The tasks a bookkeeper needs to do may be highly specific or they may be extremely varied. A bookkeeper’s day-to-day tasks will depend on if he is working for a tiny start up or a major global company. For instance at the very basic level the bookkeeper will need to log all incoming and outgoing transactions (together with the ‘evidence’ – the paper trail of receipts, invoices and other material). She may also need to create the system itself if the company is just starting out and/or prepare VAT returns or sales tax information. In such a business, the bookkeeper will most likely be required to do a wide range of differing tasks. However if the role of the bookkeeper is to work with a large number of peers in a huge company he may be needed to focus on one specific area and become an expert in that. In a nutshell the role of the bookkeeper is to organise and produce information essential to the financially healthy running of the business.
The tasks of the bookkeeper include things which are done daily, monthly as well as quarterly and annually. Daily tasks involve checking the petty cash, logging and preparing invoices (plus storing these in a paper or a digital and secure filing system), paying bills and raising purchase orders as well as updating the payroll information. The data should be recorded using either computing software (such as Accountz.com, MYOB or QuickBooks) or some other format. Some companies use spreadsheets to log the data. In a few cases the information is recorded in journals – literally written down in specially ruled books. However you do the books you need to be accurate and diligent in keeping up with the daily tasks. Some bookkeepers use a checklist so that at each day, month, quarter and year end they have fulfilled their requirements.
Depending on the company requirements monthly duties could involve an analysis of the month’s overall profit and loss standing as well as double checking the figures ready for the quarterly tasks which may involve the quarterly sales tax payments or income payments. At least once a month the bookkeeper would need to oversee the invoices – are they all paid? Do reminders need to go out?
At the year end the task of the bookkeeper will be to complete the year’s trading figures ready to send on to the accountant for her information. The bookkeeper may also need to conduct stock reviews especially at the year end in order to account for the expenditure of the company and so that the value of goods that remains within the business can be verified. The bookkeeper would also need to monitor and log fixed assets and work out the cost of goods sold at the year end so that money is allocated to expenses according to the reality of the business and expenditure is spread realistically over the life of the company.
The tasks of the bookkeeper are vital in that he will be the one who logs exactly what’s happening with the cash flow, any trends in the sales or the losses and the exact status of the bank account (crucial as if the business owner is not wholly aware of what is happening there then the company can run into trouble overnight). Any bookkeeper tasked with maintaining up to date cash flow records will need access to the company bank and or credit card accounts in order to carry out bank reconciliations. This involves marking off what incomings and outgoings are logged with the bank or credit card. Typically bank account statements lag behind real time. This is where the good bookkeeper comes into her own; she will know exactly what cash is available and when.
One very important task of the bookkeeper is to keep a track of unpaid bills and invoices. For instance without the bookkeeper keeping a true account of the monies flowing into and out of the business it’s all too easy to spend cash that’s not there. If someone has been late paying their invoice the bookkeeper may be tasked with contacting the person to find out how the money will be paid. In future the bookkeeper may be asked to work out with the customer a payment plan to avoid late payments being made in the future.
Bookkeepers also work on paying the bills. These should be paid on time and double checked that you are not over or underpaying the amount. In this way the bookkeeper safeguards the good name and the good will of the company which can make the difference between surviving or sinking in difficult trading times.
At all times the bookkeeper is tasked with being accurate and honest. He or she will need to check the figures and report precisely what is going on in the company. They would need to let management know about any irregularities. Without a clear and comprehensible picture of the business trade and how it is progressing it will not be obvious if the company is making a profit. Without a profit the business will not be viable. The bookkeeper in many ways is the heart of the business and should be respected and supported for the work that they do.
The bookkeeper also needs to be able to hand over good, clear records of the life of the business to the accountant as and when so that they can work on the financial statements for the business. It may be that external auditors double check the ongoings within the company. The bookkeeper may also be tasked with creating the paperwork for them.
In conclusion the tasks of the bookkeeper will vary depending on the nature of the business and the level of expertise of the bookkeeper. In all cases the bookkeeper will need to have the same qualities of attention to detail, ability to deal with complexity and to be thorough and discrete with sensitive data.