TERMS OF BUSINESS
TERMS OF BUSINESS 01/09/2020
The following terms of business apply to all engagements accepted by Athena Accountants & Business Advisors. All work is carried out under these terms except where changes are expressly agreed in writing.
1.1 Our engagement letter, the schedules of services and our standard terms and conditions of business are governed by, and should be construed in accordance with English law. Each party agrees that the courts of England will have exclusive jurisdiction in relation to any claim, dispute or difference concerning this engagement letter and any matter arising from it on any basis. Each party irrevocably waives any right to object to any action being brought in those Courts, to claim that the action has been brought in an inappropriate forum, or to claim that those Courts do not have jurisdiction.
As with other professional services firms, we are required to identify our clients for the purposes of the UK anti-money laundering legislation. We may request from you, and retain, such information and documentation as we require for these purposes and/or make searches of appropriate databases. If we are not able to obtain satisfactory evidence of your identity, we will not be able to proceed with the engagement.
We may, from time to time, hold money on your behalf. The money will be held in trust in a client bank account, which is segregated from the firm’s funds. The account will be operated, and all funds dealt with, in accordance with the Clients’ Money Regulations of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales.
All client monies will be held in an interest-bearing account. To avoid excessive administration, interest will only be paid to you where the amount earned on the balances held on your behalf in any calendar year exceeds £25.00. If the total sum of money held on your behalf is enough to give rise to a significant amount of interest or is likely to do so, then we will put the money in a designated interest-bearing client bank account and pay the interest to you. Subject to any tax legislation, interest will be paid gross.
We will return monies held on your behalf promptly as soon as there is no longer any reason to retain those funds. If any funds remain in our client account that are unclaimed and the client to which they relate has remained untraced for five years or we as a firm cease to practise then we may pay those monies to a registered charity.
Commissions or other benefits
In some circumstances, we may receive commissions or other benefits for introductions to other professionals or in respect of transactions which we arrange for you. Where this happens we will notify you in writing of the amount and terms of payment and receipt of any such commissions or benefits. The same will apply where the payment is made to or the transactions are arranged by a person or business connected with ours. The fees you would otherwise pay will not be reduced by the amount of the commissions or benefits. You agree that we can retain the commission or other benefits without being liable to account to you for any such amounts.
We are committed to providing you with a high quality service that is both efficient and effective. However, should there be any cause for complaint in relation to any aspect of our service please contact Daniel Hill. We agree to look into any complaint carefully and promptly and do everything reasonable to put it right. If you are still not satisfied you can refer your complaint to our professional body, the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales.
Unless we are authorised by you to disclose information on your behalf, we confirm that where you give us confidential information we shall at all times during and after this engagement keep it confidential, except as required by law, by our insurers or as provided for in regulatory, ethical, or other professional pronouncements or as part of an external peer review applicable to us or our engagement. this undertaking will apply during and after this engagement.
In addition, if we act for other clients whose interests are or may be adverse to yours, we will manage the conflict by implementing additional safeguards to preserve confidentiality. Safeguards may include measures such as separate teams, physical separation of teams, and separate arrangements for storage of and access to information.
You agree that the effective implementation of such steps or safeguards as described above will provide adequate measures to avoid any real risk of confidentiality being impaired.
We may, on occasions, subcontract work on your affairs to other tax or accounting professionals. The subcontractors will be bound by our client confidentiality terms.
We reserve the right, for the purpose of promotional activity, training or for other business purpose, to mention that you are a client. As stated above we will not disclose any confidential information.
Conflicts of interest
We will inform you if we become aware of any conflict of interest in our relationship with you or in our relationship with you and another client unless we are unable to do so because of our confidentiality obligations. We have safeguards that can be implemented to protect the interests of different clients if a conflict arises. Where conflicts are identified, which cannot be managed in a way that protects your interests then we regret that we will be unable to provide further services.
If there is a conflict of interest that is capable of being addressed successfully by the adoption of suitable safeguards to protect your interests then we will adopt those safeguards. You agree that we reserve the right to act during and after our engagement for other clients whose interests are or may be competing with or adverse to yours subject of course to our obligations of confidentiality and the safeguards set out in the paragraph on confidentiality above.
This clause applies to personal data provided by or on behalf of you in connection with an agreement to provide business services or any engagement letter. Each party shall comply with the Data Protection Act 1998 (DPA) when processing such personal data. in particular. You shall ensure that any disclosure of personal data to us complies with the DPA.
We shall use appropriate technical and organisational measures to protect against unauthorised or unlawful processing of personal data and against accidental loss or destruction of, or damage to, personal data. We shall not sub-contract any processing of personal data unless that personal data continues to be subject to an appropriate level of protection. To the extent we act as data processor for you, we shall only process personal data in accordance with your instructions.
We shall notify you in 10 working days in the event of an individual asking for copies of their personal data, a complaint about processing of personal data or a notice from a relevant Data Protection Authority. You and we shall consult and co-operate with each other when responding to any such request, complaint or notice.
We shall answer your reasonable enquiries to enable you to monitor compliance with this clause.
Should we resign or be requested to resign we will normally issue a disengagement letter to ensure that our respective responsibilities are clear. Should we have no contact with you for a period of 30 days or more we may issue to your last known address a disengagement letter and hence cease to act.
Electronic and other communication
Unless you instruct us otherwise we may, where appropriate, communicate with you and with third parties via email or by other electronic means. The recipient is responsible for virus checking emails and any attachments.
