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Being harassed by ex-client

Ex-Client continually making derisory remarks

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I had a client who was rather unpleasant we parted a long time back but she still owed me money and had been paying from time to time.  She never said we will not pay.

She has not paid for a while so appointed a debt collector.  I think this really irked her.  She then got quite insulting saying her new accountant pointed out a number of errors in my work and they were questioning my ability as an accountant   There has been quite a few emails on these lines.

The issue was that at the time due to the client being so badly disorganised she was unable to answer basic questions we made some judgement calls plus there was extremely tight deadline to meet.  I have everything documented and signed by the client.  Yes in hindsight would have done it differently but you live and learn

I have enough ammunition to hit back but I have not said anything as have left the matter in the hands of the debt collector.  There is so much I can take before I react. Do I give her the full salvo as I know it will hit her hard.  I also want to counter her allegations.

How do you deal with difficult clients and the stress that goes with it ?  I have only had a couple who were difficult but I didn't handle the stress very well.  

 

 

Replies (48)

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By David Ex
28th Sep 2021 17:02

Think you either have to let it go or use a solicitor. Anything else and you will just end up in an unprofitable slanging match.

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By ireallyshouldknowthisbut
28th Sep 2021 17:28

I would not enter into any correspondence with her, if you do speak to your professional body first.

The most I would go is a blanket rebuttal along he lines of "we prepared the accounts to the best of our knowledge based on the incomplete data you supplied. If new information casts doubt on the accuracy of your statement on the XZY when you confirmed by your signature that the figures were correct, then please address your concerns to your current accountants"

Or "do one" as its known in less polite circles.

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Replying to ireallyshouldknowthisbut:
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By JimLittle
28th Sep 2021 18:10

Unfortunately she was glaringly oblivious to everything. God knows how she was able to run a fairly successful business. Some people just get lucky

She could not explain so many transactions yet she and her accountant is blaming me for the errors. There isn't any losses from tax point of view just extra work for her accountant.

If I had my way I would have sent a strong email to her accountants. I never bad mouth other accountants irrespective of the quality of the work unless they are corrupt.

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Replying to ireallyshouldknowthisbut:
ALISK
By atleastisoundknowledgable...
29th Sep 2021 10:04

ireallyshouldknowthisbut wrote:

The most I would go is a blanket rebuttal along he lines of "we prepared the accounts to the best of our knowledge based on the incomplete data you supplied. If new information casts doubt on the accuracy of your statement on the XZY when you confirmed by your signature that the figures were correct, then please address your concerns to your current accountants"

Or "do one" as its known in less polite circles.

I would do this, refuse to communicate further and go to small claims / MCOL. She’ll either have to stump up her ‘evidence’ for the defence, or pay up (you might have to pass to bailiffs for this to happen). From my experience, when the court claim comes through clients tend to just pay.

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By AnnAccountant
28th Sep 2021 17:35

Whatever you do, I do not recommend:

- Having it out with your client on a public forum over the course of 2 days - logging in multiple times per day to check for, and respond to, comments.

- Steadfastly refuse to accept any criticism and deny that there were any issues at all. Just keep repeating the same rubbish explanation again and again and claim that no one has read it or understood it.

- Pretend to take personal offence, having "learned" from the media that doing so might constitute a valid and effective defence strategy - or that it might at least guilt trip people into taking your side and/or ceasing their professional criticism.

Doing the above might cause people to lose any respect they had for you and your work, moreso than any issues that may or may not have been present in the work.

Mind, I have been told recently that my career advice is terrible - so perhaps do the opposite and see if it works out better for you than it did for the last guy.

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Replying to AnnAccountant:
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By Cat's whiskers
28th Sep 2021 17:43

I feel I've missed something!

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Replying to Cat's whiskers:
By ireallyshouldknowthisbut
28th Sep 2021 17:58

@Cats, believe me you really have not. Only the horrible side of Accounting Web lashing into a well respected tax author for writing an article which could be interpreted in more than one way.

