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Unhappy with your accountant?

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Unhappy with the service you're receiving from your accountant? Here's how to deal wtih the issue.

Start by contacting them to let them know your key concerns. Put your complaint in writing, but make sure your criticisms are based on hard facts - not opinion. Set a deadline for their response, and if your complaint isn't dealt with satisfactorily, consider taking things further.

Most accountants are members of professional bodies, such as the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) or the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW). If you suspect your accountant of misconduct, you can make a complaint to the professional body by which they are accredited.

Quote�When considering new accountants, meet with several and treat the process like you are interviewing them for a job.�End Quote

The professional body can then take disciplinary action if the complaint is upheld. However, they will not help you to get compensation for money lost - to do this, you need to seek legal advice.

If you lose money ("consequential loss") as a result of bad practice by your accountant, you can sue for compensation. Get in touch with your local Trading Standards office for a free consultation. They will be able to advise you on your best course of action.

If you believe you have lost a lot of money, you could also consider contacting a solicitor. They will be able to assess the strength of your case before thinking about taking it to court, but remember - if you lose you will be liable for legal fees.

Looking for a new accountant

By now, you're already likely to be looking for a new accountant. This needs to be managed carefully. You need to terminate your relationship with your existing accountant before signing an agreement with a new one. Check the terms and conditions you've agreed with your existing accountant. There might be a notice period you must honour.

When considering new accountants, meet with several and treat the process like you are interviewing them for a job. As well as asking for an overview about their history and experience, questions worth asking include:

Have they dealt with firms similar to yours?

Are they prepared to help you plan ahead and improve your business?

Who would handle your account?

How much do they charge and are their fees fixed?

Before switching accountants, ensure that previous data, information and documentation about your business are transferred to your new accountant. Better luck next time.

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What next?

Find a solicitor on the Law Society's website.

Find your nearest Trading Standards office.

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