Bookkeepers, accountants and auditors: the difference explained

Last modified:

Thursday 31 October 2019

Every self-employed professional or entrepreneur has to keep accounts. For some, it is a pleasant activity, for others a necessary evil. If you belong to the latter category, you can rely on the assistance of a financial professional. But who should you contact? Here is an overview.

The usefulness of an expert

Sole proprietorship, companies, self-employed professionals in main or secondary occupation, VAT-liable or not: whatever your situation, your accounting must be in order year after year. In addition to ensuring that you are prepared for a possible audit, it also shows you how much profit you make, which activities generate the most revenue and what your biggest expenses are.

Good to know: your bookkeeper’s invoices constitute a deductible professional cost.

Bookkeeper or accountant

Bookkeepers and accountants are financial professionals who will provide you with accounting services and business advice. Both terms are often used interchangeably but don’t call an accountant a bookkeeper.

The difference

A bookkeeper has primarily an executive job. He or she records transactions into your books, prepares your balance sheet and/or annual accounts, while respecting a code of ethics based on independence, honesty, professional liability and professional secrecy. In addition, a bookkeeper may also fill in your tax return.

Accountants, on the other hand, mainly have a controlling job. They check the annual accounts compiled by the bookkeepers and generally have a broader knowledge of taxation. In other words, if an accountant is allowed to carry out all the activities of a bookkeeper, the opposite is not true.

Company auditor

Company auditors are impartial experts who check a company’s accounts. Even though companies that meet the statutory criteria are legally obliged to submit to these checks, you can seek the expertise of a company auditor on a voluntary basis. By vouching for the reliability of a company’s annual accounts, the auditor provides an accurate report on its assets, financial situation and results.

Good to know: only consult an accredited professional who is affiliated with a professional institute: the Professional Institute of Certified Bookkeepers and Tax Consultants (BIBF) for bookkeepers, the Institute of Accountants and Tax advisors (IEC/IAB) and the Institute of Registered Auditors IRE/IBR. This assures you that your financial expert is properly certified and trained. Moreover, he or she is insured if something ever goes wrong.


If you prefer to leave your accounting to a financial expert, you should start by deciding which type of expert you need. Make an appointment with several accredited professionals – the first call is usually free - and then choose the best option. You will realise that more than just complying with accounting and legal obligations, an expert can help you optimise your income so that you pay fewer taxes.

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