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Extra Accountancy Fees for Coronavirus Support

Is it appropriate for an accountant to charge extra fees for supporting their clients through this?

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My accountant charges a monthly fee for their services, which includes advice and support as well as all tax returns.

I understand that the current situation has caused a lot of distress to all businesses, including accountants. However, is it fair for accountants to charge their customers' extra fees during this period?

An example of this is charging £150 to call HMRC to arrange a VAT payment plan. 

Also, when asking for a copy of previous year-end accounts and self-assessment documents to be emailed across, they are charging £150. Even though the fees to complete these were already paid with the monthly fees they charge. 

Any thoughts on this?

Replies (23)

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By ireallyshouldknowthisbut
30th Mar 2020 11:37

Well I am an accountant, and i have not charged a single penny extra to anyone despite all the extra work we have been doing.

But it will ultimately depend on your contract for services, and attitude of your accountant. We are taking the long term view, than you help people out when they are down, and they will go on being a client for many years, as opposed to trying to wring the maximum amount of fees out of them before they move on elsewhere.

That said, £150 to send over copy accounts suggests they think you are an idiot, and probably giggling whilst writing out the bill to see if you are mug enough to pay it unless you are asking every 5 minutes for things they have sent you to be sent again.

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Replying to ireallyshouldknowthisbut:
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By GlasgowUK
30th Mar 2020 11:56

Charging a fee to be sent copies of my accounts is beyond belief! The only reason I asked for this, is because I have realised that they never sent me them in the first place. I just got sent an email with the bottom-line figure in it but not the actual accounts.

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Replying to GlasgowUK:
By ireallyshouldknowthisbut
30th Mar 2020 12:10

@Glasgow, if you didn't receive the accounts, then one wonders how exactly you signed and authorised their submission to HMRC? This is a formal requirement.

Whilst I am mindful that we are only hearing your side of things, are there actually proper accountants or a bunch of chancers?

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Replying to ireallyshouldknowthisbut:
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By GlasgowUK
30th Mar 2020 13:07

They're AAT certified. They went over the accounts in person in their office but I just didn't receive a copy of it afterward.

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By the_drookit_dug
30th Mar 2020 11:34

Tricky one. They shouldn't be expected to do stuff for free, but then the odd phone call to HMRC should surely form part of the value adding, exceptional client care that most accountants boast differentiates them from their competitors?

I would say, within reason, accountants should hesitate to raise fees for a call HMRC - just mop up the cost into the year end fee.

For more substantial work (e.g. registering for CJRS, calculating and helping submit claims), it would be reasonable to expect a fee to be raised.

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Replying to the_drookit_dug:
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By GlasgowUK
30th Mar 2020 11:58

I pay them a monthly fee, which I had previously been told includes dealing with HMRC on my behalf. I don't mind calling HMRC myself, but being charged for being sent copies of my accounts is what baffles me.

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By mbee1
30th Mar 2020 11:43

I won't be charging any extra. The payrolls have caused me a lot of work and many of them are small charities so I may well end up not charging them at the end of June when they're due to be invoiced again.

I've given up on calling HMRC - been waiting over 15 minutes and I can't afford to waste any more time. it was only a code change for a client. This is the downside of agents being relegated and not having access to PTAs.

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Red Leader
By Red Leader
30th Mar 2020 11:44

It could be your accountants way of saying "find another accountant".

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Replying to Red Leader:
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By GlasgowUK
30th Mar 2020 13:12

They sent out a blanket email to all of their customers about COVID-19 about the business support that the Government had announced. However, each point was ended with the fee they will be charging for helping out.

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Replying to GlasgowUK:
Red Leader
By Red Leader
30th Mar 2020 14:52

OK, understood. You just have to look at the whole fee cost of the service they're providing (not just the CV-19) and decide if they are too expensive or not.

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Freddie
By Slim Freddie
30th Mar 2020 11:48

I am also taking the long term view although I won't allow clients to take advantage of my staff and I. Ultimately, I want my clients to survive this crisis so they and I have are still in business when life returns to normal.

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By Sanjeev Nanda
30th Mar 2020 11:59

It's a free market, my friend. If anybody is taking an advantage of you, movuie on. Your accountant is clearly trying to dupe you, report him to the police - the guidelines are extremely clear. There might be others who are trying to do the same, report them as well. Anybody who tries to profit off others during this horrible time, needs to suffer the blunt of the authorities.
~Sanjeev Nanda

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By johnt27
30th Mar 2020 12:08

I'm an accountant and I think there's a balance to sought here and whilst everything's changing daily that balance may not be easy to achieve!

General feeling is that there is an element of goodwill here. Clearly we want to help our clients and ensuring that the majority, if not all, survive this current disruption is not just good for them but also for us in the long term.

