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Big panic!! Please help with court claim from accountant


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I have a recently received a court claim with regards to accountant's fees from when I had my limited company. My limited company still exists but hasn't traded for the last 11 months. The accountant stated on the court claim that it was for professional services. I would like to see what evidence the accountant has to show that I am personally responsible for these fees as opposed to the limited company being liable, considering that the accountant's fees were always set out as a business expense in the company accounts. My question is, what request could I make to the accountant's lawyers to ask for evidence of the service agreement because in his court claim he has not mentioned any documents only attached one invoice for charges. I really am in a panic over this issue, please could somebody offer me some advice.

 

Thank you for your help

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Was the invoice to your company? I’m guessing the claim is to you personally.

 

You need to check the service agreement/notice of understanding that the accountant would have sent to you when you engaged them. You may find that there is a clause which states the directors become personally liable for amounts due if the company cannot/will not pay. If you haven’t agreed to such a clause, then he can only chase the company.

 

The PoC is certainly vague and does not indicate what work was done. Are you aware of any particular invoice this relates to? More info would help.

“The industry is rotten to the core, whether it is in-house recovery and collection, or where agents are used, or where the debt has been sold.” Andrew Mackinley MP, House of Commons, 22 April 2009

 

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Thank you very much for replying to my post. I had a look on file at the service agreement and I see that there are actually 3. One is for the company accountancy, one is for my personal accountancy (the accountant did my payrole and personal tax returns), and the last is for the company secretarial accoutnancy. On the company agreement it does not state any personal liability by directors.

 

There are 2 invoices that are both addressed to me that the accountant is claiming for states:

 

The first invoice states Professional charges in respect of:

 

  • Financial management work and advice from January 2009 to 30 September 2009
  • Accountancy work
  • To include all associated telephone calls and correspondence with yourself and HM Revenue and Customs.

The second invoice states Professional charges in respect of:

 

  • Financial management work and advice for the period 01 October 2009 to 31 March 2010
  • Completion of form P35 for 2008/2009 and filing online
  • Work on 2008/2009 tax returns
  • To include all associated telephone calls and correspondence with yourself and HM Revenue and Customs.

The last time I saw the accountant was around March 2009 and the business hasn't traded since October 2009. The total invoice amounts add up to £1846 for just over a year of accountancy. So not sure what to do now, not sure if all these accountancy amounts are for personal accounting. I am just so confused at the moment, not sure what to do.

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Well, a P35 is an employer annual return, so that is clearly payable by the company. Some of the rest look personal and may be attributable to you.

 

I’m surprised the accountant hasn’t tried to reach some agreement on this. As he has taken court action, however, you are entitled to use CPR to get more info regarding the detail of the claim. What exactly does the PoC state?

“The industry is rotten to the core, whether it is in-house recovery and collection, or where agents are used, or where the debt has been sold.” Andrew Mackinley MP, House of Commons, 22 April 2009

 

If a Cagger helps you, click their star. Better still, make a donation however small, so that CAG can continue to help others.

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The POC are : "the claimant is claiming monies owed for a consultation between the Claimant and Defendant at the request of the Defendant and invoiced in the sum of £1846 a copy of which is attached hereto."

 

Now I don't remember requesting to see the accountant at all during 2008 or 2009. I would have gone to see him in response to a request he would have made for me to come and see him to discuss business accounts etc. You say I should use a CPR request. Could you tell me which CPR that would be as in CPR 18, CPR 31.14 or CPR 31.15.?

 

Thank you so much for your help, it is really helping me make sense of everything.

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The first question has to be, what is your relationship like with the accountant?

 

Is the company in any position to pay? Simply being dormant is not a good enough reason not to. Ditto, if he has done work personally for you, you need to know exactly what it is.

 

The best route would be to avoid litigation at all. I would suggest a letter to him asking for clarification of the PoC, pointing out that there appears to be confusion between work done personally and for the company, and giving him an opportunity to amend the PoC; and perhaps a without prejudice letter asking for clarification of the issues.

 

However, keep your eye on the clock – a defence may be needed unless the case is withdrawn. Let us know what the relationship is like, and then we’ll consider CPR. Did he write any letters before action to you or to the company?

“The industry is rotten to the core, whether it is in-house recovery and collection, or where agents are used, or where the debt has been sold.” Andrew Mackinley MP, House of Commons, 22 April 2009

 

If a Cagger helps you, click their star. Better still, make a donation however small, so that CAG can continue to help others.

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Well the company has no assets and no money so the company would not be in a position to pay. The accountant sent invoices and then warned me of litigation then I received the court claim from his lawyer. The relationship used to be fairly good but due to my company suffering financially the relationship has pretty much broken down. I'm just not sure what exactly to ask him for as in how to ask him for a full breakdown of the invoices. He tends to be quite vague. The other problem is that time is running out for me to submit my defence. Is there any sort of time extension that I can request from the court in order to have time to get clarification on my defence from the accountant.

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In asking him for a full breakdown of the work supposedly done – I’m assuming you think the invoices may be excessive – you should also ask for an extension for the time allowed to file a defence. However, you must acknowledge that you intend to defend, and also inform the court that, for example, the claimant has agreed to a 14-day extension while he furnished further details. The claimant should also inform the court that he agrees to this.

 

You could also, as mentioned, plead that the PoC and supporting documentation is vague and insufficiently particularised, and give the claimant a chance to amend it. I think CPR31 may be the way forward, as you require full clarification of the claim, otherwise you are unable to plead (ie. an embarrassed defence). Hopefully others can advise whether the mixing of personal and business claims in a single claim is a full and valid defence – I’m not sure.

 

The downside is that if he has done the work, at some point his claim may be heard and allowed, even if he issues against you and against the company.

 

You should also look at liquidating the company asap. Its debts will die with it.

“The industry is rotten to the core, whether it is in-house recovery and collection, or where agents are used, or where the debt has been sold.” Andrew Mackinley MP, House of Commons, 22 April 2009

 

If a Cagger helps you, click their star. Better still, make a donation however small, so that CAG can continue to help others.

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