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What are the fundamental functions of a bookkeeper?

What are the fundamental functions of a bookkeeper?

This article has been adapted for South Africa - article source.

Bookkeepers keep financial records for small businesses or companies. Unlike accountants, they are employed by one company and perform most or all of the financial bookkeeping for the business. They must stay informed of employee work hours, sales, expenditures, payments and billable hours to ensure that the financial ledgers are accurate and the company is profitable. Although the job duties of a bookkeeper can vary from company to company, most are responsible for similar fundamental accounting tasks.

Accounts receivable

Bookkeepers post or keep records of credits paid to or owed to the company. This is sometimes referred to as accounts receivable. They prepare invoices or statements for customers so that bills can be paid and funds collected. When necessary, they keep track of overdue notices and send payment reminders. They may also be responsible for contacting customers to collect funds owed.

Additionally, bookkeepers prepare bank deposits by verifying and balancing receipts, tracking and counting cash drawers and checking sales records. They also deposit money or send forms of payment to the bank, cash cheques and rectify credit card transactions. As they record balances of incoming funds, bookkeepers must carefully monitor and check balances. Because financial or bookkeeping software is often used to keep track of funds, bookkeepers must have knowledge of computers and specialised accounting software, spreadsheets and databases.

Accounts payable

Bookkeepers are also responsible for keeping track of debits or funds leaving the company - also known as accounts payable. They also make purchases, pay bills owed to vendors or send payment for other items needed to run a business. As they debit money from the business accounts, bookkeepers must update records to reflect the transactions. They keep electronic balance sheets to monitor the company's cash flow and profit.


Bookkeepers are often responsible for the payroll functions of a business. They may calculate employee salaries or hours, determine paycheck amounts, keep tax withholding records and issue paychecks or send information to a contracted payroll company. They keep records of payments made to employees and use them to reconcile business statements and keep track of business expenses.

Other tasks

Bookkeepers often develop a skill set and specialised knowledge particular to the company for which they are employed. They may utilise specialised coding procedures to maintain records of debits and credits, create unique functions in computer programs to meet the accounting needs of the business, and develop or adjust procedures for keeping track of finances.

Bookkeepers have to stay informed inside the business to ensure that all money is accounted for. They must create or use systems for communicating with employees to track expenses or payments. In many businesses, bookkeepers are also responsible for making sure that taxes are paid to local, federal and state governments. They must submit tax documents to the appropriate offices, ensure that employees have proper documentation and identification on file, and calculate estimated taxes when necessary.

Want to become a bookkeeper? Check out the courses that the ICB has to offer.

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