A Bookkeeper, BAS Agent & Accountant walk into a bar …………

Just jokes, we all know us number junkies don't get off on that sort of frivolity !!!

But what is the difference between the three roles and which ones do you need to have alongside you in business?

A Bookkeeper or BAS Agent accumulates, organises and records the transaction information of the business and files or stores the information in a way so that it is able to be easily retrieved and verified if need be.

The basic tasks of a Bookkeeper & BAS Agent cross over with activities such as recording (posting) transactions, posting journals processing payroll, preparing and sending invoices, paying bills, recording payments, reconciling banks accounts, preparing internal reports and perhaps financial reports for the manager or owner. Bookkeepers make sure the figures required by the accountant are complete and accurate and are made available for the preparation of statutory financial reports and tax returns etc.

To charge for services as a Bookkeeper, a person is required to have a minimum Certificate IV in Accounting or Bookkeeping. If your Bookkeeper doesn’t have any qualifications, I wouldn’t be letting them near my books, and neither should you. Since Bookkeepers are not registered with the Tax Practitioners Board (TPB) as a BAS Agent they cannot complete any BAS Services as detailed below.

The TPB defines BAS Services with long winded legal explanations, but below is what you need to know.:

- Any work that involves interpreting GST, Wine Tax or Fuel Tax

- Super payments through a clearing house or any Super Guarantee shortfall calculations

- Sending employees Tax file numbers to the commissioner

- Applying to the Register for an Australian Business Number, on behalf of a client

Bookkeepers can’t do any of the above items, but a BAS Agent can. Which is great if you’re a small sole trader with no payroll. You probably don’t need a BAS Agent, and if that’s the case you should expect to pay less for their services.

A BAS Agent is the next step up from a Bookkeeper and is bound by the registration requirements of the TPB. Adhering to the below gives confidence to the TPB and the ATO that the BAS Agent is performing their duties to the required level, has the required qualifications & experience, and is covered by an appropriate level of insurance.

The requirements to become a BAS Agent are:

- The person must be “fit and proper”

- Have a minimum qualification of Certificate IV in Bookkeeping or Accounting

- Must demonstrate 1400 hours of “relevant experience” in the past four years

- Must comply with the Code of Professional Conduct

- Must hold Professional Indemnity (P.I.) insurance to a specified level

- Undertake ongoing Continuing Professional Education (CPE) of 45 Hours every three years

Accountants are up to date with the latest tax laws and provide advice on how to best manage a business’s tax affairs. They also assist owners with advice on business structures and offer support with preparing budgets & cash flow forecasts. Although in recent years most good BAS Agents are offering reporting, cash flow & other CFO services since they are already ingrained in the business’ financials on a weekly basis and able to work closely with business owners to improve their metrics. If your lucky enough you may actually find a BAS Agent that is a qualified Accountant or even better, a CPA.

An accountant is dependent on the accuracy of the information provided by the bookkeeper/BAS Agent so it is essential that they are suitably qualified and experienced and maintains regular communication with your accountant and ensure that the bookkeeping is being completed to the accountant’s satisfaction.

In summary; you need a Bookkeeper to ensure your records are maintained accurately and that you are recording transactions in a compliant manner. If you’re registered for GST, WET tax, Fuel Tax Credits or employ staff, then you need a BAS Agent instead. You will also need a good Accountant to assist you at tax time and for those pivotal moments in your business. Most BAS Agents can recommend a great Accountant and most Accountants will be able to recommend a great Bookkeeper/BAS Agent.

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