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Replying to ireallyshouldknowthisbut:
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By Tax Dragon
29th Sep 2021 08:13

Lashing? Nah.

Some comments were out of order (including, nay especially, the aforementioned 'career advice'), but most of it was simple honest feedback. Wilson in particular made an effort to engage constructively, whilst suggesting shortcomings. It's just unfortunate that the tone was set* by an inappropriate heading against which the author - completely understandably - riled. Thereafter, mutually constructive engagement was always going to be difficult (absent called-for apologies), despite Wilson's best endeavours, and any movement towards constructive engagement would always be easy to derail by giving, say, uncalled-for 'career advice'. That's catastrophe theory in action.

Anyway, let's let it rest.

* 'The tone was set' - an old phrase showing that people knew about catastrophe theory long before it was mathematically formulated.

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By Paul Crowley
28th Sep 2021 17:40

Less said the better, noone wins.
Deal with the debt as you would with any other

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Replying to Paul Crowley:
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By JimLittle
28th Sep 2021 18:16

Yes I have a very strong case and she knows it. Though no doubt she will try to take revenge. I wouldn't be surprised if she complained to my accountancy body though I do have more than ample evidence to counter all accusations and to point to a person who has a questionable character. She has started before but only now has she got really really angry after the debt collectors have got involved

Though its so hard to bite my tongue.

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By David Ex
28th Sep 2021 18:36

JimLittle wrote:

She has not paid for a while so appointed a debt collector.  

What do you mean by this, as a matter of interest?

My understanding (based on watching trash TV) is that the legal process for debt recovery is to make a court claim and then, when judgement is given in your favour, seek to enforce judgement if required.

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Replying to David Ex:
paddle steamer
By DJKL
28th Sep 2021 18:52

Up here a debt collector can be involved prior to court, in fact one of the most effective deterrents to them is to ask them to get their client to take the matter to court, Electric/gas/water bills that are incorrect in our case, they tend to back away once you state you have queried the bill with their client and send them a copy of what you sent. I am lucky if a week does not go by without some such spurious bill chasing.

Re the OP let the collectors get on with it or not, if it totally sticks small claims likely the way to go, but for now let them do what they do.

What I would not do is discuss the work quality with the ex client, if she wishes to dispute what was delivered let her do so in her defences re your claim if it does ever reach court.

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Replying to DJKL:
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By David Ex
28th Sep 2021 19:22

DJKL wrote:

Up here a debt collector can be involved prior to court,

Pretty sure that in England, there’s no such thing. Well, not legal anyway. I guess you could always find someone to go round and politely suggest that the client might like to pay up for the good of their health. Not the most professional approach, obviously.

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Replying to David Ex:
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By mumpin
28th Sep 2021 19:45

Pretty sure that there are loads of them in England.
Do a Google search...

@Jim Little
Do you not wish you'd just let this go now?
I used to take people to the small claims court.
Once you add up the time spent and the stress (which you mention) I've come to the conclusion that its better to let the odd rascal get away with it.
Keep most of the clients on a short leash obv.

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Replying to mumpin:
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By JimLittle
28th Sep 2021 20:08

Not really. If I felt my case was weak then perhaps but she has been paying and maintained she will pay my bill in full. I may have also considered not to go ahead if a particularly client didn't have the funds

I don' really want to let this one go particularly as I have put so much effort with this very unappreciative client who is just abhorrent. Why should people be allowed to get away with it.

Yes its stressful but I know equally stressful for her. She could counterclaim but I can show how inept and disorganised she is and that I acted reasonably in the very difficult circumstances.

Likely letter before action will go out this week then I will just take the matter to the small claims court.

Anyway, this is my first one so its learning process too.

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Replying to David Ex:
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By Hugo Fair
28th Sep 2021 20:22

The Krays reputedly opened their 'negotiation' with ... "Are you attached to your knees? And would you like that to remain the case after we've finished this talk?"

