The term bookkeeping means different things to different people:
- Some people think that bookkeeping is the same as accounting. They assume that keeping a company’s books and preparing its financial statements and tax reports are all part of bookkeeping. Accountants do not share their view.
- Others see bookkeeping as limited to recording transactions in journals or daybooks and then posting the amounts into accounts in ledgers. After the amounts are posted, the bookkeeping has ended and an accountant with a college degree takes over. The accountant will make adjusting entries and then prepare the financial statements and other reports.
- The past distinctions between bookkeeping and accounting have become blurred with the use of computers and accounting software. For example, a person with little bookkeeping training can use the accounting software to record vendor invoices, prepare sales invoices, etc. and the software will update the accounts in the general ledger automatically. Once the format of the financial statements has been established, the software will be able to generate the financial statements with the click of a button.
- At mid-size and larger corporations the term bookkeeping might be absent. Often corporations have accounting departments staffed with accounting clerks who process accounts payable, accounts receivable, payroll, etc. The accounting clerks will be supervised by one or more accountants.
Our explanation of bookkeeping attempts to provide you with an understanding of bookkeeping and its relationship with accounting. Our goal is to increase your knowledge and confidence in bookkeeping, accounting and business. In turn, we hope that you will become more valuable in your current and future roles.
Note: We provide a Bookkeeping Cheat Sheet, a Guide to Bookkeeping Concepts, a Bookkeeping Basics Video Seminar, a Bookkeeping Quick Test, Bookkeeping Tests for Prospective Employees, and Bookkeeping Flashcards for members of Rahming & Associates.
The electronic speed of computers and accounting software gives the appearance that many of the bookkeeping and accounting tasks have been eliminated or are occurring simultaneously. For example, the preparation of a sales invoice will automatically update the relevant general ledger accounts (Sales, Accounts Receivable, Inventory, Cost of Goods Sold), update the customer’s detailed information, and store the information for the financial statements as well as other reports.
The accounting software has been written so that every transaction must have the debit amounts equal to the credit amounts. The electronic accuracy also eliminates the errors that had occurred when amounts were manually written, rewritten and calculated. As a result, the debits will always equal the credits and the trial balance will always be in balance. No longer will hours be spent looking for errors that occurred in a manual system.