SMEs miss out on accountancy advice

Small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) are placing more trust that ever before in their accountants, but fail to use them to full effect, according to research by software and services provider Sage.

Its latest Pulse survey of more than 500 SMEs shows that accountants are now the first port of call for 52% of businesses, up from 49% in 2011, and have replaced banks (2%), the internet (20%) and family and friends (5%) as the UK's most trusted source of small business advice. However, just under 40% of those polled admit they could be getting more value from the relationship.

Sage's research shows over three quarters (78%) of small business have had to cut costs over the past 12 months to protect their business, while ensuring resilience (63%) and cash flow (57%) are identified as the most pressing challenges.

However, according to the survey, SMEs are most likely to ask their accountant for help with purely functional compliance tasks, such as managing and filing accounts (93%), and minimising tax liabilities (60%). Just one fifth of business owners (20%) use their accountant for advice and business planning, and only 5% call on them for services such as HR advice.

Paul Tooth, managing director, Sage accountants division, said: 'The UK accountancy profession is now ideally positioned to be an integral partner to UK small businesses, but it is surprising that so few are taking advantage of the full extent of services available beyond basic book keeping.'

The research suggested that business owners who had a strong working relationship with their accountants were more optimistic about their prospects for growth in 2013. These respondents viewed the relationship with their accountant as a partnership (35%) rather than a consultant/client (49%), or purely transactional relationship (16%).

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