WHO HATES CHEATS

Client Dispute because she lost out on SEISS

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This is to get it off my chest. A good moan. A client disputes the failure to submit the 18/19 taxreturn and therefore she lost out on SEISS grants. She delivered her books in the March following the 31st January cut off despite sending at least 4 reminders. She was in penalty by then and never resurfaced nor responded until she received penalty notices in October and came round to sign the return She has now shot off to a rottweiler of an accountant who is helping her sue. There is a clear audit trail. But  I can see the outcome. Once the Professional Indemnity kicks in you waive your rights to be involved. So it rests with them. And the times I have seen and heard from others they sort it the easiest way possible and rarely in the accountants favour. There will be some nebulous reason thrown into the pot. Moan over. But I detest those out there cheating the system.

Replies (42)

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By Matrix
25th May 2021 16:01

Really sorry to hear this NYB. I doubt anything will come of it but I am sure you can do without it.

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By Geoff56
25th May 2021 16:18

Full sympathy here, too. Hopefully, when presented with a chronological account of the facts, she and the rottweiler will accept they have no case and quietly back down. Perhaps your PI people will stand off for now and see if this blows itself out. Chin up, matey.

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By Roland195
25th May 2021 16:19

The submission deadline for SEISS in respect of the 2018/19 tax return was 23/04/20. I am afraid that if the records were delivered in March the client may have some sort of case.

My sympathies are obviously with you & not suggesting I would have done anything different but I would focus on your audit trail for the period between the books coming in in March and the 23rd April.

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Replying to Roland195:
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By Paul Crowley
25th May 2021 17:12

The date was of course extended
NOT the first version
Did client rush in the sign return and pay her bill?

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By SXGuy
25th May 2021 16:19

Sorry to hear this. Had a client try to blame me also, delivered his work 2 days before the extended deadline. Missed it by a day. Sorry but he had months and I had other work already scheduled. Not my problem.

Luckly he didn't try to sue me. I do sympathise

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By Paul Crowley
25th May 2021 16:26

I think your opinion may be correct.
Insurers go for the line of least payment.
Legal defence costs more than the payout, after you contribute the excess.

Against just you this would be a hopeless case
Against the insurance company, former client has a good chance of a settlement.

This is for payments 1 to 3 only I am assuming.
The loss was of course unforeseeable. There have not been handouts in prior years.
But insurance company has 20:20 Hindsight

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By lesley.barnes
25th May 2021 16:27

Shame on her new accountant - by helping the client to sue they are condoning dishonesty. If she delivered her books 2018-19 books in March 2020 and didn't sign them off until October 2020 she was well out of time. It will be interesting if you find out what her argument is. I hope she doesn't get a penny.

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Psycho
By Wilson Philips
25th May 2021 16:34

I am of course on the side of the OP (unless and until further information comes to light that may cause me to change my mind).

However, it seems to me that all we have here is a dispute as to who was at fault for not filing the tax return on time. I can't see anything (yet) that would support allegations of dishonesty or cheating the system.

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By Mr_awol
25th May 2021 17:15

How long before the deadline did you get the records, were they complete, and how long did you take to spin it around.

It may also make a difference how big your practice is and how obvious that is to clients. If you are a five partner firm with separate payroll (and possibly tax) functions, for example, then she might expect a faster turnaround whereas if you are a one man band trying your best to keep all the plates spinning then she should expect you to be more susceptible to delays during busy periods - and let's face it, March/April was carnage.

I'm largely on your side BTW. Mainly playing Devils Advocate.

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By NYB
25th May 2021 17:48

I think one point is being missed. She never responded to have the relevant tax return filed on time on whch her grant would be assessed. So it was late. Full stop. And she is now squealing. If you dont get the books until March then you can hardly file on time.

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Replying to NYB:
Psycho
By Wilson Philips
25th May 2021 17:55

Not on time to beat the late-filing penalty, perhaps, but on time to qualify for the grant, which is the more relevant point that has been made by a number of respondents. Clearly, if she failed to respond to requests to sign the return 'on time' that is hardly your fault but we don't really know what happened between the handing in of the records and the extended deadline for SEISS assessment.

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Tornado
By Tornado
25th May 2021 17:57

Have a look at your Engagement Letter. Mine clearly states that I take no responsibility for this type of situation if the client has been tardy or not complied with my instructions. The Engagement Letter is there to ensure that you are not placed in unreasonable situations.

Is this actually your fault?

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Replying to Tornado:
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By JD
25th May 2021 20:47

You beat me to it, that was my fist thought.

The second one is the obligation to meet filing deadlines is clearly the clients and the OP has been more than reasonable in reminders sent.

and the last one is if there a loss in the first place.... was the business actually adversely affected by Covid-19 to make the claim possible

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By Refs1
25th May 2021 21:38

Stand your ground. Keep answers to the bear minimum in all correspondence. Don’t rush to reply. Delay, delay and delay. Been here before on several occasions. I think all of us on here could be in this position. Normally what happens is they get bored and go away. Never admit liability either. Clearly, the new accountant has no empathy for your situation. Good luck.

