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I am an independent contractor (UK based) and have an accountant do my 'accounting' for me. He seemed good to start off with, but by now he seems incompetent or uninterested in the work (examples below). I am looking to replace him, and in fact I would like a refund, as much of the 'work' he did is unusable. What is the best way to address this?

  • I submit all my accounts, invoices and receipts through an online service. These get translated into bookkeeping entries for me - but always wrong. I have to chase every entry multiple times, and even then it's often wrong
  • He forgot to do some essential filing for me. I reminded him in time, but on his own, he would have not done it
  • The accounting software he asked me to use comes with no instructions, and he didn't tell me how to use it either. I ended up wasting a lot of time wrestling with it
  • We had initially discussed him doing more work for me, which he never did - though I'm not sure if I have it in writing, sadly

I thus have no confidence in him dealing with tax authorities on my behalf.

Am I in a position to ask for a refund, for at least some of the work?

As for leverage, I know he relies on online reviews (which are somehow good), so he may not want to have a disappointed customer around. Or perhaps the above are serious enough that they are grounds for complaint to a professional body?

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    Is this an accountant or a chartered accountant? In the UK, the latter is a protected title and they are registered through a professional body - if you have difficulty with them, you can always approach the professional body. If they are the former, you might not get anywhere without making a small claims suit.
    – HorusKol
    Feb 28, 2020 at 0:29
  • I doubt that you will get a refund, but you might be able to publish an unopinionated, 100% factual review somewhere online, to warn others,
    – Mawg
    Feb 28, 2020 at 7:21
  • @MawgsaysreinstateMonica An offline comment I got was "not to mess with accountants" - as they are in a "position of power". E.g. if they are unhappy with the situation, they could tip off authorities about a suspected, made-up tax irregularity. What would you think of that? I have nothing irregular in my tax affairs, but such revenge would be a hassle...
    – Bennet
    Feb 28, 2020 at 11:09
  • Good point. Probably best to forget it. Unless you are 100% sure that you can post the "wrongs" without them being traced back to you. Personally, I would leave it lie, bitter as it might taste
    – Mawg
    Feb 28, 2020 at 13:15

2 Answers 2

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You can always ask for a refund. Especially since you have some valid points you can bring up.

Of course, just as you have every right to ask for one, they have every right to refuse it. Note that it is often important for companies and/or freelancers (forgot the word I wanted to use, sorry) to have a happy customer. So giving you a refund is often also a good way to make it up to you and possibly not make a big deal out of it.

As for a way to bring it to him: (depending on how formal the contact is between the two of you, this one is rather informal)

Hello Danny,

Lately I have noticed that you can not always deliver the work that I ask of you. Further more the quality of the work has also been below my expectations.

!!Give some examples here!!

For these reasons I would like to ask you for a refund, at least for part of the work done.

I would also like to inform you that from now on I will no longer be using your services.

I hope to hear back from you.

With kind regards ...

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  • I do like that "With kind regards" after the rest of the letter. Sets it off rather nicely
    – Mawg
    Feb 28, 2020 at 7:20
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If you are billed yearly I'd suppose the last year is the only you can really ask a refund for, as keeping his services was implicit acknowledgement of satisfying work.

I'm not sure the money would be important enough to be worth complaining legally, and I'm not sure there are other instances where your complaint would have leverage. On the top of that, despite what you complain about may be legitimate, there is essentially no proof of bad faith.

You can always ask for a (most likely partial) refund on the basis you have not been able to make use of the work done. I already asked that from an online service where I was billed yearly but disengaged early and obtained satisfaction. I made sure my interlocutor understood and empathized with my situation, rather than trying to be threatening. I'm sure the accountant would understand his reputation would be at stake if he refused.

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  • Thanks Arthur - what I do have in writing is the multiple errors in bookkeeping, and that the accountant would have forgotten to do my filing. Agreed, probably not worth suing over, hence I am wondering how best to phrase my refund request. I am billed monthly, I can stop paying for further services, but I'd like some of the past money back.
    – Bennet
    Feb 27, 2020 at 10:48
  • @Bennet I was writing a phrasing but I must admit Luca's phrasing is good and would be close to mine. I think you can reuse most if not all of it.
    – Diane M
    Feb 27, 2020 at 11:03

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