookkeeper, including:
- Establishing and maintaining payroll systems
- Administering ledgers and accounts
- Completing BAS and instalment activity statements
- Preparing financial reports
- Processing financial transactions
- Working effectively in the industry
- There are a variety of options to become certified as a bookkeeper in Australia.
Wiseclick Training offers the full Nationally Recognised Certificate IV in Accounting and Bookkeeping as six months of one day a week face to face training with completion over twelve months or with the fully flexible study at your own pace online option. See our accounting course options and other short courses here.
Step 2: Gain work experience.
Once you have obtained your Certificate IV qualification, you will have the basic skills needed to apply for bookkeeping roles, but you will be unable to perform BAS related tasks until you are more qualified. In order to legally prepare and lodge Business Activity Statements you will be required to complete 1400 hours of relevant work experience, so start knocking on doors to find a registered BAS Agent that you can learn from, either as a volunteer, intern or an entry-level bookkeeper.
Congratulations, you completed a Certificate IV! Now you are ready to gain hands-on experience in the real world, working in an accounting office or consultancy.
After completing your course, there are a few ways to put yourself forward for work experience:
- Update your CV ready to send out
- Sign with a temp agency as many temp bookkeepers end up employed full time
- As a student of WiseClick Training, you can have your resume placed on our Job Placement Register
- Use personal networks or LinkedIn to find opportunities
- Apply through job sites
- Look on the careers page of companies you might like to work for
With a Certificate IV and a friendly approach, you will surely get snapped up quickly by a great company. Once you have the experience, you can start levelling up your career by working on BAS and other tax tasks.
Step 3: Register as a BAS Agent.
Now that you can demonstrate your experience and knowledge of GST and BAS procedures, you can apply to the Tax Practitioners Board to become a registered BAS Agent. While not essential to a career as a Bookkeeper, a BAS Agent qualification will greatly improve your employment opportunities.
Many bookkeepers will be hired to keep track of finances leading to the preparation of a Business Activity Statement (BAS), the report every business needs to lodge with the Tax Office.
The good news is, a Certificate IV in Accounting and Bookkeeping makes you eligible to become a registered BAS agent. You can apply directly to the Tax Practitioners Board for registration via their website; all the information you need is via this link. Once approved you then become a Nationally Registered BAS Agent.
Becoming a registered BAS agent improves your employment opportunities and diversifies your work. However, it is not essential to becoming a bookkeeper. Registered bookkeepers looking for a new challenge often find registering as a BAS agent provides the career step-change they are seeking.
Step 4: Get your insurance.
Once you have qualified and gained registration as a BAS Agent, you will be subject to a code of professional conduct. This code enforces certain obligations, one of which is the requirement that you maintain Professional Indemnity (PI) Insurance at a specified level. This insurance indemnifies Bookkeepers from any losses incurred by their clients due to negligence or errors by a said bookkeeper.
Skills for Success
A Bookkeeper needs to be methodical and meticulous with excellent attention to detail. You will need great problem-solving skills, an analytical and ordered mind and an affinity for numbers and mathematics. Because most accounting is done these days digitally, it is recommended that a Bookkeeper have some technical ability and be comfortable with at least the basic use of computers, specifically spreadsheets and databases. Successful Bookkeepers are patient and diligent with a dedication to accuracy and precision.
Skills & Attributes
Many of the people who work as a freelance bookkeeper or operate a bookkeeping business gravitate towards the profession because they enjoy working with numbers and taking a methodical approach to their work. An analytical mind and strong problem-solving skills are a must, as are solid computer skills and the ability to adapt to new software applications and online platforms. After all, the days of ‘keeping books’ are long gone, and most of the work performed by bookkeepers is computer-based, so you’ll need to be comfortable working with spreadsheets and databases.
- Methodical work habits.
- Meticulous attention to detail.
- Numerical fluency.
- Excellent organisational skills.
- Technical ability.
- Good problem-solving skills.
Bookkeepers currently work in many industries. In 2016, the financial industry accounted for 12 percent of all bookkeepers. These jobs were mostly with tax preparation services, payroll and general accounting. The next largest segment worked in retail services, approximately 10 percent. Other industries that employed bookkeepers at less than 10 percent each were healthcare, wholesale and insurance. Bookkeepers also work independently as freelancers or as a small business.
What do you need to set up your own bookkeeping business?
To get yourself to the stage where you’re ready to start your own business, a combination of education, certification, and mastery of the work tools is a good foundation. And most clients are going to want to see that you have some experience, including an endorsement from business owners like themselves. On top of that, a desire to help others run their business well is a sound driver for starting a bookkeeping business.
You don’t need accounting qualifications, but some level of knowledge can’t hurt, especially when you’re often the messenger between the business owner and their accountant.
Job Growth Trend
The job outlook for bookkeepers shows no growth through 2026. Most new jobs are likely to result from people retiring or advancing to accounting careers. Automated technology is an important factor in decreasing opportunities for bookkeepers. The lack of growth will result in a net loss of 25,000 bookkeeper jobs by 2026.
Bookkeeping is an exciting profession that opens doors across Australia for people with a passion for order, balance, and numbers.
In businesses across the country, bookkeepers are responsible for keeping track of money coming in and going out, paying employees and bills on time, and keeping financial records up to date down to the smallest detail.
Interested in a bookkeeping course to further your career? To get started, we have compiled this handy step-by-step guide to becoming a bookkeeper in Australia.
What is the salary of a bookkeeper in Australia? The average annual salary for a bookkeeper in Australia is around $53,584, but this varies based on qualifications and experience, so this number is an indicator only from Payscale.
Bookkeepers are essential for any business. A bookkeeper provides a critical role in the data collection and data input of a business’ accounting cycle. When there is a proper system in place that avoids problems such as skimming fraud, the recorded financial data can provide valuable, actionable insight.