Is this bribery and liability?

I feel like I’ve been gaslit by these accountants and now they’re avoidant too.

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Hello, thank you so much for engaging with me. I originally wrote the below as a review to post to trustpilot, but thought I should seek more advice first. 
They do not hold consistent fees for services they provide. They will not notify prior if these fees change. They kept a client account for my VAT to be paid in and out of. They charged me to maintain this account, I was not aware of this throughout the working relationship. This fee also tripled with no notification. In the client account they held for me, they withdrew money in October 2023 after invoicing me and I confirmed to take their fee in June 2023. 5 months after the agreed payment time, they did not inform me of this withdrawal but chose to do so anyway. From what I know of invoices, the longest time you can not be paid after you have sent and confirmed a invoice is 90days. How after 152 days did they think it was okay to go and take that payment with no notification or confirmation from me. Their client. They are liable.
It was never clearly explained to me the purpose and procedures of VAT returns and did not send me any documents to look over or confirm myself. Each quarter they submitted for me, I saw no VAT returns, I was unaware that this is a document even existed. I did not know fully what was happening with the client account or VAT, which is my own fault and I take responsibility.   I should’ve looked over every three months thoroughly as there was money that belonged to me, that they (as it stands currently) are NOT accounting for. 
They wanted to charge me over £5000 for work they did not submit under my instruction. After being alarmed at the fee for a Tax return they did not submit, I noticed the language in the invoices were ambiguous and it seems to me there are duplicate services which they had tripled in price, in between the issue of invoices. 
No indication as to why the fees kept changing and always for more money than originally stated. 
Xero the well known software, they want to charge my £750 for a one off fee, of a software that I know costs £36 (£40 MAX) to run. They told me it was mandatory to use this software even though I was not consulted on the other options. 
They are avoidant. I have asked multiple times to speak to someone on the phone. When I challenged their own £5000 fee, almost immediately I was in communication with someone I had never met or dealt with before offering £50 credit+VAT for “the generic wording has slipped through on the invoice”. This is bribery. Deeply patronising and I feel offended because by that statement, I’m supposed to believe a business as reputable as this one. Has generic wording that will just create loopholes. After I said no, I want documents, itemisation and proof, the more I dig. The more I find.
Each time I’ve requested something, I’ve had to follow up on emails, because as I said. Avoidant. I’ve asked to speak to the complaints team on the phone. Still nothing. Going into the weekend I am deeply concerned and thought for anyone currently working with them or thinking of working with them. I saved all my invoices and the differences in fee is staggering. Had I not wanted to leave this company, I would still be clueless. A young self employed artist, hoping that this company would have my best interest at heart. In hindsight, why would they? 
I'm hoping before I go in all guns blazing that indeed that which I am disturbed about is accurate? And any advice going forward? As I think it's going to be intense. Thank you so much for reading. 

Replies (17)

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By bernard michael
01st Mar 2024 14:52

Gosh!!

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By David Ex
01st Mar 2024 15:01

TL;DR

If you have a contractual dispute that you cannot resolve amicably, speak to a solicitor.

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By williams lester accountants
01st Mar 2024 15:11

Your letter of engagement should outline the complaints procedure - initially internal to them and then normally to their supervisory body.

Have you read and followed the complaints procedure?

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By Leywood
01st Mar 2024 15:12

Legal issue, not an Accounting one, so not for this forum.

You need a copy of their complaints process from your Engagement letter, to know which professional body they belong to make a complaint to and a new Accountant (one who has been recommended to you by someone you trust, or someone local who you can sit in front of).

I will hazard a guess that Trust pilot has a lot of bad reviews already.

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Replying to Leywood:
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By Ronks
01st Mar 2024 15:43

Strangely, they have 0 reviews on trustpilot. Have been active accountants for years. Thank you for your help

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By FactChecker
01st Mar 2024 15:18

Just one extract:
" From what I know of invoices, the longest time you can not be paid after you have sent and confirmed a invoice is 90days. How after 152 days did they think it was okay to go and take that payment with no notification or confirmation from me. Their client. They are liable."

If you seriously believe what you say there, then I fear for what else may have been misunderstood by you.

But if you are in dispute with a company with whom you have contracted for services, then your first port of call is that company (and any dispute resolution channels set out in their T&Cs) ... followed, if unsuccessful, by their supervisory body (if they have one) ... and finally litigation (if you have time and money to burn).

Sorry, but those are the harsh facts as they appear to be from what you've said ... but don't forget Leywood's sound advice to find yourself a new Accountant as soon as you know that you're not continuing with the current lot.

