Differences Between a Bookkeeper, an Accountant and a Financial Planner

When it comes to managing your finances, there are three professions that can help you understand your numbers, and ensure you have a plan to get to where you want to be. Bookkeepers, accountants and financial planners can all play an important role in your financial success, but there are some important differences between them.

For any successful business, it’s advisable to have a bookkeeper,  an accountant and a financial planner because their skills are so complementary and they can work together to help you better meet your financial goals.

There are areas where they are similar, of course. They all can help determine if your financial plans are feasible and can provide you with important strategies for managing your money. And while they can all advise you, neither can make decisions for you.

Here are the main differences between bookkeepers, accountants and financial planners.


Your bookkeeper is responsible for keeping accurate financial records, completing payroll, managing and maintaining the software and organising all of the bits of paper. They may also assist you with reporting and financial forecasting depending on their skill level.

They will also ensure your business is compliant with Superannuation, Work cover, Payroll Tax and tax liabilities like your Business Activity Statement and Taxable Payments Annual Report. Additionally they are usually experts in how best to setup and run your software and what other software you can add on to streamline and simplify your processes and procedures.

Bookkeepers can assist you to

  • Keep better organised and more accurate records
  • Reduce your administration time allowing you to work on your business
  • Lower your stress levels


Your accountant is responsible for making summaries and undertaking analyses of your financial transactions. Depending on their role or speciality, they may also undertake auditing, inventory accounting and financial forecasting.

They’ll also help ensure your business is compliant with tax regulations and may advise you on important financial issues related to your business, such as decreasing costs, setting prices or wages, managing expenses and budgeting. Additionally, they can help you determine the best way to set up your business, how to increase your returns after tax, and how to grow your business.

Further areas accountants can help you include

  • Lowering your tax burden
  • Preparing business plans
  • Forensic accounting
  • Selling, buying or merging a business.

Financial planners

Financial planners advise you on your wealth management. Typically, they are specialists in areas such as tax planning, managing your portfolio or retirement planning. They may also advise you on solving your debt or building your long-term wealth.

People who have specific financial goals in mind can turn to a financial planner to develop the best path forward to achieve those goals and improve their financial wellbeing.

Specifically, financial planners can help you with

  • Philanthropic strategies
  • Retirement planning
  • Investing
  • Estate planning
  • Budgeting
  • Inheritance tax planning
  • Cash flow modelling
  • Portfolio construction.

Who to hire and when

If you run a business, it’s a good idea to have a bookkeeper,  an accountant and a financial planner on your team. They will help set you up for success, lessen your risks and develop strategies to enable you to thrive financially. Often, one will know of good expert in the other fields to bring onto your team, and vice versa.

If you feel you can only hire one, that one will be based on your specific needs. If you’re working towards long-term wealth or other financial goals, considering investing, or concerned about setting up your estate, talk to a financial planner. If your needs have more to do with running a business, or dealing with your taxes, an accountant will help you. If your focus is daily transactional financial activities and management of all of the software and bits of paper then a bookkeeper is the one for you.

Develop relationships with both

In an ideal situation, you’d have a bookkeeper,  an accountant and a financial planner on your team. Keep in mind that for them to help you to their best abilities, they need to get to know you, your plans and your challenges. By developing a solid relationship with them and being open and transparent about your financial situation and any issues you face you can better enable them to help guide you toward success.

Final thoughts

Another way of looking at things is a financial planner is mapping out your journey, a bookkeeper is monitoring your progress, like looking out the windscreen and an accountant is analysing where you’ve been, like looking in the rear view mirror.  All roles are important just different, while still being connected to the best outcomes for your business. Whether you’re planning for your business or for your personal finances, it’s a good idea to have someone around who can give you expert advice and advise you on the best financial path forward.

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