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The majority of certified and chartered accountants provide a thoroughly professional and competent service to their clients. However, sometimes things can and do go wrong, causing you to suffer financially. A professional negligence claim against your accountant may help recover your losses in that situation.
If you have employed an accountant it is reasonable to expect them to perform their role professionally and competently. However, as with any professional relationship, things can go wrong and the actions or advice of an accountant can cause you to suffer financial loss.
Compensation can often be claimed if those losses arise from your accountant's negligence. Before you think of taking legal action, it is important to establish whether your accountant has truly been negligent or has simply provided what you consider to be an inadequate service.
Claims for accountant negligence commonly arise out of a failure to correctly draw up accounts (or file those accounts on time) or negligent advice concerning accounting, tax matters or investment decisions. If you want to complain about the fees your accountant has charged for investment business services, you should contact the Financial Services Authority.
Most accountants are subject to regulation by the Association of Certified Chartered Accountants (ACCA) and the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW). These regulators have established complaints procedures designed to help people. Access Legal can help if you are unsure as to whether making a complaint to a regulator would affect whether you can then go on to pursue legal action for professional negligence.
We can also assist by discussing funding options, including using a Conditional Fee Agreement (No-Win-No-Fee).
How do I make a claim against an accountant
These claims can be complex and demand considerable amounts of evidence to prove your case. It is important that your legal team specialise in this work and have good relationships with the appropriate experts whose evidence may be crucial to your claim.
You will need to gather evidence of the negligence and the financial loss caused first. You will then need to follow the pre-action protocol for professional negligence claims. If that does not resolve your issue, you may then have to start a court action to claim your financial losses. The possibility of settling your dispute through negotiation or mediation should always be considered.
A professional negligence claim becomes time barred six years after the breach of contract or loss resulting from a negligent act by a professional. However, the negligence or financial loss caused may not be immediately obvious and it could be some time before you are aware that there is a problem. It is possible to bring a claim after the six year period has passed where you are not aware of the problem at the time the negligence occurs. This is a complicated area of law and you should seek legal advice if you are concerned about time limits for bringing an action.
If you feel you may have a case, call Access Legal for a free initial consultation without delay. Our professional negligence solicitors can give you the benefit of our experience in such claims as well as an objective assessment of its likely success.
How long will my dispute against my accountant take
The honest answer is that it is impossible to say how long a claim for accountant negligence will take, but it is likely to be several months at least.
A claim against an accountant who failed to submit tax returns on time should be a relatively straightforward case where it is impossible for the professional to refute an act of negligence. In these circumstances, things could move relatively quickly.
Time may be added by the fact that you may first use your accountant's complaints procedure, escalating to their professional governing body or ultimately Ombudsman services before you contemplate legal action. However, you should consider whether making a complaint would mean that you cannot then take court action.
Most professionals carry indemnity insurance so your claim is not dealt with by the professional who failed you but by their insurer. As a result many of these claims are settled through negotiation or mediation without going to court, although the threat of litigation may be required in order to reach that point. Even if your claim does not settle by agreement, your willingness to be reasonable and pursue these channels will be noted and will count in your favour in court.
If I have a case against my accountant
In order to make a successful claim for professional negligence against your accountant you will need to prove that the actions of your accountant have caused you or your business to suffer a financial loss.
It is important to establish whether your accountant has actually been negligent or merely provided an inadequate service as there is often confusion between the two concepts. One of the most common causes of a complaint against an accountant is when there is a delay in the service provided.
While any delay can be very frustrating, it is not usually sufficient grounds to take legal action against your accountant. Unless such a delay resulted in a measurable material financial loss to you, it would not be possible to make a successful claim for professional negligence against your accountant in such circumstances.
Evidence to support your case is vital in these actions. You must prove to the court that the services provided by your accountant and their professional skill and care fell short of what you were entitled to expect of any reasonably competent accountant and that this failure in their duty of care lead directly to your financial loss. It may be necessary to obtain expert evidence in support of your claim.
More about claiming against an accountant
Each accountant negligence case has to be judged on its own facts. The usual professional negligence test applies in any negligence claim against your accountant. They can be found to have been negligent by a court and therefore liable to pay you compensation if it can be shown that they failed to exercise the skill and care that might be expected of a reasonably competent accountant.
Assessing whether an accountant breached the duty of care they owe to you can be done by looking at accounting standards set by the profession’s governing bodies. The Financial Reporting Council assumed responsibility for setting and monitoring accounting standards in 2012, superseding the Accounting Standards Board (ASB) which had previously developed and monitored professional standards in the UK.
The courts will take these accounting standards into consideration when looking at an accountant negligence claim. Like any other professional negligence claim, you not only have to establish legal liability but also causation. In other words, prove (on the balance of probabilities) that it was your accountant’s negligent service or advice which directly resulted in your financial loss.
My work involves disputes such as challenges to the validity of a will, claims for reasonable financial provision under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975, claims for proprietary estoppel, disputes with executors and professional negligence claims.View full profile
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