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Letter of authority to give info to new accountant

Client has sent one line email but not signed the letter, should I insist?

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Whenever I get a new client who already has an accountant, I always get the new client to sign a letter of authority addressed to the old accountant giving their permission to supply the information I am requesting.  I send this letter to the old accountant along with my letter requesting handover information.

Last weekend I had the usual standard 'clearance' letter from a firm regarding one of my clients.  I have emailed my client stating that I cannot give the new firm the information without his permission and attached a letter of authority for him to print off and sign.  I have suggested that I would be happy for him to photograph the signed letter and email it to me to save time.

The client can't be bothered to do that and has sent me a one line email from his iphone giving his permission.  I know he has a problem with IT, his only IT equipment is his phone, so he would probably have to email it to a cousin who would print it off for him to sign.  Should I insist or am I being overly pedantic?

Replies (27)

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By SteveHa
23rd Jul 2020 13:47

You are being overly pedantic.

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By the_fishmonger
23rd Jul 2020 14:09

I wouldn't think it pedantic where you are required to supply personal financial information to a third party. Data relating to a anything but a living human is a different matter, i.e. a limited company.

However, it's my understanding that you need consent under GDPR to pass on personal information (financial or otherwise) and, regardless of what may or may not be in your letter of engagement, it would be prudent to obtain signed off letter of authority to do so.

I wouldn't dream of asking a fellow pro to send me the info without the said authority. If a former client became* such a prat as to refuse to sign one, I'd return the 'clearance' stating that I had no reasons but I would require it before I provide tax returns, etc.

* I wouldn't usually onboard a prat from first meeting (it takes one to know one, eh! )

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Replying to the_fishmonger:
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By the_drookit_dug
23rd Jul 2020 14:45

The GDPR doesn't specific what form consent must take, merely that the data subject takes a pro-active step to demonstrate their consent. I think the ICO would be 100% satisfied in this scenario that consent had been granted.

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By ireallyshouldknowthisbut
23rd Jul 2020 14:16

If that is how your client normally corresponds with you, I would say it was OK.

If i was worried it wasn't them, I might give them a call, albeit ex-clients often won't speak to you.

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Replying to ireallyshouldknowthisbut:
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By clark.hall
23rd Jul 2020 16:49

That's the key point for me - if email is your usual method of communication.

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blue sheep
By Nigel Henshaw
23rd Jul 2020 14:32

life is too short - just send the info and move on (well you did ask)

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By Nest
23rd Jul 2020 14:38

I think it is OK unless there are more conditions written in your engagement letter/contract with the client re data sharing/confidentiality.

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By Paul Crowley
23rd Jul 2020 15:31

If I get no cooperation from client I send client paper versions recorded, with the letter from accountant and advise that he should pass them on.

I have had people phone and then fail to follow up in writing or email

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Acc
By jonock
23rd Jul 2020 15:50

I wouldn't think it is necessary to insist, it's part of the clearance procedure to give information to the new accountant. Also his email gives you consent, however brief his reply was. If the client is leaving, get him moved on in the shortest possible time.

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By Mr_awol
23rd Jul 2020 16:02

Another vote for 'too pedantic'.

I don't bother sending an authority letter as I would fully expect the outgoing accountant to contact their client anyway.

Likewise, if I got an incoming clearance letter with a signed authority I'd normally try and call the client just to confirm and ask if there was anything they were unhappy with etc. I suppose it depends how much personal contact you have with your clients whether you do this.

My disengagement letter does normally name the new advisor if there is one (thankfully we don't lose too many clients to other firms. I'm starting to wonder if we are too cheap) and the clients sometimes sign and return those. I'd never insist on anything in writing.

I did have one (now ex) client that dodged all my calls after the decision had been made to go elsewhere but they had emailed me to say fine to handover, and thanks for everything etc, so I took that as authority enough.

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RLI
By lionofludesch
23rd Jul 2020 16:37

I vote .....

You are being overly pedantic.

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Woolpit Gus
By nutwood
23rd Jul 2020 18:10

Thanks everyone for your responses.

The client's response is definitely consistent with general communication. I don't think I've ever had an email from him beyond two sentences.

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By CJaneH
24th Jul 2020 10:45

At least it is an email and you can print it out. I have clients who prefer texts.

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Replying to CJaneH:
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By Mr_awol
24th Jul 2020 12:26

Screenshot and print (I have a client who insists on whatsapping me various messages I want to put on file)

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Replying to Mr_awol:
blue sheep
By Nigel Henshaw
24th Jul 2020 12:34

You can use WhatsApp on your pc and download any attachments, thats what we do

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Replying to NH:
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By Southwestbeancounter
24th Jul 2020 14:49

I get clients who send me messages on FB Messenger which I try to dissuade them from doing as it can be a bit of a pain to convert them into an email but we do that and send it to ourselves to print off for the file!

Clients 'eh?!

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Lisa Thomas
By Lisa Thomas
24th Jul 2020 11:01

Can you email him the content of your letter instead and ask him to confirm by email that he accepts the terms laid out in the email below?

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Replying to Insolvency Practitioner:
Woolpit Gus
By nutwood
24th Jul 2020 11:36

Good idea. Why didn't I think of that!

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Replying to nutwood:
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By Mr_awol
24th Jul 2020 12:27

Surely he's already confirmed it though.

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Replying to Mr_awol:
Woolpit Gus
By nutwood
24th Jul 2020 12:52

Should have said good idea for similar future occasions.

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By Moonbeam
24th Jul 2020 17:29

I always insist on being copied into an email from new client to old accountant authorising them to pass me information.
Surely that should be good enough.

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Della Hudson FCA
By Della Hudson
28th Jul 2020 10:40

You have written permission. Why insist on paper?

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Replying to HudsonCo:
RLI
By lionofludesch
28th Jul 2020 10:59

HudsonCo wrote:

You have written permission. Why insist on paper?

Ah - the paperless office will never arrive.

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By pauljohnston
28th Jul 2020 10:49

An email is sufficient authority if received from the known email address of the previous client

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By brumsub
28th Jul 2020 12:52

Disengage properly

In the past where we had clients leave on the rare occasions our policy was to send a Letter of Disengagement which also acted as authority to deal with the prospective accountant.
The Letter would be basic but covered the important points of the date we ceased to act for them, any outstanding fees and any outstanding matters relating to accounts or tax, stating none if applicable.

We then made provision at the end of the letter for them to sign and date signifying their acceptance AND also stating that this would also serve as their authority to deal with their new accountants.

If the new accountant queried why information was not forthcoming we would point out not having received the Letter/authority – this would prompt them to chase their prospective client to deal with the matter. Without that, we would not furnish any information. I guess an email letter along the same lines would serve the same purpose.

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By Clive Greenway
29th Jan 2021 14:45

Hi, does the letter of authority process etc, apply when client is an individual and simply wants a personal tax return done and used a different account to accountant to prepare it for them last year?

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Replying to Clive Greenway:
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By Youareatit
29th Jan 2021 15:04

Clive Greenway wrote:

Hi, does the letter of authority process etc, apply when client is an individual and simply wants a personal tax return done and used a different account to accountant to prepare it for them last year?

Of course it does. Treat folk how you would expect to be treated.

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