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How to politely disengage a P.I.T.A client?

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I have a client who is a general P.I.T.A. every year. Constantly questions everything on the Return to the point I want to tell her to get her own UserId and submit.

Has anyone disengaged such a client before as I would welcome suggestions on how to keep my letter simple and polite!

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By Accountant A
21st Jan 2019 20:37

A relatively regular topic if you search.

Also this might help:

https://www.accountingweb.co.uk/practice/practice-strategy/practical-tac...

One strategy suggested is simply to announce a large increase in your fees (to a level where if she accepts, it's actually worth your while).

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By Matrix
21st Jan 2019 20:43

My biggest PITA client texted me on Sunday morning saying she needed her UTR to pay her tax. Which was in the email sent by me.

I ignored it so hopefully nature will take its own course.

I don't have any useful advice, most of my clients just sign the returns without asking any questions bizarrely so it is not a problem I have.

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Replying to Matrix:
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By lincolnartist
21st Jan 2019 20:56

Most of mine are like that. And to be honest if any do have questions that's what I'm here for.
But this particular client gets to the point of almost dictating what is put on the Return and some of her claims are borderline excessive.

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Replying to Matrix:
RLI
By lionofludesch
22nd Jan 2019 08:11

Matrix wrote:

My biggest PITA client texted me on Sunday morning saying she needed her UTR to pay her tax. Which was in the email sent by me.


"I don't have it to hand but I should be able to trace it within the next two weeks."
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By James Green
21st Jan 2019 20:47

We don’t do the large fee increase because it often just creates a future bad debt.

I would suggest clean and clinical.

“Dear Fred, having reviewed our client services, we can no longer support you from “x date” and you will need to appoint an alternative accountant. KR”

We bin several PITAs a year.

I learned the hard way - many years ago - that no money is worth the pain whilst the good clients suffer as you ignore them running after the PITA.

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Replying to James Green:
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By lincolnartist
21st Jan 2019 20:54

Thanks, that suggestion is perfect.

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By andy.partridge
21st Jan 2019 22:08

Bear in mind that you will understandably be more sensitive to irritating clients in January.

My advice is to do nothing until mid-Feb when you’ve had a chance to settle back down. You might even be able to think in the meantime of a new routine that will work for you both.

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By penelope pitstop
22nd Jan 2019 02:21

"Unfortunately, due to internal changes within my/our business I/we no longer have the technical resources and/or skills required to deal with your level of business. I therefore very reluctantly resign as your accountant and wish you every success for the future.
Give my regards to your family."
I find that some wording along the above lines tends to prevent ill-feeling/brick through the window/scratched car etc.
ALWAYS leave on good terms and let some other accountant with a shorter fuse "sort them out"!

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By bernard michael
22nd Jan 2019 09:49

Penelope
When the innocent new accountant approaches you do you tip them off??

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Replying to bernard michael:
Hallerud at Easter
By DJKL
22nd Jan 2019 10:05

You could palm them a tenner to thank them for their troubles or go the traditional tenner in an envelope for the bin men/postman/window cleaner at Christmas approach.

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Replying to bernard michael:
By penelope pitstop
22nd Jan 2019 14:41

Have lost so few clients.
Last one I "sacked" nicely never heard from any new accountant.
But would I tip the new accountant off is a good question.
In this new era of data protection I would personally be extremely careful of what I said or wrote about a previous client.
But that is me personally.

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Replying to penelope pitstop:
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By atleastisoundknowledgable...
22nd Jan 2019 17:49

In an email exchange with a previous accountant re one new client, he (accountant) signed off with “Good Luck ...” !

I think I’ve only disengaged twice and only received a clearance request for one of those. I made reference to my disengagement letter in the response, which I felt was giving warning but not crossing a GDPR etc line.

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Replying to atleastisoundknowledgable...:
By James Green
22nd Jan 2019 21:34

I regularly start clearance responses for PITA clients: “We are delighted you have chosen to accept this engagement having resigned from it sometime ago...

...Again, thank you for taking this on. We wish you the very best of luck with it.”

:-)

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Replying to atleastisoundknowledgable...:
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By Andy Reeves
25th Jan 2019 10:03

I also use the "Good Luck" sign off. It gets the point across in an apparently ambiguous way, but is understood by both accountants.

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By wilcoskip
22nd Jan 2019 10:23

Bear in mind that no matter how delicately you put it, you're probably in line for being called unprofessional . It seems a standard insult these days for anyone who doesn't get their own way.

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Replying to wilcoskip:
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By garforth
22nd Jan 2019 11:13

Not to mention that you never gave the client any advice or support.

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Replying to wilcoskip:
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By garforth
22nd Jan 2019 11:13

Not to mention that you never gave the client any advice or support.

