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Is Our tax file actually the property of the client?

Can a new agent ask for our tax file on the basis that its the clients property. My initial reaction is take a running jump (or take all the papers out and send them just the file :)).

Obviously they can have copies of tax returns, permanent notes etc etc.

Anyone had experience of this?

Thanks

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20th Apr 2012 09:10

I thought not

I thought our working papers were our property, but any records provided by the client were the clients and should be returned.

Personally, I would give as much as possible to help the new accountant, and I didn't think there was a legal obligation to hand all your working papers over ... but I may be wrong!

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Per the CIOT it's complicated

Whilst you may not be a member, it's useful guidance.  See Section 13 of the CIOT's Professional Rules and Practice Guidelines.

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20th Apr 2012 12:05

Same initial reaction here

Had a similar request for all working papers and my initial reaction was "No Way!".I checked with ICAEW in case ethical guidance had changed. They confirmed that only the clients own records and documentation belonged to them and particularly advised against passing over working papers and files. They pointed out that PI insurers would probably not be too impressed with the handover of files. I gave as much information as was needed for the handover and was as helpful as I could be in that respect and the new accountants have not pursued the request for papers further.

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20th Apr 2012 12:19

Not just client's own records

If you act as agent for the client, as you will with HMRC, then documents that you received and prepare will be the client's property - for example correspondence with HMRC.  Working papers are not the client's property.  The situation is far from straightforward, but the ICAEW has a good summary of the position.

If the file relates to VAT or PAYE, then almost anything in it will be the client's property, because they are records that the client is obliged by law to maintain.

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By BKD
20th Apr 2012 12:22

The problem is with the question

The new agent should not be asking for a "tax file" because they will have absolutely no knowledge of what that file contains. They should be asked to specify exactly what documents they want you to provide.

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