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Replying to David Ex:
ALISK
By atleastisoundknowledgable...
29th Sep 2021 10:23

David Ex wrote:

Pretty sure that in England, there’s no such thing. Well, not legal anyway.


There’s about a million* ‘Debt Management’ companies, HMRC use them. Are you getting confused with Bailiffs?

I’m being harassed by a French DMC on behalf of a global French run company with an advertising website for UK accountants. I used them for a 12 month spot, then cancelled the DD. First they said it was automatic renewal (nowhere in my invoice or correspondence did it contradict 12 months, no T&Cs provided), then they said that I chose to renew and signed a renewal form (which I didn’t). 4 months and 6 requests to see this ‘evidence’ haven’t elicited anything … they have literally made this debt up. Debt company are starting to realise there’s no case and have quietened down.

* editorial licence used

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Replying to David Ex:
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By Rgab1947
29th Sep 2021 11:27

One group of enterprising Uni students used to offer "debt collection". Get into dirty fishing gear. Get sloshed then go to the defaulter and ask for the payment and just hang around their premises.

They had some success.

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Replying to David Ex:
RLI
By lionofludesch
29th Sep 2021 13:11

David Ex wrote:

Pretty sure that in England, there’s no such thing.

I'm pretty sure that there are.

Are you confusing these folk with bailiffs ? I don't need to be a bailiff to go and ask somebody for money they owe. Nor does it prevent me from taking further steps on my principal's behalf if the debtor doesn't pay up.

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Replying to David Ex:
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By legerman
09th Oct 2021 10:31

David Ex wrote:

DJKL wrote:

Up here a debt collector can be involved prior to court,

Pretty sure that in England, there’s no such thing. Well, not legal anyway. I guess you could always find someone to go round and politely suggest that the client might like to pay up for the good of their health. Not the most professional approach, obviously.

You might be confusing debt collector with bailiff. A debt collector merely chases the debt, it has no powers to recover the debt if the client refuses to pay.

Once court action has been finalised, and you have a judgement, and the debt still isn't paid, you can appoint a court bailiff to recover the debt. This can include possession of property after obtaining the necessary court order.
In my opinion (granted based on an incident nearly 20 years ago) they are pretty toothless.

If the debt is over £600 you can apply to the High Court and appoint a high court enforcement officer (bailiff) who will recover the debt on your behalf. These guys don't muck about, if they can retrieve the debt they will. The guys on Can't pay won't pay are HCEO's

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Replying to David Ex:
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By JimLittle
28th Sep 2021 20:07

Debt collectors are common and they just put extra pressure on the client and takes some of the stress away as they deal with the client directly and perhaps even negotiate an amicable settlement. Though my debt collectors realise in this case with the client so stubborn doubt she will settle now as she is on the war path.

They also help with the letters before action.

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Replying to JimLittle:
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By David Ex
28th Sep 2021 20:53

JimLittle wrote:

They also help with the letters before action.

Those are a piece of cake. You don’t need to say much. The detail comes if you need to go to the court claim stage. Even then, it’s factual stuff: Your engagement, services rendered, invoices issued, invoices not paid.

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By Open all hours
28th Sep 2021 21:33

For every one of these, how many clients do you have who think just the opposite about you, are more than happy with your work and always pay on time or even early?
Concentrate on doing right by them and leave the stress of this lowlife to the small claims court. Can you prove that the new accountant really thinks badly of you? Her unsupported words now count for nowt in these circumstances. Crack on, tomorrow is going to be a great day.

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Replying to Open all hours:
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By JimLittle
29th Sep 2021 11:01

Thanks for the advice and kind words - I have some wonderful clients who have been very complimentary. I have only fallen out with one other client in 10 years and he came back to me.

