Would you request bills on behalf of a client?

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We have a client who wants us to chase missing invoices and bills on their behalf from their suppliers as we identify them.

Currently, we check supplier statements against what is shown in the software and then let the client know of any which are missing to then chase their suppliers.  They have asked us to do this for them now which I have already stated is something we do not do, however they are pushing for us to do this for them claiming it takes too much time for them and not any time for us which is not the case.

I am just unsure how to go back to them on this and what reasons to give other than we do not have this in our engagement/fee (which I already stated).  Any advice would be really appreciated.

Replies (25)

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By Wanderer
12th Jul 2023 16:43

"Would you request bills on behalf of a client?" - No!

So they can't be asked and expect you to do all the follow up resulting from their inefficiencies / deficiencies?

Tell them either they can do it or you'll charge £50 for each chaser sent.

If a client put me in this situation and particularly said "and not any time for us" they would soon become an ex client.

Sound like you are already going over & above checking the statements and bringing the missing ones to their attention.

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By the_drookit_dug
12th Jul 2023 16:45

If you're already reconciling supplier statements, then this doesn't seem an unreasonable request for a bookkeeping engagement - presumably it doesn't add any time to request missing invoices from the suppliers over highlighting the missing invoices to the client.

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Replying to the_drookit_dug:
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By thebusinesshut
12th Jul 2023 17:17

I agree, this isn't an unreasonable request for a bookkeeping service. We do this on behalf a number of clients (as agreed) and find it actually makes our process quicker as no client to go through to request data they're often not sure about, which we may end up going backwards and forwards on.

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paddle steamer
By DJKL
12th Jul 2023 16:51

If in house you would do this so do not see why not as external bookkeeper. I certainly chase things (usually utilities paid by DD)

Of course best approach, if possible, is no invoice no payment, but often payments just go under DD and no DD no lower utility rates.

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By Bookkeeping23
12th Jul 2023 17:52

Thanks all. Really appreciate the feedback, very helpful :)

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By bettybobbymeggie
12th Jul 2023 18:19

I think I'd have fun establishing how a task performed by individual A takes lots of time whereas when performed by individual B it takes no time at all. If they want it doing they pay or it doesn't get done. Simples.

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Danny Kent
By Viciuno
12th Jul 2023 18:23

Don't see this as unreasonable at all if you are doing the bookkeeping. Usually far more efficient to go direct to the supplier as you will get what you need. See if you can get logins for supplier accounts or have the supplier email you with invoices and statements as a matter of course (where possible we get them sent direct to Dext)

Obviously it takes you time as well, which you will fee them for.

If you just really cant be bothered, quote something outrageous.

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Replying to Viciuno:
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By Hugo Fair
12th Jul 2023 19:29

"Obviously it takes you time as well, which you will fee them for"

Note: it might be obvious but you *must* charge them for time, not per 'successful' item.
Feel free to call me a cynic, but any client who thinks doing this is hard work probably does so for a reason (like the supplier is known to be administratively inefficient).

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By I'msorryIhaven'taclue
12th Jul 2023 19:51

They’re having you over!

There’s more work and time involved in chasing around suppliers than in the work you initially agreed to carry out. Scope creep… I’ve heard chancer clients call it “obtaining added value” which is a roundabout way of saying you’re using your upper hand to squeeze free work from you.

Remedy: you can lead a horse to water… so simply obtain the missing invoices at the rate of one per week. It’s NOT your problem, but theirs. If you feel you must fix it for them, for whatever reason, then do so at Southern Rail’s crawl rate.

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By Catherine Newman
12th Jul 2023 20:45

What about GDPR? You can't just approach a supplier on a client's behalf and expect payment.

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Replying to Catherine Newman:
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By Truthsayer
12th Jul 2023 21:40

How does GDPR come into that? The client has agreed to it.

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Replying to Catherine Newman:
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By tom123
13th Jul 2023 07:49

Only in the limited circumstances of sole trader suppliers though?

