Online bookkeeping vs. real life accountant: this is what you need to know

Written by Chayah Monteban
DIY-tools are relatively cheap and equipped with useful features to keep your bookkeeping up to date. So what’s the added value of an accountant?

Whether or not running a business is second nature to you, for many of us bookkeeping is a necessary evil. And… a legal obligation even. Fortunately online tools are able to help you and provide structure to your bookkeeping so you can keep track of things without fumbling with Excel and lost receipts. These DIY-tools are relatively cheap and equipped with useful features to keep your bookkeeping up to date. So what’s the added value of an accountant?

Robot vs. Man in glasses

To put it briefly, the difference between a DIY-tool and an accountant is this: a tool provides structure to your figures and an accountant interprets and processes your figures to submit a correct tax declaration. Most bookkeeping tools have features like: sending invoices and processing receipts, a link to your bank and a feature to keep track of your hours. A financial overview and the calculation for your VAT returns are provided. The system depends on the figures you put in and doesn’t check if they’re correct. An accountant will monitor you, correct when necessary, interpret figures, write appeals, draw up your financial statements and your profit and loss account, give advice and also do your tax declaration.

Doing it yourself? Knowing your stuff is key

When you’re blessed with some accounting knowledge then you’re able to categorize your costs correct and you understand the VAT rules and know how to apply them, like for instance the ‘kleine-ondernemersregeling’, small businesses scheme (KOR). You’re also familiar with the rules and laws you have to apply to submit your tax declaration, like for instance zelfstandigenaftrek (self employed deduction), privéonttrekking (private withdrawel) and kleinschaligheidsinvesteringsaftrek (small scale investment deduction). You know how to make the correct journal entries in no time. And if you’re gifted enough to even draw up your own profit and loss account and financial statements? Well congrats then, you can totally pass for an accountant!
Do all the terms mentioned here give you sweaty palms? Then you’ll probably hire and accountant after all, just like about 75% of the DIY-tool users do.

Time is money

Ok, suppose you’ve chosen to cut down on bookkeeping expenses by subscribing to a DIY-tool. Then do a calculation of your hourly rate multiplied by the hours you monthly spend on bookkeeping. That figure can motivate you to either skill yourself to become a better bookkeeper or to hire an accountant.

Also consider this

Ask yourself if you are disciplined and punctual enough and capable to track down mistakes and resolve them? Also keep in mind that while your business is growing, the complexity of your account will also grow. Consider if the time you put in doing your own accounting still outweighs the costs you wanted to cut.


Maybe this metaphor will illustrate the difference between an accountant and a DIY-system best. Suppose you have a wall in your home that needs to be plastered. You can either do it yourself or hire a plasterer. If you’re not skilled in plastering and you want to do the job yourself, you’ll need to learn the craft. Who knows, you might have a talent for it. Or maybe you’ll just get frustrated. And you can ask yourself if the wall will be done as neatly as you wanted it to be or if you’ll need to get a professional plasterer after all. The job will take up your time, energy and might cost you more than you expected. To summarize, an accountant will take work off your hands and will let you do what you do best.

Written by: Chayah Monteban
Translation by: Renée ter Berg