We’ve been conditioned for many years to think that everyone who even thinks about recording financial transactions is a bookkeeper. And it is probably fair to accept that.
What it doesn’t do of course, is recognise the full breadth of skill sets and knowledge between very basic bookkeeper and highly valuable one. This question has been the beating heart of every troubled business and every successful business for years.
And what does it mean for the average business owner?
Well, it could mean a lot. And of course for some, it could mean not a lot. So let’s break it down.
When the GST was introduced some 20 years ago, the Australian Tax Office discovered that there were any number of accountants and bookkeepers who simply lacked the knowledge and the time to work closely with and properly help their clients meet their obligations to report and pay the GST, and other regular tax related requirements. Or to correctly manage their payroll needs.
The industry also saw a need for a framework for Professional Bookkeepers to fill this role and to be professionally recognised at every level.
As a result, bookkeeping associations were established, legislation was enacted, and the Tax Practitioners Board was established to add oversight to registered Tax Professionals (tax agents and BAS agents).
This meant two things which impacted not only business, accountants and bookkeepers, but also the Australian Tax Office itself.
Firstly, it meant that only properly registered Tax Professionals were authorised to accept a fee in return for the level of tax compliance and lodgement services for which they were registered. This requirement does not impact salaried employees, whose work continues to remain the responsibility of their employer. Nor does it impact unregistered accountants and bookkeepers who can continue to ply their trade provided they are properly supervised by a registered Tax Professional.
Secondly, it requires all registered Tax Professionals to hold appropriate qualifications and also requires them to maintain a high standard of Continuing Professional Education.
So the landscape has changed. And we need to clearly define Professional Bookkeepers as distinct from “just a bookkeeper”.
Professional Bookkeeper: a quick definition.
- A Professional Bookkeeper is verifiably experienced in a wide range of business matters.
- A Professional Bookkeeper has an ongoing commitment to education, learning and development of skills through a Continuing Professional Education program.
- A Professional Bookkeeper is endorsed as a member of a professional body which is committed to requiring that members act with honesty and integrity, and act the best interests of their clients or employers.
- A Professional Bookkeeper in practice (works for numerous clients in a fee for service role) is a Tax Professional (registered BAS agent) and is also held accountable for the Tax Practitioners Board.
- A Professional Bookkeeper knows more than you would think.
So yes, it does make a difference.
Small Business owners in particular will be only too aware of the massive role played by Professional Bookkeepers throughout 2020 and into 2021 as they came to grips with everything related to the Covid-19 crisis. Professional Bookkeepers did more than simply record transactions. Many worked closely with business owners to help them hold it together.
Who would you prefer as your business partner as you chase success?