• FreeAgent research shows more than half of contractors and micro-business owners think their accountants mostly help them with preparing tax returns
  • Just a fifth of respondents said that providing pro-active tax advice was the thing that accountants helped them most with
  • 55% of people surveyed said that they thought their accountant charged a fair fee, while 28% felt their accountant charged too much.

UK contractors and micro-businesses are currently more likely to view their accountants as service providers who primarily help prepare their tax returns rather than trusted, expert tax advisors, according to new research from award-winning cloud accounting software company FreeAgent.

In a survey of more than 700 contractors, freelancers and micro-businesses, commissioned by FreeAgent and carried out by OnePoll, more than half (55%) of respondents who used the services of an accountant said that they thought the main thing that they did for them was preparing, reviewing and filing their tax returns.

In contrast, just over a fifth (21%) said they thought the main thing their accountant did for them was providing pro-active advice on their business finances and tax liabilities, while 19% said it was calculating how much their business owed. Just 2% of respondents said that they believed their accountant helped them most with highlighting their bookkeeping mistakes.

The research from FreeAgent – whose software is designed for accountants who work with contractors, freelancers and micro-businesses – also revealed that many micro-business owners appear to be satisfied with the value they receive from their accountants, with more than half (55%) saying that they felt their accountant charged them “a fair fee”. In addition, 13% said that they thought their accountant was great value for money, although more than a quarter (28%) of respondents said that they thought their accountants charged them too much.

Ed Molyneux, CEO and co-founder of FreeAgent, said: “It’s interesting to see that many micro-business owners still primarily view their accountant as the person who will help them prepare and file their tax returns, rather than the expert that will help them better understand their tax bills.”

“However, with the government’s Making Tax Digital proposals due to come into effect in the coming years and the subsequent change to businesses needing to provide quarterly updates to HMRC, I believe that we will see a shift in the accountant/client relationship. As traditional tax returns get replaced – and reporting becomes easier than ever through technology – the accountants’ role is likely to need to shift up the value chain, towards providing clients with more pro-active advice.”

“As bookkeeping and tax filing continues to be commoditised, accountants can become trusted advisors to their loyal businesses – taking a closer, more proactive examination of underlying business goals and helping clients realise them. That, in turn, should see more clients viewing the service their accountant provides as being great value for money.”

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