For small startups of 3 or less owners:
We do all bookkeeping and payroll ourselves but spend between $1,500-$2,000/year on an accountant to do end-of-year filing. I strongly feel that a good accountant is a must for anyone doing business even if you are just starting out. There are several reasons:
In my experience a great accountant will pay off much more than an average accountant. I look for the following things:
My current budget for accounting
We track expenses and income ourselves (just a couple transactions per month right now) and pay an accountant something on the order of $800 to preparer the tax paperwork.
When the tracking becomes a real diversion we will hire someone else to do it, but of course we want/need to know big picture stuff.
The tax prep and all the compliance, etc stuff is not useful for us to do and is a risk not worth taking in doing it yourself.