Share this content

I "sacked" a client - What now?

Sacked Client "needs to have a conversation with me to quickly confirm a few things"

Didn't find your answer?

Having chased a small one man band company for information needed to complete his company accounts for the year ended 30th September 2020 in March, having already requested the necessary in November last year and then in February 2021, I received the following my email from him.

Please watch your tone!

It was your choice to do my accounts early, the information you have requested is not needed for a few months. However, I will try to get it sent to you when I have time.

Do you think I enjoy you chasing me when I’m busy, it’s a nuisance 

I’ve always been fair with you, I am just extremely busy at the moment - so doing my expenses are low on my priority list

I will get them sent to you as soon as I can 

In reply, I pointed out that he had not once paid me on time [5 invoices over 9 years], chased the information again, and issued my invoice.

He sent the necessary, and I finalised the accounts and made the necessary submissions to HMRC and Companies House with his approval. He paid my invoice and I then emailed that I wished to cease acting as accountant for his company with immediate effect and would no longer be responsible for making any further company returns [VAT, PAYE, Companies House, Corporation Tax].

He wrote today requesting a conversation "to quickly confirm a few things", but I really do not want to speak to him again. Am I entitled to ignore him?

Anyone had a similar situation?

Replies (51)

Please login or register to join the discussion.

avatar
By adam.arca
07th Apr 2021 13:39

You can work for who you like but you should be professional about it.

That means you should have that conversation (it's only fair) and I also feel that you're morally obliged to submit his CT return if you've done the accounts and he's paid for the service. As for the rest, the client needs to sort himself out unless you're dumping this on him with some deadline looming, in which case again you need to play fair.

Thanks (0)
Replying to adam.arca:
avatar
By Thorsten Orr
07th Apr 2021 13:42

I have made all necessary submissions to HMRC and Companies House in respect of the accounts to 30 September 2020; I did that before he paid.

Thanks (2)
Replying to Thorsten Orr:
Flag of the Soviet Union
By thevaliant
07th Apr 2021 13:58

I'd agree with SXGuy.

His email was disgraceful. I wouldn't want to talk to him again.

Thanks (2)
Replying to thevaliant:
avatar
By murphy1
09th Apr 2021 16:52

I agree also. I have told two clients in the last four weeks that i would no longer provide services to them, and a direct result of how they spoke to me and my staff.

I did advise that we would complete all the necessary payroll up to the end of the tax year to avoid any hassle for them, and asked to get their new advisers to contact me as soon as possible.

Both emailed and apologised and asked me to continue to act, but I refused. One sent 13 agressive and abusive emails over a 90 min period on a Tuesday evening.

It is not a decision taken lightly, but equally you can’t allow your and your business to be treated like that.

I do agree that so long as all work is completed, paid for then i would have no verbal communication with him.

Thanks (0)
avatar
By SXGuy
07th Apr 2021 13:50

Personally I'd have that chat over email. Nothing to be said that can't be asked over an email. Plus it keeps everything as written evidence.

From experience he will either beg you to come back or demand you do lots of free stuff before you leave.

Keep it in writing if you don't want to talk on phone or feel youd be unable to keep your cool

Thanks (10)
Replying to SXGuy:
avatar
By Paul Crowley
07th Apr 2021 14:32

Agree
Email best way as neither party likely to go too much over the top

I have clients worse

Thanks (1)
avatar
By DaveyJonesLocker
07th Apr 2021 14:18

You had put in writing you were ceasing to act. I see no reason to waste any of your time entertaining him.

Thanks (3)
A Putey FACA
By Arthur Putey
07th Apr 2021 14:42

Did you send a formal disengagement letter? That would have drawn any matters to his attention to obviate the need to speak to him again, but otherwise I'd suggest you email him asking him to email his queries.

You do seem to have been a bit grumpy with him, what was the rush on your side?

Thanks (0)
avatar
By Calculatorboy
07th Apr 2021 14:53

Just say you're restructuring and won't have resources to act in future and are giving plenty time for him to engage another.

Send him all the necessary info necessary to prepare future returns accounts

Thanks (0)
avatar
By Carole Baldwin
07th Apr 2021 15:03

His email is disgraceful and rude. Personally I would simply tell him that you will deal with his new accountant but have no intention of discussing anything with him.

Thanks (3)
avatar
By AlgernonB
07th Apr 2021 15:27

He's been rude but you should be the model of politeness and professionalism, so that he has no grounds for complaint. Have the conversation with him, answer any reasonable questions he may have, and firmly and politely repeat that you don't want to represent him further. Wish him well and get on with working on clients who do pay their bills.