I am more annoyed at his previous accountant claiming that I was a poor accountant producing shoddy work. I have an email from my ex-client who has said her new accountant has said this.

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Replying to JimLittle:
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By Rgab1947
29th Sep 2021 11:29

its a disgruntled ex client having a go at you. Probably the other accountant said nothing.

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Replying to Rgab1947:
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By Paul Crowley
29th Sep 2021 11:50

Agree

Fomer client is the problem.

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Replying to JimLittle:
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By Open all hours
29th Sep 2021 19:39

Well done on catching the boomerang. Your ex client will hear what she wants to hear and interpret it to her own satisfaction speech does not always translate accurately to the page. There’s no tone for a start. Fret not.

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By paulwakefield1
29th Sep 2021 08:34

If you think that she might actually issue a claim about your work (however strong your position), you might need to consider informing your PI insurers.

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@enanen
By enanen
29th Sep 2021 09:48

What is the amount of money owed?

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Replying to enanen:
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By JimLittle
29th Sep 2021 11:01

£3000 over her two entities.

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Replying to JimLittle:
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By bernard michael
29th Sep 2021 11:19

JimLittle wrote:

£3000 over her two entities.


Are they both not incorporated ??> If not don't waste any more time make a Money Claim on Line, which is easy to do and then wait for the ridiculous defence offered. Have no mercy or sympathy from now on with this time-waster.
She'll understand that a County Court judgement will smash her credit rating and should effect the scams/shady deals she's probably running. That may bring her to heel
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Replying to bernard michael:
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By JimLittle
29th Sep 2021 11:44

One is incorporated and one not.

It will only affect her credit rating if she doesn't pay following the court order

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Replying to JimLittle:
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By bernard michael
29th Sep 2021 14:34

JimLittle wrote:

One is incorporated and one not.

It will only affect her credit rating if she doesn't pay following the court order


Now life gets more complicated. You actually have 2 clients and would have to sue them individually. Do either of them have the funds to pay you ?? What is the breakdown of the £3000 outstanding between the Ltd Company and the individual
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Replying to bernard michael:
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By JimLittle
29th Sep 2021 15:45

Yes client does have enough funds. Thats fine if I have to issue two letters. One them is very straight forward. Limited is £2400 and individual £660.

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Replying to JimLittle:
By ireallyshouldknowthisbut
29th Sep 2021 11:50

JimLittle wrote:

£3000 over her two entities.

Jim, that sounds like a process issue your side that you could get a debt of such a size outstanding.

I wouldn't have filed full stop if i hadn't been paid. Its your main weapon in debt collection, don't throw it away by filing before hand.

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By bernard michael
29th Sep 2021 10:02

It depends how much they owe me. Over £400 I let the online court deal with it. Below that I maintain a discreet silence but never forget. What goes round generally comes round and I've often been in a position in later years to exact revenge, which is a dish best served cold

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Replying to bernard michael:
ghm
By TaxTeddy
29th Sep 2021 11:35

Salad. Salad is a dish best served cold.

© Count Arthur Strong

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Replying to bernard michael:
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By philaccountant
01st Oct 2021 12:16

Indeed, the stress will take weeks off the end of your life wasting time on people like this, when you could be generating future revenues from clients you actually wanted.

A certain type of client leaves a trail of destruction in their wake wherever they go and no doubt the next account will be cursing their name in due course.

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Replying to philaccountant:
ALISK
By atleastisoundknowledgable...
08th Oct 2021 21:55

I once received a professional clearance response in which the previous accountant had signed off the letter not with ‘regards’ or similar, but “good luck”. !!! That client left me after about 12 months, with a similar sentiment in my mind.

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By JD
29th Sep 2021 10:05

Don't want to pay clients will resort to rubbishing what you have done in order to avoid payment.

If the amount due is relatively small in hours and £, better to focus on the positive work you do for clients that value what you do, rather than waste your valuable time on an unwanted war.