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Replying to wilcoskip:
By penelope pitstop
22nd Jan 2019 15:34

Yes, the new generation of client is quite a different animal.
Expects the world, more disorganised, more distracted, more last minute, does not live within own means, unforgiving (unless it's their own errors), disloyal, cannot cope with adversity, vindictive.
That's why I always try to leave on good terms.

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By JDBENJAMIN
22nd Jan 2019 12:57

Just be direct and truthful. If you consider the client not worth the trouble, just tell them you are disengaging for that reason. There is nothing in law or professional standards that says you have to tell clients white lies.

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By MartinLevin
22nd Jan 2019 15:22

After attending a marketing seminar for accountants some years ago, I reviewed my client base .
I then classified clients under categories "A", "B" & "C" where "A" was a great client; "B" a bit slow and "C" a waste of time. Getting rid of the "C" class clients released a huge amount of time that I found was put to more enjoyable activities. That's another reason why January is not a pain for me.
One of my assets was to provide a free ABC Accounts Book to each and every client as well. No more "Garbage-In-Garbage-Out" for me.
In the past an invitation that "Yellow Pages [now being defunct] was full of accountants". For an accountant to sack a client - how tactful is up for debate - is proof of the accountant's strength. Bad clients are replaced by good ones.

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Replying to MartinLevin:
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By marks
22nd Jan 2019 21:29

MartinLevin wrote:

I then classified clients under categories "A", "B" & "C" where "A" was a great client; "B" a bit slow and "C" a waste of time. Getting rid of the "C" class clients .

We classify our clients A, B, C and D.

As - top clients who pay top price, growing, profitable and are clients you enjoy working with
Bs - clients that listen to what you say, are organised and have potential to become A clients
Cs - clients who dont cause you any problems, pay on time but business is never going to go anywhere and grow eg lifestyle business eg trademen, taxidrivers, etc.
Ds - PITAs clients for whole variety of reasons; late handing in records, records are a mess, always complain about fees, dont pay fees on time, dont listen to what you tell them, say their mate told them they could claim XYZ so why cant they, never appreciate what you do for them etc.

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By bernard michael
22nd Jan 2019 15:38

Except for the accountants who pick up the bad clients

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By Lesser Tax
23rd Jan 2019 16:31

Usually, get the work done and paid. Then consider re quoting. If communication is either non existent or unreasonable, the quote increase has to account for this.

I don’t think it’s right to advise a new accountant of previous problems. It’s up the new accountant to consider the appointment and judge the client themselves.

In new client interview, it’s quite easy to uncover any red flags most (but not all) of the time.

On another note I find the PITA acronym in poor taste.

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Replying to Lesser Tax:
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By lincolnartist
23rd Jan 2019 16:41

So what would be in good taste then? Jeez.

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Replying to Lesser Tax:
By penelope pitstop
23rd Jan 2019 17:25

I agree with most of the above.
If a potential new client wants to leave his old accountant I always ask them why.
If they then have the attitude that the previous accountant was a "completely useless berk who has dropped me in it big time," or words to that effect, then there is a rebuttable presumption in my mind that the client is dodgy, and alarm bells will be going off like the ones Quasimodo used to ring. After further questioning I then make an educated guess at whether or not this is the sort of client I want to deal with. If not, I just tell them I think they need a different sort of accountant with the skills they require. No offence caused or taken.
However, if client is moving on for genuine reason - death of old accountant, moved into the area etc. etc. then they are treated with less suspicion.
This tends to work most times, but not always.

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By snickersinatwix
24th Jan 2019 16:45

A letter which I use - give no specific reason and remain polite

Dear PITA client

Accounts and Taxation Services

After careful consideration it is with regret that I have decided it would be best for both of us if I resign as your accountant and you appoint a new accountant to take your company forward.

I will be happy to prepare your payroll for both February and March, taking you to the end of the tax year, to give you time to find a new accountant, should you wish me to do so. I believe it would be best if the new accountant prepares your accounts for the year ended 31 October 2018.

Thank you for your custom over the last five years. I wish you all the best for the future.

Kind regards

Yours sincerely

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By Moonbeam
25th Jan 2019 10:57

I often leave it until I get to boiling point with the PITA's. Then I unceremoniously sack them in a fit of rage - although my goodbye email is polite.
The wording is different each time as there are infinite ways of annoying me.
Having decided they are going to be sacked I find myself able to use relatively kind words to them in my final email. They can't be popular with family/neighbours because of their aggravating habits, so it's no skin off my nose to genuinely wish them well for the future.

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By Michael C Feltham
25th Jan 2019 18:22

Always remember, running a practice is no different from any other business; it is, after, a business.

The first lesson any business person has to realise, is; there are deals, contracts, people, you CAN DO WITHOUT!

The old tired excuse: "I need the work as I have just started!" doesn't wash.

All I do is write formally, in the third person, and advise the client "We fear this practice are unable to assist you further and accordingly, give you, hereby, notice of our resignation from your instruction."

KISS.

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