Over half of small business owners say that their accountants are the first point of call for business advice, according to a survey by accounting software giant, Sage.

The survey showed that 52{0a6a65c996ed4169444354e707b897cdb00dbefc1d0429e8febb9bf11027ba53} of SMEs turn to their accountant for business advice first, up from 49{0a6a65c996ed4169444354e707b897cdb00dbefc1d0429e8febb9bf11027ba53} in 2013.  It also shows the vast majority of small businesses (95{0a6a65c996ed4169444354e707b897cdb00dbefc1d0429e8febb9bf11027ba53}) rate advice from their accountant higher than that received from HMRC or Companies House.

The Sage Pulse Survey is an annual study to understand the most important issues affecting the accountancy profession.  The 2013 survey questioned 400 accountants in practice and 508 senior decision makers at SME businesses.

The study revealed a growing demand from clients to interact with their accountants online.  50{0a6a65c996ed4169444354e707b897cdb00dbefc1d0429e8febb9bf11027ba53} of businesses surveyed said they would like to share data online with their accountant – yet 73{0a6a65c996ed4169444354e707b897cdb00dbefc1d0429e8febb9bf11027ba53} of accountants in practice still operate offline from desktop software.

Accountants also need to be more aware of the services their clients’ value said the survey.  SMEs believe the most valuable services their accountants offer are managing and filing accounts (69{0a6a65c996ed4169444354e707b897cdb00dbefc1d0429e8febb9bf11027ba53}), followed by minimising tax liabilities (66{0a6a65c996ed4169444354e707b897cdb00dbefc1d0429e8febb9bf11027ba53}).  In comparison just 12{0a6a65c996ed4169444354e707b897cdb00dbefc1d0429e8febb9bf11027ba53} of accountants think that managing accounts and 34{0a6a65c996ed4169444354e707b897cdb00dbefc1d0429e8febb9bf11027ba53} think that minimising tax liabilities are their most valued services.  In addition, around a quarter (27{0a6a65c996ed4169444354e707b897cdb00dbefc1d0429e8febb9bf11027ba53}) of SME businesses said that more frequent contact by phone and email would improve their relationship with their accountants.

“The Sage Pulse Survey is good news for the accountancy profession,” said James Burgoyne, Director, Brunel Professional Risks.  “It shows that trust in accountants is increasing and that many small business owners now view the relationship with their accountant as a partnership.  There are also a number of pointers for accountants in taking their business forward – with greater demand for online services and more regular contact.  These are positive trends, but accountants must be aware that changing practice can introduce new risks into their businesses and must ensure that their risk management procedures keep up.”

Further details of the Sage Pulse Survey have been published in Accountancy Age.