Accountant has terminated

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Strange one: 

The accountant does not invoice for more than 12 months  - even after repeated requests. He cannot give a reason. The contract says monthly. 

Sends in invoices with unexpected costs and items.  Emailed and called to understand what the costs are - no response. Tried many many times and formally disputed invoices in accordance with contract - within 21 days.

Moved one of several companies to a new account (not happy with the service, etc). The new accountant cannot make contact.  

Old accountant then sends an email (a Friday evening) terminating all services with immediate effect. Terminates Quickbooks  - he insisted on Primary Admin when taking on the work. Also terminated payroll service

A week or so later sends an email letter saying if invoices are not paid in full within 5 days will take court action.

Just to clarify since sending the invoices there has been no response to emails or telephone calls & text messages from our company or the new accountant.  Other than to send copies of unsigned engagement letters.  

We would welcome any thoughts on the next steps. (He works from home so we do not want to visit at this stage.) We want to pay a proportion of the fees - although the termination, etc. is costing a lot of money and the new accountant has found errors.

 

 

 

 

Replies (14)

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By bernard michael
30th Nov 2023 09:05

Of which professional body is he a member ??

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Replying to bernard michael:
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By Platypus
30th Nov 2023 09:12

Thanks for the reply. He is a member of ICAEW.

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Replying to Platypus:
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By bernard michael
30th Nov 2023 09:23

Platypus wrote:

Thanks for the reply. He is a member of ICAEW.

Then you should make a complaint to ICAEW

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By Tax is always taxing
30th Nov 2023 09:15

It sounds like you've already made the correct decision in moving on and finding a new accountant. Like any industry most are good, but some are bad.

You can go down the route of complaining to his professional body (if he is a member), but my advice would be to make him a reduced offer of what you are willing to pay and if he accepts then move on and chalk it up to experience.

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stonks
By WinterDragon
30th Nov 2023 12:41

The previous accountant sounds like a-- prat..

Two ways of approaching the situation, the pragmatic and the argumentative. If I was in your position I'd want to argue and write a snotty review and complain to their professional body and keep the story going. However, the pragmatic approach would be to negotiate the fee and terms of disengagement.

I've always followed the principal of if I lend a friend £500 and they don't pay it back then I haven't lost £500 - I have instead just paid £500 to stop that 'friend' from darkening my doorstep ever again.

You could request a meeting with the old accountant to get everything sorted but you'll have to think about how much you're willing to pay to put an end to the headache - if the old accountant gets dollar signs in his/her eyes and tries to milk you for access to documents then you'd have a solid case to go to their professional body.

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Slim
By Slim
30th Nov 2023 15:33

ICAEW will most likely take a very dim view on this

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By I'msorryIhaven'taclue
01st Dec 2023 12:35

Platypus wrote:

Old accountant then sends an email (a Friday evening) terminating all services with immediate effect.

That's called a disengagement letter. Your ex-accountant was obliged to issue that when he received courtesy notification from your incoming accountant that you were moving to another practice. Do not dilute your argument/case with that. (And, for that matter, there's no stipulation that he must issue that disengagement in office hours; you're simply allowed to treat the notification as received on Monday, or the next working day. Stop barking up the wrong tree!)

Platypus wrote:
Terminates Quickbooks  - he insisted on Primary Admin when taking on the work. Also terminated payroll service

And you agreed to his Primary Admin status. Be fair, you can hardly expect him to continue paying your monthly Quickbooks subscription now that you're no longer his client. If, on the other hand, Quickbooks are unable or unwilling to rekindle the account and its data and hand it over to you to take over the subscription then you may well have grounds against your ex-accountant for compensation for any wilfully destructive act.

I don't know why you would expect a disengaged accountant to continue operating a payroll service for you.

Platypus wrote:

A week or so later sends an email letter saying if invoices are not paid in full within 5 days will take court action.

Ok, aside from the possibility above that he knowingly sabotaged your QB data and that QB is irrecoverable, then we've finally got there. You don't like his invoices. He's ICAEW, so as others have said there's a complaints procedure. But start by writing formally for a breakdown of and justification of the charges to put the ball back in his court - no niceties, as he's threatened you with legal action; and no griping, please... that'd serve only to dilute and deflect your case/argument.

Others here may know better than I, but I don't believe he's "allowed" to use unpaid invoices as a reason for not supplying handover information to your new accountant. I could be behind the times with that.

