Minsky
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Being taken advantage of by Accountant

Being taken advantage of by Accountant

Hi! 

I'm a freelance composer with a limited company (I'm the only employee) operating on the flat rate Vat scheme. I joined this company 3 years ago after they contacted me. I had not had an accountant before. They represent a few people in my line of work and seemed good although quite expensive. We agreed fees and they set up my company (on the Flat rate Vat scheme). They also did cessation work for my Sole Trader Accounts and did my SA that year. 

They have been less than transparent and have sent through invoices for things that sometimes needed paying and sometimes they said were covered in the monthly fees I pay by direct debit. In year One we agreed fees of  £1800 inc vat for Business Accounts and £480 for Vat work.  They asked me to set up a DD for £185 per month which I did. In year three (last year) they contacted me to ask me to raise it to £199 Per Month to reflect the new PAYE payroll costs (I don't have any but they need to file it every month to say so I believe). Then, in December they came after me for 'a shortfall in Fees' ...they said ...

Year One: £1800 was due, £1480 was paid. Shortfall £320

Year Two: £2337 was due, £2220 was paid. Shortfall £117

Year Three: £2401 was due, £2290 was paid. Shortfall £111

These all exceed the 'agreed fees.' In fact Year One is listed as being ANNUAL (so 12 months) and including SA tax return but I'd paid for that separately. I started trading in January and my year end was 31st October. That's 10 months with no SA due. The accountancy firm say that year one was 'pro-rata' (though it doesn't say that in the fees email.. it says 'annual') and anyway it doesn't add up as a 10 month pro-rata cost anyway. I just feel like I'm paying for work several times overt. 

In addition, they highlighted an invoice for SA work that I'd missed but whilst in Dec 2013 they did say £370 was outstanding they have now upped that to £420. I have paid £300 on it so far. I have asked questions of their breakdown which doesn't match the details on the invoice but they are just not answering my questions. They threatened to not file my SA tax return days before it was due, telling me I'd get a fine so I paid £300. I felt that was bullying. I am continuing to pay my monthly fees and am repeatedly chasing them for responses to try to sort this out. If I owe it I will pay it, I just don't think I do. The senior accountant simply bats me away like an annoying fly. I don't know where to turn because the ICAEW (which the company are suggesting for arbitration costs money ..and they won't pay...they say if I'm not happy then I have to go to arbitration and pay). I would take them to court but I can't afford it. 

I'd really appreciate it of someone could tell me if it is acceptable practice to raise fees without letting me know and then to back date them by 3 years? What are my options because it seems that they won't release my accounts until I pay. They must know I'm leaving them after the way they've treated me. Is there anything i can do or am I being unreasonable? 

Minsky 

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26th Feb 2016 15:52

Take your contract or engagement letter to a solicitor and ask for legal advice. Nobody on a public forum can advise you what to do.

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27th Feb 2016 21:12

Step 1 is to find a decent accountant and sign up with them.  Typical fees for the operation you are running are more like £1,000 plus VAT per year.  This time around look for a fixed price contract, as then any extras will need to be flagged up in advance and not asked for 3 years down the road.

Unless you are close to a filing deadline, cancel the standing order with them and do not pay any further fees to them.  If your new accountant is any good, he or she will easily be able to file the accounts with no handover or help whatsoever from your existing bunch even if they spit their dummies out.

Personally I detest the sort of accountant you have been with and I've taken on quite a few local clients who've had exactly the same sort of experience you have had.  In two cases legal action was threatened and we got solicitors letters.  I wrote to the lawyers making it clear I was prepared to appear in the Courtroom as a witness for the client and that was the end of the silly threats.

Fire the bully boys and find a good local accountant who you can get along with and who can sort out the numbers for you.

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