No reply to professional letter, what to do?

We have not got the information we requested from our professional letter for our new client.

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We have a new client, and sent a professional letter to the previous accountant, requesting the usual accounts, tax returns and PAYE etc. They have refused to send to us, or the client, the requested information. They are not members of any professional body. Do you have any suggestions as to how to get them to send the requested information to us?

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By WhiteRose
12th Sep 2023 13:01

Refused? Or just failed to do it?
Any insights as to why?

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By WhiteRose
12th Sep 2023 13:02

Refused? Or just failed to do it?
Any insights as to why?

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By ireallyshouldknowthisbut
12th Sep 2023 13:16

Depends who they are and exactly why they are being idiots. ie does the client owe them money? Or are they depressed? Or do they just not care?

No easy solution. I have had a client door step and old accountant who we being a pain, which yielded results (physical file dumped on the door mat and door slammed, but hey, its a result) but thats rare.

I have also done a "to whom it concerns" approach which covers both the fact they might be dead or in a coma AND if opened by someone else in the household hopefully a massive kick up the behind as we list the attempted contacts. Works quite well, proper iron fist in a velvet glove.

But fundamentally do you need much? ie can you just shrug your shoulders and carry on as best you can. For many businesses there is little on the balance sheet anyhow you cant work out what it is. I guess the business size will determine how much effort to put into this. Its unlikely when you do get a response it will be very detailed if they are not playing ball.

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By SXGuy
12th Sep 2023 13:55

What was the reason for refusal?

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By DKB-Sheffield
12th Sep 2023 14:02

David160 wrote:

Do you have any suggestions as to how to get them to send the requested information to us?

Well, as you're after accounts and tax returns... I'd expect the client to have copies of these - from when they approved them?

PAYE... they should have received monthly reports, payslips etc. that they (the client) can provide to you. The same would go for VAT etc.

Bookkeeping (if the accountant did it) is more of a problem - and would need to be obtained. But, if they just reviewed (and amended) client bookkeeping, the client would have (most) of this.

The major thing I would be wanting is schedules (assuming they haven't already been supplied to you - or the client). In addition to providing opening balances and breakdowns, it's these that I use to highlight documents I may need to obtain from the client (HP agreements, land/ building completion statements etc...)

What to do now...

If you have 'issued' an all-encompassing 'clearance' letter* (I'm not really meaning a 'clearance' letter - which is 'simple', I'm referring to one of those "send me all the information you hold, or could obtain from the client" letters), perhaps try resending in a reduced format?

Realistically, sending accounts, SATRs, CT600s - for the last 2/ 3 years - which the client has already had... is duplication, and if the client has approached 2 or 3 accountants previous (we don't know)... can be even more. The question then is, if the accountant is resending information already provided, are they entitled to charge (something the client will likely be unwilling to accept)?

If the accountant is not a 'member' of ANY organisation (even the less mainstream 'membership organisations' have complaints processes), and if they are withholding client property (books, records), the client (not you) could consider legal action.

The above said, I would expect most of the information could be obtained, ascertained, and understood, if the client reviews their emails from the last few years!

* A few years ago, I received a auto-generated 'professional clearance letter' requesting everything from the annual accounts, to clients' (company & 2 directors) inside leg measurements. I supplied what I had but explained I did not have... electronic copies of all receipts for the last 5 years, [CLIENTS'] Government Gateway IDs, or copies of all HMRC correspondence issued to the client (amongst other things). I was informed I was being obstructive, that I was preventing client from fulfilling their duties, and that they would be taking further action. When I asked WHY they needed this information, and WHAT they were going to DO with it IF they received it... I was informed that it wad an essential part of their onboarding process - and a legal requirement!!! Alas, no further action taken - which was a shame, as I would have loved to challenge it!

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RLI
By lionofludesch
12th Sep 2023 16:58

Just estimate stuff.

What else can you do?

If HMRC complain, tell them you'd appreciate any pressure they can put on these cowboys. Actually, might be an idea to tell the cowboys that you've told HMRC that they're cowboys and won't reply to your letter so you've had to guess.

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By Catherine Newman
12th Sep 2023 17:40

I came across one-a book-keeping supplier who shall not be named but have a tax advisory bit. After a day of several people passing the buck, I gave up.

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By Tom+Cross
13th Sep 2023 12:07

Fortunately, this has only happened once, to me, in just over 40 years of private practice.
I would always ensure that you drop them a line to explain that "in the absence of a response, you have assumed that they are not aware of any professional, or other reasons, why you should not act, for their former client". I may also include the fact that I will have to estimate figures, due to the lack of professional exchanges.

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