In filing taxes, most small-business owners prefer hiring outside accountants, citing savings in both time and money, a recent survey finds.

According to SurePayroll, a Chicago-based payroll firm, more than 90 percent of 274 small-business owners polled said they rely on accountants during tax season and spend only an average of 12 hours preparing their own returns. By contrast, the average American spends about 25 hours. Most owners said outsourcing the task helped them pay less in the long run.

Small-business owners are also showing more loyalty to their accountants, the survey found, with 94 percent turning to the same accountant as last year, up from 83 percent in 2007.

"Accountants are the small-business owners' most trusted advisors, and for good reason," SurePayroll President Michael Alter said in a statement. "Good accountants can more than make up for their fees in the tax dollars and potential fines they save them."

Alter said accountants provide their clients with a spectrum of services that benefit businesses in a variety of ways. Since the value they provide is quantifiable, it's easy to justify the added cost, he said.