Bookkeeping stems from the recording of financial transactions and the accounting term for a business accounts as books. In effect the accounting function prepares a record of the monetary affairs of a business and stores the information in files called books. Hence the term bookkeeping often misspelled as book keeping which is the function of a librarian not that of a bookkeeper.
The difference between bookkeeping services and accounting may be unclear to the uninitiated while both are of vital importance to financial success. Bookkeeping is an important part of the accounting function and is essentially the record keeping of the financial transactions. Accounting is while incorporating the record keeping also includes the presentation, interpretation and financial control functions including interpretation of the numbers for the financial health of a business of which taxation can play a major part.
The financial affairs of a business involve many aspects and start with the recording of what is termed the prime documents. The task of a bookkeeping service is to record the prime documents, those prime documents being the sales, purchases and cash/bank transactions. All small businesses do bookkeeping and the most successful use the bookkeeping records as a basis for an accounting function to generate a more efficient financial service.
All business involves buying or selling something and the consequent function of receiving or paying money to the value of those transactions. Recording these transactions in larger business organisations is done by accounts clerks who work under the supervision of the accountant.
Invariably medium and larger businesses use a double entry system for recording transactions. Double entry accounting evolves from the fact that every transaction as a double effect on the business of which these are prime examples.
A sale is made creating a record of income for the business on which the business is taxed and the other side of the financial transaction, the double entry, is the organisation who was sold the goods now owes the value of that sales invoice to the business. That is the double entry, record the sales income and also record the debt due from the customer.
Someone who owes the business a debt is called a debtor.
A purchase is made creating a record of expense for the business which can be deducted from income and lowers taxes and the other side of the financial transaction, the double entry, is the organisation who supplied the purchase on credit is now owed the money. That is the double entry, record the purchase and also record the credit due to the supplier.
Someone who has supplied goods on credit is called a creditor.
The third type of prime transaction is the transfer of money between the debtors and creditors and the business.
When a debtor pays his sales invoice the double entry is to add that amount of money to the business financial records and the opposite double entry goes to the debtor account to reduce the amount owed to the business since it has now received the cash.
When a creditor is paid the amount owed the money is recorded as reducing the cash resources of the business by for example deducting the money from the bank balance and the double entry reduces the amount the business now owes to the creditor account since it has reduced the credit received.
The bookkeeping function is to record these prime transactions. Since every financial transaction has an equal and opposite entry in the books there has to be a mathematical check that both sides of the transactions add up to zero. This check process is called a trial balance where both sides of the entries should be in agreement and normally the point at which the bookkeeping service is deemed to be complete.
Double entry bookkeeping is required for all businesses that require to produce a statement of its assets and liabilities. This statement of assets and liabilities is the total of all the balances from the trial balance and is called a balance sheet.
Many small businesses do not require a balance sheet. In the UK the production of a balance sheet is optional for every self employed business as it is not an obligatory requirement of the self assessment tax return form. A self employed bookkeeping system is not required to produce a balance sheet because the business effectively belongs to the owner and is that owners personal business.
Limited companies must produce a balance sheet under various financial acts and submit the balance sheet to both Companies House and the tax authority each year. The different rules applying to a limited company is because the accounts including the balance sheet are public records available to the members of that company and not necessarily the property of a single individual or partnership.
The self employed bookkeeping system can be simpler being produced from a single entry style of bookkeeping rather than double entry. Single entry bookkeeping makes a single entry for each financial transaction which is sufficient to produce an income and expenditure account, a profit and loss account, but does not make the reciprocal entry that establishes the value of the assets and liabilities.
Single entry can be as simple as making a list of the sales income and the purchase expenses. Such a bookkeeping system is valuable to the smaller business as it requires little or no bookkeeping or accounting knowledge. A smaller business can produce its own accounts without the need for a bookkeeper or accountant particularly if it has access to bookkeeping templates through bookkeeping software to produce the accounts in the accounting format required.