Every bookkeeper encounters messy books.  It’s part and parcel of bookkeeping.  Usually, the books are messy because business owners or their families are trying to help.

As I keep saying, (shameless plug) simply being able to run QuickBooks does not mean that someone is a bookkeeper or an accountant.  This is a specialized field – and hiring a bookkeeper will save you time and money.

Moving on – sometimes the books are messy after a CPA or professional bookkeeper has been working on them. It’s often tempting to assume that the prior bookkeeper didn’t know what they were doing.  I, personally, try to avoid that judgement.  I may wonder why things were done a certain way, but I never assume that the prior accountant was incompetent.

Often the business owner is slow to respond to requests for information about the transactions in their books, which makes it much harder to keep the books the way we like them kept. And sometimes, after talking with the business owner very in depth, we discover that the owner needs the books for non-tax purposes, so the books are kept as financial or managerial accounting, which means that looking from a strictly tax perspective, things might not look right.

Non deductible expenses on the P&L? Dues and Subscriptions classed as Office Expenses or Computer Expenses?  Those really don’t matter.  They do not affect taxable income.  (Meals and Entertainment is the exception, they do need to be classified correctly.)  They do affect how the business owner reads the reports, and are often classified with the client’s input.

We spend quite a bit of time talking to our clients about their previous bookkeepers.  What did they like about them?  What were some of their frustrations?  In the course of these discussions, we learn the best way to customize bookkeeping for that client. What specific information are they looking for?  Are the simply looking to be compliant at the end of the year, or are they interested in utilizing their bookkeeping to make business decisions throughout the year?

We try not to say anything about other bookkeeper’s books, unless we see signs of fraud or theft.  (It is nearly impossible for Bookkeeping Made Simple’s staff to commit fraud on your books, as we have no access to your funds.)  In that case, we are legally obligated to reveal it.  But over-complicating your books isn’t fraud, or even incompetence.  It’s simply a different style.

Messy books aren’t a problem for Bookkeeping Made Simple.  We can take care of that.

Donna Harris holds a BSci in Accounting and is the owner of Bookkeeping Made Simple. She is currently pursuing her MBA and expects to complete that in June, 2022.

Donna Harris

Donna Harris


Donna Harris, BSci Accounting, MBA, founded Bookkeeping Made Simple with the understanding that small businesses is the heart of the American economy. After offering to do books for a friend who said he didn't have enough work to keep someone in the office 20 hours a week, she recognized the need for an efficient, online system. She has 20 years of bookkeeping and accounting experience and is excited to help small business owners achieve their goals. She enjoys spending time with her family and traveling whenever possible. She also loves reading, hiking, camping, cooking, yoga, and fitness.  A huge believer in lifelong education, she is currently working on her master's in Accounting.