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AWOL accountant abandons client with late SA fine

A Bolton-based accountant went off the grid when the ICAEW tried contacting him after he failed to submit one client’s tax return and another’s R&D claim.

28th Oct 2019
Practice Editor AccountingWEB
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Mark Lomax was required to appear before the ICAEW disciplinary tribunal twice on the same day in respect of two separate cases where he failed to cooperate with the ICAEW’s investigation team.

The ICAEW disciplinary tribunal concluded that “it was not open to [Lomax] simply to choose not to engage with the investigation against him” and imposed a severe reprimand and a combined fine of £10,000.

Things didn’t bode well for the client in the first complaint when Lomax missed several appointments and they were unable to make contact with him.

Despite Lomax collecting the necessary documents on 24 January 2017 to submit the client’s self assessment tax return before the deadline, the client could not get hold of him again before the 31 January filing deadline to check their tax liabilities. 

Lomax reappeared in April 2017 to hand the client his fee note for the preparation of the 5 April tax return and to inform them of their liabilities. But two months later, the client was hit with another bill to pay, only this time it was an HMRC penalty notice for failure to submit the tax return. Lomax would later put this down to a “portal failure”.

But this was the last the client heard from Lomax. He did not provide the submission receipt or reply to the client’s request for a refund of his fee or reimbursement of the HMRC penalties. The client has since appointed a new accountant – and Lomax has not replied to their professional clearance requests either. 

R&D claim disappearance

It was a similar story in the second complaint when another client engaged Lomax to submit their R&D claim, which was important for their company’s cash flow. After being supplied with the information prepared by a third party, Lomax did not answer the client’s emails or telephone calls. 

Again, the client engaged a new accountant, but the tribunal heard that Lomax still hasn’t responded to the handover request.

The ICAEW’s Professional Conduct Department didn’t have much luck either, with Lomax failing to communicate with the case manager on the investigation or respond to the letters requesting an explanation for the allegations made against him.              

Both tribunals took into account the concurrent cases and fines, but neither considered it necessary to reduce the costs sought as each case was unrelated.

In addition to the severe reprimand and two separate £5,000 fines, the tribunal in the tax return case ordered Lomax to pays costs of £2,516.17 and in the R&D tax relief case, the tribunal levied costs of £1,171.67.

Chris Cope, solicitor/ director of Accountants National Complaint Services Limited, commented

Oh dear! What a tale of woe, and more particularly, how damaging to the reputation of the accountancy profession and the standing of chartered accountants.

If I had been a member of the disciplinary tribunal I would have directed that Mr Lomax receive a Monitoring Unit inspection as soon as possible. However, the chances are that he will cease to be a member for non-payment of the fines and costs – totalling £13,688.

Mr Lomax did not see fit to attend the hearing. Presumably, he no longer values his qualification. In the good old days, a representative of the local District Society would drop in to see whether the practitioner was in need of help.

If you are presently subject to a complaint, you can call the Accountants National Complaint Services Limited for advice (01769 581581) or visit their website

Replies (8)

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By vijayshah2005
28th Oct 2019 14:06

sounds like the poor fellow is struggling.

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Replying to vijayshah2005:
Hallerud at Easter
By DJKL
28th Oct 2019 15:05

Agreed, it sounds like there may have been issues - presuming more than two clients wonder how many others may have not gone down the complaint route but just found A N Other.

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By ireallyshouldknowthisbut
29th Oct 2019 10:06

I tend to agree with the above, poor chap sounds like he needs some help from the ICAEW, not a fine, albeit simply blanking an investigation like this is really not helpful.

If you are a ICAEW member and struggling, contact CABA.

https://www.caba.org.uk/

Also from a professional point of view this highlights why you need very defined T&C's. I never promise to file with such a short deadline, I would always say 'we will do our best, but you have missed our internal deadlines, so this is at your risk'. This takes the pressure off.

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By indomitable
29th Oct 2019 10:52

Cant believe he agreed to file by 31st when he only got the documents on 24th.

But it does sound like there's more to the story than the mere facts of the case

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By The Black Knight
29th Oct 2019 14:35

Who would be an accountant!

He's perhaps had a breakdown from the stress.

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Replying to The Black Knight:
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By Trethi Teg
30th Oct 2019 09:40

"Who would be an accountant!

He's perhaps had a breakdown from the stress."

Are you serious? What stress - well paid, control own working time, secure income, etc etc etc.

Being an accountant is not difficult and any stress involved is normally caused by an individuals lack of ability, managment skills and so on.

Let's keep our sympathy for those who really are struggling i.e. Labour MP's in marginal leave constituencies!

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Replying to The Black Knight:
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By Southwestbeancounter
30th Oct 2019 18:06

He wouldn't be the first. Accountancy isn't what it once was and sadly I know of more than one accountant who has committed suicide due to the stress so I would have thought that ICAEW might have looked into this rather than just issuing fines as the report suggests.

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By [email protected]
29th Oct 2019 17:51

ICAEW has no problem in clobbering the hard-up struggling sole trader, but when it comes to dealing with E&Y, well the silence is deafening.

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