Thanks (1)
Slim
By Slim
07th Apr 2021 15:50

It'd take a quick call but draw a hard line. No extras etc

Thanks (0)
Red Leader
By Red Leader
07th Apr 2021 16:27

Don't reply to the email, it could get drawn out into a time-eating endless exchange. If he needs to, there's nothing stopping him picking up the phone to "quickly confirm a few things".

Thanks (1)
Stepurhan
By stepurhan
07th Apr 2021 17:40

As others have said, email only. You do not owe him anything but agreeing to "confirm a few things" is simply maintaining professionalism.

Do not even consider a telephone conversation unless he gives you a reason that makes it valuable to you as well. If he keeps on insisting on one without giving any such reason, then you can ignore him.

Thanks (3)
Avatar
By I'msorryIhaven'taclue
07th Apr 2021 18:20

I have a parallel case, with a client who has owed fees for 18 months (my longest!) wanting to speak by phone as he has a suggestion that "would be to our mutual advantage" (this will no doubt involve a payment arrangement by which he gets a further year's credit on what he already owes and of course never gets round to paying for the work he'd like done now).

Client is a real twister - over the years I'd noticed from his records that he ducks and dives payment with everyone - but I'm going to phone him anyway because so long as he has it in his fool head that I can be talked into his daft-as-a-brush proposal (whatever that may be) then he'll no doubt continue to badger me for phone time.

Here's my tip: call the client when he's not expecting it. First thing in the morning is always good, just as he's opening up. That way you'll catch him off guard; he'll be unprepared for the call, and will be forced to think on his feet.

Conversely, I find that the more professional hustlers try to arrange an appointment for the phone call so that they can prepare mentally and are all geared up for the call, have practised in advance what they want to say, and are able to take control of the discussion and thereby own you. (The best way I've found to combat such latter cases is to phone late, twenty minutes or so after the appointed time, by which time the hustler's high-alert state will hopefully have burnt up a good deal of his mental energy and sent him off the boil.)

Thanks (8)
Replying to I'msorryIhaven'taclue:
Red Leader
By Red Leader
07th Apr 2021 19:00

Even better than phoning at the start of the working day - get in your car, drive to his place at 3.30am, kill the engine and the lights just before you get to his house, then bang on the door with your fists. Oh boy, will he be surprised!

Thanks (2)
Replying to Red Leader:
avatar
By Carole Baldwin
07th Apr 2021 20:19

Better still, let me go to see him for you. When I turn up on my bike in full leathers and crash helmet with black tinted visor it really throws people. They are faced with a hells angel at their door and I swear some of them think I'm there to knee cap them. By the time I've finished telling them what a cr*p client they are they probably wish I had just knee capped them instead.

Thanks (5)
Replying to Carole Baldwin:
avatar
By Bob Loblaw
08th Apr 2021 10:59

Genuinely one of the most cringeworthy things I've ever read on this board. Some achievement.

Thanks (6)
Replying to Carole Baldwin:
Red Leader
By Red Leader
08th Apr 2021 12:17

For the record, I was being ironic.

Thanks (3)
Replying to Red Leader:
avatar
By Carole Baldwin
09th Apr 2021 10:16

For the record, I wasn't.

Thanks (1)
Replying to Carole Baldwin:
avatar
By Rgab1947
09th Apr 2021 10:19

Ooooh! As they would say in a Carry On picture

Thanks (0)
Replying to Carole Baldwin:
By Silver Birch Accts
09th Apr 2021 13:54

Ding Dong!

Thanks (0)
Replying to Carole Baldwin:
avatar
By Vallery Lee
09th Apr 2021 14:28

I like your style

Thanks (0)
avatar
By Refs1
07th Apr 2021 21:04

A lot for me depends on what the tone of that conversation is likely to be. If it is likely to be civil then why not have the conversation. If not keep it in writing and low key. If he has an ego don’t feed it, have closed conversations, short and to the point. If he becomes abusive end the call and block his number. Good luck.

Thanks (2)
avatar
By Carole Baldwin
08th Apr 2021 10:08

Life would be perfect if we could just get rid of HMRC, all other government departments, and all clients.

Thanks (2)
Replying to Carole Baldwin:
Avatar
By I'msorryIhaven'taclue
08th Apr 2021 11:02

Uhhu, think a pandemic might do the trick?

My old Economics lecturer used to say that, historically, Britain kept its numbers down by having a damn good war or a damn good plague every couple of generations.

Thanks (1)
Replying to I'msorryIhaven'taclue:
Maytuna
By DJKL
09th Apr 2021 11:11

I have a work colleague who is of the view that the odd world war improves the quality of the pool of potential employees, those daft as a brush being more likely to get themselves killed whilst those who think and weigh odds tend, on average, to survive longer- in effect Darwin in action.

It is of course not just twentieth century World Wars, the Napoleonic Wars had petty criminals offered the option of signing up or facing something much worse.