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Replying to Refs1:
Stepurhan
By stepurhan
26th May 2021 09:03

Refs1 wrote:
Keep answers to the bear minimum in all correspondence.

Sending a bear after them would prove satisfying, but probably breaches professional ethics in some way. :-)
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Replying to stepurhan:
Scooby
By gainsborough
26th May 2021 09:12

Nope...I've read the guidance...nothing mentioned in there, so sending a bear seems perfectly acceptable in these circumstances :-)

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Replying to gainsborough:
Tornado
By Tornado
26th May 2021 09:31

Yes I agree. Sending in a bear is a good way to get things done.

We retain a business called 'Bear Necessities' who hire out bears just for these circumstances and offer a range of bears based on size of bear, size of teeth and attitude (bite head off type or a just a low level of growling type). You do have to pay extra for incentives such as honey and buns but the results are spectacular.

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Replying to Tornado:
Scooby
By gainsborough
26th May 2021 10:53

*Chuckle*.....where can I sign up?

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Replying to Tornado:
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By Geoff56
26th May 2021 12:59

I did once have a lovely female client who, upon keeping me waiting a long time for some information, asked me to bare with her. I really did not know quite what to say. I didn't even have the courage to point out her mis-spelling

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Replying to Tornado:
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By Ammie
28th May 2021 10:43

Do you have a brochure or price list? I may be interested.

I have a business that produces and retails honey and buns so we may have an opportunity here for a joint venture.

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Replying to Refs1:
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By Caber Feidh
28th May 2021 16:10

Were you perhaps thinking of Shakespeare's stage direction "Exit, pursued by a bear" in Act III of The Winter's Tale - an event which is followed by Antigonus being killed by said bear.

A bear does seem a rathe drastic solution to the problem and might, as Stepurhan notes, breach professional ethics.

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blue sheep
By NH
26th May 2021 08:23

I am sure every one of us that have been in practice for a while has come across idiots like this that go through life seeking to blame others for their own mistakes, a number of years ago we had a client that completely incorrectly tried to blame our book-keeper for non existent mistakes, of course it was no coincidence that they only complained when we starting getting heavy about the 4k bill they still owed us.
When we sued for payment, they counter sued for 4k citing the cost of putting the accounts right, in the end the legal and insurance people told us to agree to withdraw our claim if he would withdraw his and they would pay us the 4k directly!
It left a very bitter taste even though we ended up getting paid. We were 100% in the right and yet somehow we felt cheated, the only advice I would give is dont let it get to you, we have all been there.

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Replying to NH:
Slim
By Slim
26th May 2021 09:36

Yep you have to ditch them asap otherwise it will come back to bite you.

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By I'msorryIhaven'taclue
26th May 2021 12:25

Assuming you're not going to set Baloo on them, then the LofE's the next port of call (others have covered this).

I'd attack on a different front: go for the new accountant's jugular. You mention the new accountant's a "rottweiler", so let's assume she's a sole-practitioner or similar. Start with the individual: begin with free bmd site and 192.com; then check practising licence, MLR supervisory body, background quals, any criminal convictions (magistrates courts often report their cases; otherwise local newspapers. Lots og googling involved).

Then the firm: DPA registration, website for compliance with all legalities and disclosures; website pictures in Tin Eye and similar picture search engines to ensure they're properly purchased; ditto published T&Cs & cookie policies etc.

What does the rottweiler get up to? Check out the social media sites. Any PC issues? Are they hooking up with someone they shouldn't? In real life, do they ever drink and drive (that'd be the jackpot for you!).

You have to fight fire with fire, and for me that means finding a [***] in the armour.

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Replying to I'msorryIhaven'taclue:
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By legerman
26th May 2021 12:42

I'msorryIhaven'taclue wrote:

You have to fight fire with fire, and for me that means finding a [***] in the armour.

Racist!!!

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Replying to legerman:
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By I'msorryIhaven'taclue
26th May 2021 12:57

Ha!

For the benefit of any Chinese participants, having a ch*nk in one's armour is a perfectly acceptable metaphorical reference to one's Achilles' heel. It doesn't necessarily mean that somebody oriental is violating social distancing protocol. There, I hope that's cleared that up.

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Replying to I'msorryIhaven'taclue:
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By legerman
26th May 2021 15:12

I'msorryIhaven'taclue wrote:

Ha!

For the benefit of any Chinese participants, having a ch*nk in one's armour is a perfectly acceptable metaphorical reference to one's Achilles' heel. It doesn't necessarily mean that somebody oriental is violating social distancing protocol. There, I hope that's cleared that up.