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By Ronks
01st Mar 2024 15:50

Thank you for your help. I’m now much clearer on how to move forward. Thank you everyone. I really appreciate it.

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Replying to Ronks:
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By Ronks
01st Mar 2024 15:59

Apparently the senior partner who takes care of complaints is out of office until further notice lol this is crazy! But thanks again everyone.

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Replying to Ronks:
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By kim.shaw-and-co.com
03rd Mar 2024 01:33

Ronks wrote:

Apparently the senior partner who takes care of complaints is out of office until further notice

Oh really ? Slap them with a Subject Access Request for sure, and keep copies of your proof of posting and proof of delivery. It will make them think twice about pulling that one again... and give your new accountant plenty to work with to get you back on track, along with ICAEW if some of what you have inferred is substantiated.

That is, assuming they take more of an interest than RICS seem to in respect of their members engaging in acts of well-evidenced false representation of appointment as Official Receivers under an invalid "appointment", breaking and entering property and changing locks for a creditor who has not served any valid notice of repossession on a debtor, later admitted to have been an attempt to encourage an offer of settlement ... the complaint about which was not even followed by an acknowledgement by RICS.

Let me not start on the seemingly bottomless pit of solicitors whose accounting staff cannot supply a reconciliation of application of client account monies on request which makes any sense months after a transaction has completed ...

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Replying to Ronks:
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By Paul Crowley
01st Mar 2024 17:05

We dislike bad accountants more than their clients
I always ask that if you cannot get a meeting on a regular basis then do you really have a UK based accountant? I get outsourcing requests from India in emails at least weekly.

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Replying to Paul Crowley:
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By Ronks
01st Mar 2024 17:58

Oh wow! I’m shocked and to be honest, I’m very green when it comes to financial literacy but I’m finding that this accountant might be trying to play on that. Sorry for what you’re experiencing too. Thank you for a lovely message though.

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By Craigy1874
01st Mar 2024 16:21

I'm not going to read all that, but good luck.

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By I'msorryIhaven'taclue
02nd Mar 2024 11:54

Are you in business as a limited company, or self-employed?

If the latter, issue a subject access request to receive copies of every last piece of data the firm holds on you - which will include background file notes detailing your affairs, your fees and charges, and any other internal documents or emails in which your name or your identifiers feature. If they tamper with, or otherise hide or remove, those records they'll commit a serious offence and will be in hot water only with their professional body, but also with the Information Commissioner.

There's generally no fee to make a SAR - although I have read here and there that any application fee must be capped at £20 - and you'll usually receive all those documents within a month. Requset ALL documents btw - "to include paper and electronic, including archived records". (The first thing they'll do upon receipt of a SAR request is try to archive as many of your documents as they can).

I'm assuming they're a UK based firm, and not Indians or the like as Paul has mentioned.

Would you mind letting us know who their professional body are? Not their identity, of course - just who their practising certificate is with.

Good hunting!

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Replying to I'msorryIhaven'taclue:
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By Ronks
02nd Mar 2024 13:31

This is so informative thank you so much! Yes their governing body is ICAEW. I’m also self employed. Thank you again! This information is priceless. I really appreciate you.

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Replying to Ronks:
DougScott
By Dougscott
02nd Mar 2024 15:03

If any ICAEW member is not running things properly then any complaint you make is likely to make them jump! Your engagement letter SHOULD outline all the possible costs so make sure you aren't doing the firm a disservice before you accuse them of mis-charging. ICAEW-regulated firms don't usually come cheap so what might seem expensive to you could be pretty average fees.

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Replying to Dougscott:
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By I'msorryIhaven'taclue
02nd Mar 2024 18:53

Armed with every piece of info, file notes icluded, ever generated - including discussion over the level of fees to charge our protagonist - then a value call on whether or not to pursue the (allegedly) errant practice will be all the easier.

Late thought: add "to include microfiche records" to your SAR request letter, OP. And deliver it to the senior partner by "signed for" guaranteed next day delivery post. We've recently started doing that with professional clearance letters - costs about £8 by first class post. The postie, if he's unable to obtain a signature as proof of delivery, will take a snap of your letter as he delivers it. Rather like Amazon delivery men do.

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Replying to Ronks:
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By I'msorryIhaven'taclue
02nd Mar 2024 18:57

Ronks wrote:

This is so informative thank you so much! Yes their governing body is ICAEW. I’m also self employed. Thank you again! This information is priceless. I really appreciate you.

You're welcome! My fee note is in the post to you :)

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