Thanks (0)
Replying to Carole Baldwin:
By govig
09th Apr 2021 11:01

Yep, a client once said to me "dentistry would be a great job if it wasn't for the patients"

Thanks (0)
Replying to Carole Baldwin:
By govig
09th Apr 2021 11:02

Yep, a client once said to me "dentistry would be a great job if it wasn't for the patients"

Thanks (0)
Replying to govig:
Avatar
By I'msorryIhaven'taclue
09th Apr 2021 13:09

And was he a dentist?

Thanks (0)
avatar
By andy.partridge
08th Apr 2021 13:56

Why not ask him to put his requests in writing "so that there is no danger of misunderstandings between us."

Thanks (0)
avatar
By Roland195
08th Apr 2021 14:05

If you are being honest with yourself, is it possible you might have a tone that comes across badly over written communication?

Did the responses in November & February hint that the accounts were low down on the To-do list that had you picked up on, might have left it to come back to you?

Thanks (1)
avatar
By Thorsten Orr
08th Apr 2021 14:13

Update as to what the client meant by "quickly confirm a few things"...I asked him"If you could please list the things you wish to confirm in an email, I will look at it." and he's come back with this:-

"Basically everything that I need to know to do the accounts myself:

What returns are due and when i.e. do I need to do a zero VAT return, if so when is it due

What are the passwords to HMRC systems to do so (if applicable)

So a total hand over to a novice"

Thanks (1)
Replying to Thorsten Orr:
Avatar
By I'msorryIhaven'taclue
08th Apr 2021 14:33

I would respond along the lines of It would serve no useful purpose to relate all that information to you verbally and expect you to have to scribble it down. Such matters are best recorded in writing in order that we each have something concrete to refer back to.

Then send a schedule and log-in names in one email, and the passwords in another. And, of course, tell him he is disengaged forthwith, so that if he should appoint another agent there would be no point in contacting you.

Thanks (0)
Replying to Thorsten Orr:
Stepurhan
By stepurhan
08th Apr 2021 14:43

Passwords are a fair request if you have any client passwords.

Everything else is just taking the proverbial. You could quote for providing some basic training I suppose, but I doubt any price would be worth it for you. A polite but firm refusal is in order.

Maybe point him to your professional body (if you have one). Not that qualifications make a good accountant, but it would at least give him a reference for how much knowledge is required.

Thanks (1)
Replying to stepurhan:
Red Leader
By Red Leader
08th Apr 2021 16:44

And a link to an online bookkeeping tuition course.

Thanks (0)
Replying to Thorsten Orr:
avatar
By Carole Baldwin
08th Apr 2021 19:07

"Basically everything that I need to know to do the accounts myself"

Confirmation that your (ex) client is a fool. I would cease all contact with him and only deal with any new accountant he engages, and only them the absolute minimum.

Thanks (0)
Replying to Thorsten Orr:
avatar
By JamesDS
09th Apr 2021 09:56

Thorsten Orr wrote:

Basically everything that I need to know to do the accounts myself:

Hahaha, brilliant.

Perhaps point out that that training is not a service you provide for free, and that if he still wants the conversation, he will be expected to pay the invoice in advance.

And point out that he needs to watch his tone...

Thanks (2)
Replying to Thorsten Orr:
avatar
By Rgab1947
09th Apr 2021 10:22

Politely advise you gave up teaching some time ago. Then refer him to QuickBooks online tutorials (or any other cloud software. After all "its easy")

Thanks (1)
avatar
By bigmuggsy
08th Apr 2021 19:51

Listen, just tell him where to go.

It’s your business, we’ve had many an argument face to face and over the phone with ex clients, part and parcel of running a practice and dealing with joe public.

Move on.

Thanks (3)
avatar
By ColA
09th Apr 2021 10:09

Refer his correspondence to your PI insurers and ignore it: i.e. don’t reply.
I had chancers some years back in a start-up based as tenants at University of Sussex at the time, now understandably dissolved, who were reluctant to provide information, suggested I had failed to submit HMRC returns on their behalf & classic avoidance.
A good letter of engagement & alert PI brokers saw them off.

Thanks (0)
avatar
By towat
09th Apr 2021 10:32

Don't engage, from experience I haven't been hard enough in the past when trying to sack certain clients and they wheadle their way back in and continue to eat up your time year on year.

