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What to do - Book keeper withholding Company Accounts

We hired a book keeper from a local advert we placed for our small construction company. They worked for 6 months, then left suddenly for 'personal reasons'. They resigned by email and refused to do a handover. We have discovered that we have no company records on Sage for the last 6 months - no VAT records or nominal ledger, TB. We presume they have this on their home computer but they will not forward a copy to us or answer phone calls or emails. What can we do to get our company records - if they exist at all?

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In short

1. Call in at their home

2. Write to them explaining potential consequences of ignoring you

3. Report the theft of your data to police

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10th May 2012 11:55

Have you thought...

Completely agree with Andy above, but have you thought, they may not be withholding your records, they may have never actually done your work and that may be the reason why they have disappeared.

I hate to say this, but I have seen it several times where businesses take on "bookkeepers" who have undertaken a weekend course and think they know how to do accounts "cause its dead easy" then get in totally over their heads and either make a right pig's ear of what they do or just don't do anything and eventually scarper.

Indeed one of my clients (in my previous life) got in so deep with their particular bookkeeper that they were days away from losing everything because they had no records and the bank was going to pull their O/D and gave them one last chance for me to look over the business and give an opinion.

I’m glad to say that the business was actually super successful and (eventually) went on to be trade sale’d for over £100million!

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10th May 2012 12:01

Be prepared to pay

You have to be prepared to have another book-keeper/accountant rebuild the accounts for the 6 months. Provided you have the records, this will not be too onerous and will at least let you have an idea of the state of the company's affairs.

I would not hold your breath for the legal system to produce any results. Even if it does it will take time - if you have VAT returns etc to submit then waiting will cause further problems.

 

 

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10th May 2012 12:14

Agree

I agree with Steve and Roland. I would also wonder if they are qualified and possibly regulated. If they are send them a recorded delivery letter giving seven days or you will report them.

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10th May 2012 21:11

Agree with Andy
Turn up at their home unannounced, if there's no answer then leave a note to say you've called by, you want your information and you'll keep coming by until you've got it or they've given you the information.
You've tried all the niceties already, a little personal persuasion is probably in order and if I was in the book-keeper's shoes I wouldn't want to be looking over my shoulder constantly or risk my wife or family answering the door, especially as construction companies tend to have some useful size employees!
Maybe not the most professional response but honestly.......some people!

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10th May 2012 21:28

Excuses

I took over a client and he said he used a bookkeeper previously to keep the accounts on Sage. I saw printouts from the previous accountant and it did seem the case. I asked my new client to get the files and data from the previous bookkeeper but they kept making excuses. The last excuse was that the paperwork was high up in a warehouse and they didn't have a forklift to reach it!

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By AS
11th May 2012 09:51

This happens frequently

I have seen this happen often. Companies regularly trust their financial records to a completely unknown person that they picked from an advert without any reliable references. Some even give these bookkeepers access to online banking so they can pay whoever they want to!

If you are lucky, you will be able to pick the paperwork from the bokkeeper and recreate your accounts. Otherwise it will be a costly exercise of creating accounts from incomplete records.

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