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Replying to I'msorryIhaven'taclue:
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By Platypus
01st Dec 2023 13:24

Many thanks for your reply it is very much appreciated.

Just to say

He terminated all work even though we only let him know that we were moving one company - without notice and with no prior communication or handover.

Concerning paying for Quickbooks - we would have of course taken over the account and payments (we had been paying before he was employed). Yes, you are right never give an accountant primary admin. - he said he could not operate/take on the accounts without it and it would result in lower costs. If he had transferred it would not be necessary to go through lots of admin hurdles.

As I mentioned we have written and called asking for an explanation, etc. - no response - other than to terminate and then issue a threat of court action.

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Replying to Platypus:
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By I'msorryIhaven'taclue
01st Dec 2023 14:06

Platypus wrote:

Many thanks for your reply it is very much appreciated.

Just to say

He terminated all work even though we only let him know that we were moving one company - without notice and with no prior communication or handover.

Ahha, so he terminated all work for all of your other companies, not just for the company that you were in the process of moving to a new accountant. The plot thickens!

Platypus wrote:

Concerning paying for Quickbooks - we would have of course taken over the account and payments (we had been paying before he was employed). Yes, you are right never give an accountant primary admin...

I don't have much truck with Quickbooks - I prefer Freeagent and Xero. I can tell you that clients with their own existing Freeagent subscription can hook-up to our practice dashboard if they want; whereupon we take responsibility for the billing ie Freeagent bill us instead. However, if and when our client leaves for another accountant then the billing reverts back to the client (or to their new accountants, if and when the client hooks-up to their practice dashboard).

In short, Freeagent make provision for data to be retained and transferred back to you, the client. Surely QB must operate something similar, whereby they retain the data for a period of time - perhaps someone else here will know the QB ropes.

Platypus wrote:

As I mentioned we have written and called asking for an explanation, etc. - no response - other than to terminate and then issue a threat of court action.

Well if your engagement letter (effectively your contract) with the old accountant doesn't prevent him from disengaging ("resigning", in plain English) with no notice period then he doesn't owe you an explanation. (In some circumstances the ICAEW would actively encourage him not to offer you an explanation. Wrong tree to bark up!)

Your more immediate concerns are the threatened court action, as well as obtaining handover information for your new accountant(s), whether or not you move all of your companies to the one new accountant, or appoint different accountants for each. Write (to your old accountant) and ask for a detailed breakdown of work billed to you; then, when you have that, set about asking for justification of the charges. That'll slow down, and perhaps even put a spoke in, the court wheels. Separately, encourage your new accountants to chase hard for handover information (esp payroll and, if possible, QB... although in your shoes I'd be phoning QB myself and pronto before any clock runs down); and join in with chasing handover info from your old accountant yourself with signed-for delivery post and/or email. Phone calls aren't much use unless evidenced; with the exception of following-up on emails to ensure they are properly delivered rather than spam-boxed.

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Replying to I'msorryIhaven'taclue:
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By Truthsayer
01st Dec 2023 13:35

'Others here may know better than I, but I don't believe he's "allowed" to use unpaid invoices as a reason for not supplying handover information to your new accountant'

That is not forbidden by the ICAEW, but the circumstances in which it is acceptable are narrow. It is forbidden to refuse to answer a professional enquiry letter for that reason. One must distinguish between the professional enquiry and the handover information even if requested in the same letter.

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Replying to Truthsayer:
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By I'msorryIhaven'taclue
01st Dec 2023 14:24

Good to know, thank you Truthsayer.

OP, that's quite important information for you. Rule / exception: first rule, as Truthsayer states, is that the old accountant MUST answer your new accountant's professional enquiry letter (which is aka a clearance letter or a courtesy letter).
Separately, he must as a second rule hand over any information requested by your new accountant; although there are a narrow band of exceptions to that second rule.

Rather than drill-down on those exceptions here, why not point your new accountant at Truthsayer's post?

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By Calculatorboy
01st Dec 2023 23:01

Just make a claim against his insurers, he should provide their details, if not the icaew will make sure he provides if you complain

Contrast this if accountant is not a member of a recognised professional body , no guarantee of insurance ,you're on your own and your legal costs will sky rocket

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Replying to Calculatorboy:
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By JB101
04th Dec 2023 14:28

I don't think you can make a claim against his insurers without going via solicitors etc so costs will rocket as soon as you go down this route.

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Replying to Calculatorboy:
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By JB101
04th Dec 2023 14:28

You still need to contact the previous accountant first.

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