Thanks (0)
avatar
By David Gordon FCCA
09th Apr 2021 11:26

Yes.
Notwithstanding, you should send the ex-client a clear brief note, Special delivery, (Recorded Delivery is useless) saying that you will not enter into any further conversation or correspondence with him. Include a bundle of the stuff you are required under professional rules to supply to his new accountant.With a note stating this is what it is, and it is the ex's responsibility to pass it on to his new accountant. Any further time spent will incur fees @ £250 per hour.
Ensure you have advised HMRC, all relevant departments, you are no longer acting for the client and or the company.
Also, if needed, change the registered office to client's address, but advise the client you are so doing.
Job done.
Keep a clear record of your action in case the b***er complains to ICAEW or ACCA.
Send a copy to your PI insurer for the record.
This sounds a lot to do, but it is not. It should not take more than an hour of your time.
It is a belt and braces task, but is just in case the ex turns out to be the one in a thousand complete ar**h**e.
Actually, my motto is:The only dud client is one whom does not pay (In reasonable time) appropriate fees, and or kicks the dog.
To be fair to my colleagues I have observed that, in real life, it takes a gigantic enormous amount of aggravation for one of you to finally kick a nuisance out through the door.
(We are not herein speaking of real crooks or villains)

Thanks (0)
avatar
By [email protected]
09th Apr 2021 11:33

It saddens me to read so many unsympathetic posts at a time like this. What has the profession become?
Firstly, for the client to write as he did (which is wholly unacceptable) he must be under immense pressure. I would counter that your reply simply poured petrol on the situation. If you had replied letting him know that you were trying to help and with the reason you needed the figures early, then gone on to state that his email upset you, just as your initial email had obviously upset him, the whole outcome would probably have been far different.
These are difficult times for many. That poor guy sounded at the end of his tether. It was sympathy he needed not a 'jobsworth by the book' 'how can I get my own back attitude.

Thanks (1)
Replying to [email protected]:
By coops456
09th Apr 2021 12:00

Emails can be easily misinterpreted, I agree. But everyone is under pressure; some people are just chancers. The client has never paid the OP on time, which speaks volumes. And his follow-up email is laughable - "tell me how to do your job myself"?

Do one!

Thanks (0)
Replying to [email protected]:
Kitten
By Hazel Accounts
09th Apr 2021 13:48

I was thinking something similar - the client's email reply as quoted isn't great but we don't know what went before.
The client may be struggling in the pandemic with business problems, home schooling, caring for older relatives and so forth (and of course the OP may equally be stressed out).
I would ideally like to prepare accounts by 6 months after the year end, but I would have probably phoned the client who hadn't yet sent the necessary books to see how they were and agree a timescale of when they could provide the records that worked for him as well as my work schedules and any regulatory deadlines.

Other info does imply the client wasn't a good payer (but did pay) but had also been a client for quite a few years

I think he deserves the info you would give to a new accountant (even if he is going to try and do it himself) and you should send closing TB, fixed assets register, tax computations, passwords and whatever else is applicable/appropriate in a package with letter of disengagement. You could point out filing deadlines are at Companies House and he would need his own gov. gateway account for VAT and tax and all that info is on HMRC website.

I also would not change the registered office (if it's at your office) without warning - you can't assume where he wants it and some people don't want their home visible - you need to ask him to supply the new address for it.

Thanks (0)
avatar
By Tomazaan
09th Apr 2021 12:09

I have read the various replies with interest. Please be very careful if you decide to communicate via email and remember that an email takes on the tone of the reader, not the sender. As Dave said, we have no idea why your ex-client wrote to you as they did. It may be because they are normally rude or it could be because they just could not cope with one more person demanding some action from them. I have made the mistake of trying to sort out a problem via email and made matters far worse.
Good luck in sorting this out.

Thanks (0)
By Moonbeam
09th Apr 2021 14:13

If you dislike the client and want to get rid then I accept you know what you're talking about. Maybe the client will be the best thing since sliced bread for another accountant. (I doubt it).
As others have said, send an email passing on all the data you could be asked for by a new accountant and warn him that you will charge for any extra data from now on and that your disengagement letter is all you're required to give.
That's it. No more calls and emails. The less time you can spend on him the better.

Thanks (0)
.
By Cheshire
09th Apr 2021 16:02

Send him a link for an ACCA and ATT course and say, start here, there are more exams that you will need before you get to the point where you can do the job.

All joking apart, send all his paperwork back with another copy of the dis-engagement letter. Supply as others have said, what you would to another Accountant. Do not engage further, other than to refer him back to the dis-engagement letter if he wont go away.

Thanks (0)
All Paul Accountants in Leeds
By paulinleeds
10th Apr 2021 22:32

I've had a similar email from a client. It may be true that his accounts and tax return are not due quite yet.

When he is free to provide information does not mean that I'll be free to accept it and work on it straight away.

Clients ask what the deadline is for accounts and tax return. I tell them but also say that I do not work up to deadlines. That creates me with more pressure than required.

What if all clients gave you their records a week or day before deadlines? Do you drop all other work and service them?

He needs to be told straight what is and what is not acceptable if he wishes to work with you.

Thanks (0)

Pages

Share this content