Sorry, I couldn't resist. I was rather gobsmacked to see it censored, but I guess the swear bot doesn't know the difference between a colloquial term and a proper use of the word.

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Replying to legerman:
Kitten
By Hazel Accounts
26th May 2021 15:28

From the dictionary:

[***] - noun:
a narrow opening, typically one that admits light.

EDIT - seems to have been censored too! I didn't type asterisks

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Replying to I'msorryIhaven'taclue:
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By Calculatorboy
26th May 2021 17:44

you obviously have a lot of time on your hands

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Replying to Calculatorboy:
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By I'msorryIhaven'taclue
26th May 2021 20:28

Perhaps so.

But, let's face it, any amongst us who can find time enough to participate in half a dozen posts during their working day must be either (i) on their benevolent employer's time; (ii) racking the time up to a compliant client's time-card; or (iii) comfortably off, and perhaps in need of reassurance from a kindred spirit or two.

Let's not fall out over the matter.

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By legerman
26th May 2021 12:54

For SEISS, she had til 23rd April to sign return and for you to submit.

By signing in October she was well outside the extended (and generous imo) time given by the Government.

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By Calculatorboy
26th May 2021 14:47

I dont think thats the definition of cheating , be careful it may be defamatory if you and client are identified and it achieves general currency

Are you unregulated by any chance ? Its just the unethical whinging about a client in a public forum, that's a no no for us higher beings.

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Replying to Calculatorboy:
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By I'msorryIhaven'taclue
26th May 2021 21:05

This is nothing more than an academic debate, and as such you are of course free to align your arguments with those of either side; as you so wish.

But if you're going to invoke the Almighty and have Him on your side -by imagining yourself to be a "higher being" - then I'm out!

You must learn to present your case on merit; not on some perceived hierarchy. If someone were to present a case that they imagined outranked yours on the grounds of (let's suppose) your degree came from a second rate polytechnic whereas their own came from a proper university, then you'd be excused for wondering whether there were any winners.

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Replying to Calculatorboy:
blue sheep
By NH
26th May 2021 21:11

Someone has a rather high opinion of oneself

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Replying to NH:
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By I'msorryIhaven'taclue
26th May 2021 21:48

Only Robert Zimmerman had God on his Side". And, in fairness to him, he was indeed a member of God's chosen tribe. A higher being, mayhap?

Cue DJKL... "We know a song about that, don't we wee bairns!."

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Replying to Calculatorboy:
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By Paul Crowley
26th May 2021 22:05

When higher beings fall, it is such a long way down.
Real higher beings have empathy.

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By FCExtraordinaire
28th May 2021 09:59

Even if she delivered the books in March 21, my terms of engagement say a minimum 4 week turnaround time. This stops people dropping VAT returns off to you on the day its due and other work because obviously they are your only client !

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Replying to FCExtraordinaire:
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By I'msorryIhaven'taclue
28th May 2021 13:45

Mine too. I'm going to beef them up to block clients who drop off most of their records more than 4 weeks before, but then run it down to the wire providing the missing pieces.

I wonder whether forseeability might play a part in the OP's defence. This will, if it goes ahead, no doubt be a tort of negligence claim; and whilst the consequences of your not submitting a VAT return for a client on time are well known to you, just how foreseeable at that time was the extent of the consequences of such failure (to file) before 23rd April?

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@enanen
By enanen
28th May 2021 10:06

Dispute all claims due to behaviour of client. Accountants not involved in SEISS process. No liability.

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Replying to enanen:
Psycho
By Wilson Philips
28th May 2021 10:12

Not strictly correct. Although perhaps not relevant in this case, if a client lost out on an SEISS claim (or any other form of financial support for that matter) due to a failure on the part of the accountant, whether a late-filing of a return or otherwise, I would not be so quick to argue no liability.

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By sammerchant
28th May 2021 11:02

I would send the proof you have outlined above, to the new accountant, copying in the ex-client. Then threaten the new accountant with reporting him/her to his/her professional body, assuming that he/she is qualified. Then wait for a reply. If they still proceed, you have this correspondence to include with your submission to your PI Insurers.

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By Cathro
28th May 2021 13:55

I completed a tax return for a client in the January of 2020 but they failed to sign it or pay my invoice so I didn't file it (as per my LOE). I chased repeatedly and despite never once acknowledging or replying to my letters and emails they did eventually signed the return just before the extended deadline in April 2020. Feeling generous to clients as I did during the first lockdown I filed the return so that they would not miss out on SEISS but still they did not pay my fee. In the end it was the total lack of communication that irked me and I had a letter before action issued, followed by court action, followed by enforcement so that earlier this month I received my fee and interest etc and the client has ended up paying out twice what I originally charged with all the costs on top. We so often can't win with clients and I often feel like I worry about their finances more than they do but every now and then we need to make a stand for our own peace of mind.

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