We are talking purchase ledger rather than sales ledger here, I believe.

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By Truthsayer
12th Jul 2023 21:42

Tell them it does take time, and propose an increase in your fee to cover it. If they decline, don't do the extra work. Why wouldn't you do this?

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By Roland195
13th Jul 2023 09:12

No doubt missing the point but if I had the supplier statements, I generally wouldn't be wasting anyone's time trying to obtain the missing invoices unless it was actually necessary to determine the tax treatment or allow for stock postings etc

If we are talking about the client failing to download the O2 bills to go with the Direct Debit then I could never get sparked up about it & couldn't call that value for money.

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Replying to Roland195:
paddle steamer
By DJKL
13th Jul 2023 16:23

Catch with mobile bills and heat & light is determining the vat can sometimes be tricky without the invoice, they are not all 20%.

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By the_drookit_dug
13th Jul 2023 10:48

If I were doing bookkeeping, I'd want to reconcile statements as it's a good control check and helps pick up posting inaccuracies / errors (which will always happen from time to time, even with automation). Doesn't seem a huge step further to request missing invoices - the client could set up an "accounts@..." email inbox for you to operate so that suppliers aren't emailing your own business email address with your client's invoices.

If invoices are regularly missing and taking up a lot of time, suggest a review of the client's processes and potential improvements to reduce the issue.

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By SXGuy
13th Jul 2023 14:49

Give them a fee quote for your extra time chasing suppliers, make the fee enough for you to want to do it, and enough that they may decide against it.

If they agree it's a win, if they don't it's a win.

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By adam.arca
13th Jul 2023 19:25

Each to his own but I can’t think of anything worse than doing a client’s clerical work for them.

What next? Free nose and [***] wiping service?

In all seriousness, if you run around tidying up your client’s mess, than what incentive is there for that sort of client to ever do their own work? Making a rod for your own back going down that route.

(To be clear, my reply is drafted as an accountant. Were I a dedicated bookkeeping service and with the volume to justify, then maybe, just maybe, this might be a viable service. But even then, the client would need to properly pay for the privilege in order to appreciate the value you would be creating in taking a chore they don’t want to do away from them).

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By adam.arca
13th Jul 2023 19:27

Apparently, “b*m” fails the swear filter test. I didn’t even use the A word.

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By bigmuggsy
13th Jul 2023 20:56

Maybe I’m getting old and after 13 years in practice losing the enthusiasm but I’m puzzled by this - why don’t you just say you’re not willing to do it, it’s not the job of an external accountant and that’s that?

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By Geoff56
14th Jul 2023 09:39

We let our clients know what's missing and then leave any chasing for suppliers' invoices to them. They know that without an invoice, there won't be any VAT recovery. This usually motivates them, if it is a significant amount. If it's something that we feel we need to see from an accounting perspective, we keep reminding the client.

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By JamesDS
14th Jul 2023 09:41

To my mind this is not far from invoice factoring, but without the financial risk. so..

"Hello lovely client, this is a service we offer to all our lovely customers under our menu pricing scheme [gotta love the menu pricing idea!]. We will be happy to chase invoices for you at the rate of £xx to start a chaser and yy% for each successful chase, with a minimum charge of £xx for each invoice chased. We will also be happy to advise techniques to reduce and minimise late payments and bad debts"

If it turns out to be a success, then go find yourself an apprentice and sell the service to everyone!

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Replying to JamesDS:
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By Geoff56
14th Jul 2023 10:48

But the OP is talking about chasing suppliers' invoices that are missing.

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Morph
By kevinringer
14th Jul 2023 12:19

We have a few clients for whom we have agreed to obtain missing invoices. We charge the job based on time including chasing for invoices. It makes no difference to us how we spend the time provided we are being paid for it.

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By Moonbeam
14th Jul 2023 14:38

Just say no. You've been clear you don't do this work, just as you don't offer cleaning his office as a service.
Don't let him bully you. There are other businesses who will do debt chasing for him.

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