If something doesn't appear to be right, you need to ask the question straight. 'What are you living on'?
If the answer that comes back doesn't make sense or they don't want to tell you, you need to consider various things
What is you duty in this instance. Have you uncovered evidence of money-laundering (tax evasion) in which case you need to report this to the NCA
If you just have suspicions and don't know, talk to your professional body first for advice, but definitely get rid of them as a client at some point.
Nothing good can come from this client if they are not being honest with you.
You cannot just abrogate your responsibility by just saying they signed the tax return if you have evidence that it is wrong.
There has been a 'race to the bottom' for many years now in the small client market. I totally agree with the comments above and I wouldn't do this with unlimited support and constant emails from the client. But to prepare a very simple self-assessment return every year with excellent records from the client and it wasn't going to take you longer than a couple of hours in total yes possibly.
The headline price is just a marketing ploy in many cases
Have a minimum fee, that usually gets rid of time wasters. You can say happy to help but we have a minimum fee of say £350 to £500 plus VAT.
I did this a long time ago and it certainly gets rid of the sorts of clients you don't really want. If they want to pay, then fine they are the sort of client you want.
Can't believe the question. Do you really not know the answer to this. Even if you weren't an accountants surely you would know. This is not something that needs an opinion on.
You should not get involved.
It depends on what was agreed and what was done of course. If the previous accountants have charged for work not done then the client needs to dispute this with the accountant and not pay the outstanding bill if he is sure of his facts.
You have not given enough facts to go to a solicitor yet!
At the moment as has been mentioned by someone else we quote tax & accounting compliance separately from bookkeeping.
We are finding though a lot of downward pressure on pricing as some accountants are prepared to work for very little fees, (not sure about the quality of their work though).
The explosion of cloud software and the unregulated nature of the accounting market will mean, I fear that in the future certainly bookkeeping and accounting compliance may not be worth doing for SME's.
If you don't need the work why bother? Alternatively as someone else has said do a quick estimate then double it.
In my experience these clients are more trouble than they are worth, let someone else deal with it.
There is a reason they are in a mess and it's usually because they are sloppy and don't think keeping records properly is important. Also it is likely they want the cheapest accountant possible.
Either way not worth it unless you get decent fees.
I would have an honest conversation with them and tell them the consequences for them of not keeping proper records and filing incorrect returns at HMRC.
I really don't understand the problem, if you send out an engagement letter either hard copy or electronically what possible difference does it make if you sign it before the client signs it or after it comes back signed.
Even if you don't sign it until it comes back it is still an actionable document as they signed it and it is on your practices letterhead.
Believe me you are worrying about nothing you are compliant
My experience is MOST larger practices do it right. It's the unqualified unregulated accountants that we find tend to not know what can or can't be claimed
A further thought:
Our professional indemnity insurers also have a free legal helpline, so you might also want to check whether yours have too and call them for advice