When your average Jane or Joe hears the term bookkeeping, they may only imagine a bespectacled accountant scribbling complex mathematical formulas amid piles of bills, receipts, and checks. But it’s actually easy to understand what bookkeeping is all about.
Bookkeeping is a subfield of accounting, which deals with the processing and interpretation of all types of financial information. Bookkeeping is the ongoing recording of a business’ daily transactions and does not deal with auditing, taxes, or other types of accounting. However, the reports bookkeepers generate are the foundation for all other accounting activities, and help accountants and managers do their jobs.
It’s one of the few services that no company can go without. Bookkeepers issue bills to customers, record receipts from clients, verify invoices from suppliers, monitor accounts, process employee pay, create financial reports, rectify accounting errors, and complete many other important tasks that keep a business running smoothly.
There is a basic division within the field between single-entry and double-entry bookkeeping systems. In single-entry systems, each transaction is recorded with one entry in a journal or log. Single-entry systems are sometimes adequate for small, simple businesses, but they have a number of limitations and disadvantages.
In double-entry systems, each financial event is recorded using two corresponding entries called a debit and a credit. For each transaction (or other financial event), you debit one account and credit another account. Each debit always equals the corresponding credit. You choose which accounts to credit/debit according to the accounting equation, which states that Equity = Assets – Liabilities, but don’t worry about the details of how this works for now. If you follow this rule and enter your debits/credits properly, the sum of debits for all accounts will always equal the corresponding sum of credits for all accounts. If not, then you know something has gone wrong. This allows for easy error-checking, and that’s the main reason double-entry systems are far more popular.
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