Disagreements between a business owner and their accountant are, sadly, not uncommon. The reasons behind these conflicts are varied, yet all have the potential to cause serious damage to a company should the dispute get to the stage where focus is diverted away from the careful running and management of the business.
Sometimes it is a clash of personality, a mismatch in expectations, or conflict over fees, particularly what services you believe your accountant should be providing as standard for the amount you are paying.
Other times disagreements arise following an error which has been costly to your business either in financial or reputational terms, or has threatened your previous good standing with HMRC.
In many cases, small issues can be quickly resolved and the client-accountant relationship is able to continue as usual. In other instances though, the dispute may have made a future working relationship untenable. If you are in the midst of a disagreement with your accountant, here is what you should do:
- Communication is key – In the event of crossed wires or miscommunication, sitting down with your accountant to iron out the issues is always the best first port of call. Quite often, disputes between a company and its accountant is simply down to something being misinterpreted or not fully understood. A frank and honest discussion may be all that is needed to resolve the issue. Even if you are not currently involved in a dispute with your accountant, it is important that you make the effort to forge a close working relationship in order to get the best out of what they can offer you and your business; it is therefore advisable to meet your accountant at regular intervals to strengthen this relationship and take advantage of their knowledge and experience.
- Set out your expectations – A common source of conflict between a business owner and their accountant stems from a misalignment in what each believes will be provided from the other. Perhaps your accountant has presumed that you will take care of the day-to-day bookkeeping, for example, while you have been under the impression that this was part of the service you are paying for. Setting out your stall regarding what you expect from your accountant from the start can help avoid these issues altogether. However, it is never too late to have this discussion particularly if you are embroiled in a dispute centred on a perceived failure of one party keeping to their side of the bargain.
- Know what you are paying for – While some companies pay their accountant on an ad hoc basis for services rendered, others pay a flat fee as part of a package. If you are involved in this type of contract, knowing exactly what you are paying for and what is, and is not, included in your accountancy package is vital. Check the terms of your engagement to ensure you are not being charged for services you don’t require and conversely that the services you are taking advantage of don’t come with an additional cost attached.
Often a company will employ the services of an accountant during the early stages of its life without fully knowing what the exact requirements will be needed once trading commences. Disputes over fees and charges or work not being done are common; maybe you thought you were paying for a service that it turns out isn’t actually included in your package, or is charged as an added extra. As your business grows and develops, the support it needs from an accountant is also likely to change; make sure you keep on top of what you are paying for and look at amending the contract should it no longer meet your business’s needs.
- Look elsewhere – If the relationship between yourself and your accountant has become irrevocably strained, or an error on their part has made you question their competency, there may be no alternative other than to part ways and hire a new accountant. As the director of a limited company it is you that is ultimately responsible for ensuring that the accounts you submit to Companies House are correct and that you are adhering to your filing and other administrative obligations. Hiring an accountant to handle your company’s financial affairs requires a huge level of trust on your part and it is vital that you feel confident that your accountant is able to handle your company’s accounting and bookkeeping needs to the required standard. If you do not feel this to be the case, then starting afresh with a new accountant may be the best course of action for you and your business.
If you are experiencing difficulties with your current accountant, Handpicked Accountants can help you find a new accountant perfect for your business and its specific needs. You can start your search by using our online tool to discover reliable and trustworthy accountants in your local area, or alternatively call the team on 0800 063 9258 who will be happy to give you a tailored recommendation.