Having said that, some of this support will have to end up being chargeable, whether that's now or in the future, as I've no doubt that some of the actions/interventions we take will be pivotal and specific to our clients rather than generic information sharing.

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By Stalytax
30th Mar 2020 12:39

If I can help my clients' businesses survive this crisis, it's in my own long term interests, fee wise. I haven't charged a bean for advice I've given so far, and don't intend to.

I did get a text from a client who complained that as his profits are low because of his high mileage run up under the relatively generous mileage allowance scheme he won't get much support. Good luck arguing that with HMRC - 'I make far more than that, honest!'

That said, if clients are struggling to find a way through this, then I'd help them as much as I could for nothing anyway, it's called basic human decency, we really should be all in this together.

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By daveah
30th Mar 2020 14:13

I'm a great believer in standing by your client so have not and will not charge for any additional time spent on this issue.
I have also made it clear that those who pay monthly should either halve or stop paying their standing order and I will revisit it in a couple of months.
People who pay me annually have been told that I expect to be paid as the year was substantially complete prior to the massive changes caused, so they should have been mindful of this, as I agree the fees at the time of signing off the previous accounts, the only cavaet being if there is a dramatic increase in the time spent due to business expansion.
I think that the above is fair, and engenders mutual goodwill.

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By Duggimon
30th Mar 2020 15:41

Are they by any chance a large company with a national presence, perhaps specialising in a particular sector, like contractors?

Because I, and I expect most of the other members here operating small local practices, wouldn't charge like this, certainly not for sending out a copy of your accounts, which you have already paid for.

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Replying to Duggimon:
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By GlasgowUK
30th Mar 2020 16:07

They're a local company and not national.

I've been told that as they have to get my year-end accounts and self-assessments "off the system", then they would normally charge £150 per year that is required. They said they're doing me a favour by only charging £150 for the past 3 years' accounts and not £450. They said this is for recovering their costs for sending these to me. I have never been sent any of these in the first place, so it'll be the first time I'll receive them. I have now just gone onto my company's page on Companies House, and downloaded the year-end accounts from the filing history!

I now just need my self-assessment records. They set-up my personal tax account on HMRC so I don't have the login credentials, so I am assuming they will charge a fee for sending me the login details.

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Replying to GlasgowUK:
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By bettybobbymeggie
30th Mar 2020 16:59

GlasgowUK wrote:

They sent out a blanket email to all of their customers about COVID-19 about the business support that the Government had announced. However, each point was ended with the fee they will be charging for helping out.


They sound like a very decent and professional bunch. I wonder how they sleep at night.
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Replying to GlasgowUK:
Red Leader
By Red Leader
30th Mar 2020 18:14

Oh boy, £450 is really taking the mickey!

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By Lee11_1989
30th Mar 2020 17:19

Personally, I'm not charging for any additional work due to COVID-19. I don't think it would be morally right to charge. I know most of my clients will be grateful for my help and won't be quick to forget that.

Thay said, it's every accountants choice whether they charge or not. They also need to pay their bills. If they are upfront and honest about the fees, it's your decision to accept them or look for an alternative accountant.

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Accountants & Business Advisers
By Gladstone
30th Mar 2020 17:47

I think everyone here is trying to be critical of the accountant in question. I would get the full facts before giving my opinion. Saying that it is cheeky to charge £150 for calling HMRC not that you expect to get to speak to the HMRC team easily these days. If the fee is applicable it should be reasonable and for copy of accounts, I can't imagine how this was signed with no copy with the client. A small charge of £25+vat to provide copies of prior year accounts may be justified but not £150 unless this was agreed upfront. I would never suggest changing your accountant for silly things. Please have an honest conversation to resolve than post here. If the problem continues then you may think about moving.

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By SXGuy
30th Mar 2020 20:06

About 15 years ago we used to charge £25 for copies of accounts and self assessments but that was when it was all paper and post. Now it's all email I don't charge anything as it costs me nothing. That's of course it someone isn't always losing it and asking every week for a copy.

As others have said, you need to look at the overall cost and value and decide if its worth it.

For example if they are charging you £99 for accounts and self assessment then it would be reasonable to charge for other services to make up their cost.

If however like me you charge a fixed fee for accounts and self assessment then you might find that I wouldn't charge you for any other extra service as it would be part of that fee for the year.

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Psycho
By Wilson Philips
30th Mar 2020 21:35

It depends. Generally, we are not charging for keeping clients updated on available support, pointing out where to go etc. But when it comes to specific tasks, eg preparation of management accounts, forecasts etc in support of loan applications then we are charging. But expecting payment only when support approved.

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