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What are the Differences Between a BOOKKEEPER, ACCOUNTANT, CPA, and a CFO?

A bookkeeper generally has more financial administrative tasks such as recording daily transactions, ensuring bills are paid, and invoicing clients or customers. They may also reconcile several financial accounts to ensure their accuracy. Overall, the duties are more routine in nature yet can be critical in maintaining accurate financial information and support daily operations.

An accountant typically can perform or oversee the functions of a bookkeeper. They can reconcile more complex accounts and monitor the financial books. Additionally, an accountant may also be responsible for the monthly and annual year end closings as well as create, review, and analyze financial reports.

Not all accountants are Certified Public Accountants (“CPA’s”) but all CPA’s are accountants. To become a CPA, candidates must attain a minimum of a Bachelor’s degree (in the past decade the minimum requirement have increased to a Masters degree) majoring in Accounting, pass the rigorous CPA exam, and achieve a minimum of experience hours working in Public Accounting.

Chief Financial Officer “CFO” - where an accountant and bookkeeper typically concentrates on historical data, a CFO would focus more on the future. CFO’s are more centered around strategy and can help determine how financial information interrelate and affect the business. They can also help a company with planning, resource allocation, and risk management. CFO’s are viewed as an important partner at the “C-suite” table.

It is important to note that in smaller businesses, an accountant and/or bookkeeper may have many overlapping duties or function as one person. Additionally, some CFO’s (depending on the their financial or accounting background) may assume all three roles determined by the needs and size of a business.

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