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By Ammie
29th Sep 2021 10:24

She seems bitter and burdened and using you as a release.

I would not engage in a string of exchanges. One polite neutral reply after the first email and then walk away and let your debt collectors do their work. I wouldn't have handed over any information anyway until paid in full.

You can wheel out any issues if a legal dispute unravels, which I doubt very much as she will know where her vulnerabilities lie and would also be unlikely to commit to the potential costs.

Depending how much of your fees are at stake, there will also probably come a point where you would need to consider drawing a line and walking away.

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Replying to Ammie:
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By JimLittle
29th Sep 2021 11:08

Yes she is on intent for revenge and she is one of these person who won't let anything go. She is unable to see any one else view.

She knows she has to pay and if it goes to court she will end up legal costs. Actually, few years back she was involved in a court case with her previous accountant and complained to their accountancy body which she copied me in too ! I think that's what she plans to do using ammunition from her accountant.

Though this situation is different

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By CMPACDGDB
29th Sep 2021 11:22

1) Don't enter into correspondence no matter how provocative she is; the more our reply the more gratification you give her
2) NEVER use debt collectors who IMHO merely stir everything up. One final demand/ LBA then MCOL: as others have said they usually pay in full immediately when the Court becomes involved.
3) Good luck

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Replying to CMPACDGDB:
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By JimLittle
29th Sep 2021 11:47

Yes I will not reply though its so tempting to blast her. She has tried to do the same thing in the past and only backed down once I gave her the full barrels.

Debt collectors I guess I just used as a support and leverage to prevent going down the legal route but looks like it may happen now. I know reading some other accounting web threads some have recommended debt collectors. Its the first time chasing money so learning curve and will know what to do next time

Thanks

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Replying to JimLittle:
paddle steamer
By DJKL
29th Sep 2021 12:01

Do not reply. If she has a case re the work you did that is a separate matter she can pursue if she so wishes (and she will have to pursue two cases if two entities)

Do not muddy the water and do not inadvertently give her ammunition, effectively if she makes threats to litigate re work quality pass it to your PII and let them deal with her.

To me fee rendered, payments made towards fee ,suggest acceptance, chase the balance.

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Replying to DJKL:
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By JimLittle
29th Sep 2021 13:02

She will not litigate as she hates paperwork and hassle but if anything as she has complained to about her previous accountant to their accountancy body then probably will try to do the same as its easy to do from your keyboard. She will argue the quality of work is poor but I can counter that easily as the records and her brain was poor.

She has paid in the past on the debt which was much larger so yes there is acceptance. She has sent several emails in the past saying she will pay in full but now getting itchy feet after her accountant perhaps trying to get in her good books saying our work was poor then charging for the remedial work and the debt collectors as now set her off big time. Its more of a ego battle now.

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By indomitable
29th Sep 2021 14:29

I would not use a debt collector.

Do NOT engage with her if she is 'unreasonable' which it sounds like she is.

Get advice first from your professional body.

In this case I would instruct a solicitor to recover the debt, if you are sure you have done everything correctly.

If you are not sure and what worries me is you say 'you made some judgement calls'. Even though the client may have signed everything, if you know something is not right maybe you shouldn't have completed whatever work until you got satisfactory answers or evidence.

This has happened to me in the past but I refuse to finalise anything until I can satisfy myself (whatever the deadline). I have lost some clients as a result, but you do not want these sorts of clients they are trouble

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Replying to indomitable:
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By JimLittle
29th Sep 2021 16:27

Afraid too late with the debt collector. I have got advice from the professional body

Solicitor would be too expensive and its not overly complex.

The judgement calls was based on lack on lack of explanations on a number of transactions and extremely right deadline. Luckily. we have also got her to sign a letter that explains the issues we had during the engagement and included areas in the letter where we were not convinced were correct. Though I agree with you that in hindsight we should have delayed the filing until everything was correct though she was putting us under pressure to file.

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