With electronic communication there is a risk of non-receipt, delayed receipt, inadvertent misdirection or interception by third parties. We use virus-scanning software to reduce the risk of viruses and similar damaging items being transmitted through emails or electronic storage devices. However electronic communication is not totally secure and we cannot be held responsible for damage or loss caused by viruses nor for communications which are corrupted or altered after despatch. Nor can we accept any liability for problems or accidental errors relating to this means of communication especially in relation to commercially sensitive material. These are risks you must bear in return for greater efficiency and lower costs. If you do not wish to accept these risks please let us know and we will communicate by paper mail, other than where electronic submission is mandatory.
Any communication by us with you sent through the post system is deemed to arrive at your postal address two working days after the day that the document was sent.
Fees and payment terms
Our fees may depend not only upon the time spent on your affairs but also on the level of skill and responsibility and the importance and value of the advice that we provide, as well as the level of risk.
If we provide you with an estimate of our fees for any specific work, then the estimate will not be contractually binding unless we explicitly state that that will be the case. Otherwise our fees will be calculated on the basis of the hours worked by each member of staff necessarily engaged on your affairs multiplied by their charge-out rate per hour.
Where requested we may indicate a fixed fee for the provision of specific services or an indicative range of fees for a particular assignment. It is not our practice to identify fixed fees for more than a year ahead as such fee quotes will be reviewed annually an increased as we see fit, usually by 3-5% per year. If it becomes apparent to us, due to unforeseen circumstances, that a fee quote is inadequate, we reserve the right to notify you of a revised figure or range and to seek your agreement thereto.
In some cases, you may be entitled to assistance with your professional fees, particularly in relation to any investigation into your tax affairs by HMRC. Assistance may be provided through insurance policies you hold or via membership of a professional or trade body. Other than where such insurance was arranged through us you will need to advise us of any such insurance cover that you have. You will remain liable for our fees regardless of whether all or part are liable to be paid by your insurers.
We will bill once draft works have been completed and our invoices are due for payment within 7 days of issue. Our fees are exclusive of VAT which will be added where it is chargeable. Any disbursements we incur on your behalf and expenses incurred in the course of carrying out our work for you will be added to our invoices where appropriate.
Unless otherwise agreed to the contrary our fees do not include the costs of any third party, counsel or other professional fees. Should these costs be incurred to fulfil our engagement then such necessary additional charges may be payable by you.
It is our normal practice to issue ‘Applications for Payment’ when dealing with continuous or recurring work. The payment terms for ‘Applications for Payment’ are the same as for invoiced fees. A VAT invoice will be issued to you upon receipt of your payment.
It is our normal practice to ask clients to pay by monthly direct debit or standing order where we have agreed to spread the cost and to periodically adjust the monthly payment by reference to actual billings.
We reserve the right to charge interest on late paid invoices at the rate of [3%] [5%] above bank base rates under the Late Payment of Commercial Debts (Interest) Act 1998. We also reserve the right to suspend our services or to cease to act for you on giving written notice if payment of any fees is unduly delayed. We intend to exercise these rights only where it is fair and reasonable to do so.
If you do not accept that an invoiced fee is fair and reasonable you must notify us within 5 days of receipt, failing which you will be deemed to have accepted that payment is due.
If a client company, trust or other entity is unable or unwilling to settle our fees we reserve the right to seek payment from the individual (or parent company) giving us instructions on behalf of the client and we shall be entitled to enforce any sums due against the Group Company or individual nominated to act for you.
We will only assist with the implementation of our advice if specifically instructed and agreed in writing.
Intellectual property rights
We will retain all copyright in any document prepared by us during the course of carrying out the engagement save where the law specifically provides otherwise.
If any provision of our engagement letter or terms of business is held to be void, then that provision will be deemed not to form part of this contract. In the event of any conflict between these terms of business and the engagement letter or appendices, the relevant provision in the engagement letter or schedules will take precedence.
Internal disputes within a client
If we become aware of a dispute between the parties who own or are in some way involved in the ownership and management of the business, it should be noted that our client is the business and we would not provide information or services to one party without the express knowledge and permission of all parties. Unless otherwise agreed by all parties we will continue to supply information to the [registered office/normal place of business] for the attention of the [directors/proprietors]. If conflicting advice, information or instructions are received from different [directors/principals] in the business we will refer the matter back [to the board of directors/the partnership] and take no further action until the [board/partnership] has agreed the action to be taken.
Investment advice (including insurance mediation services)
Investment business is regulated by the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000. If during the provision of professional services to you, you need advice on investments [including insurances], we may have to refer you to someone who is authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority [or licensed by a Designated Professional Body], as we are not.
We are not authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority.
Insofar as we are permitted to so by law or professional guidelines, we reserve the right to exercise a lien over all funds, documents and records in our possession relating to all engagements for you until all outstanding fees and disbursements are paid in full.
Limitation of third party rights
The advice and information we provide to you as part of our service is for your sole use and not for any third party to whom you may communicate it unless we have expressly agreed in the engagement letter that a specified third party may rely on our work. We accept no responsibility to third parties, including any group company to whom the engagement letter is not addressed, for any advice, information or material produced as part of our work for you which you make available to them. A party to this agreement is the only person who has the right to enforce any of its terms and no rights or benefits are conferred on any third party under the Contracts (Rights of Third Parties) Act 1999.
Period of engagement and termination
Unless otherwise agreed in our engagement letter, our work will begin when we receive implicit or explicit acceptance of that letter. Except as stated in that letter we will not be responsible for periods before that date.
Each of us may terminate our agreement by giving not less than 21 days notice in writing to the other party except where you fail to cooperate with us or we have reason to believe that you have provided us [or HMRC] with misleading information, in which case we may terminate this agreement immediately. Termination will be without prejudice to any rights that may have accrued to either of us prior to termination.
In the event of termination of our contract, we will endeavour to agree with you the arrangements for the completion of work in progress at that time, unless we are required for legal or regulatory reasons to cease work immediately. In that event, we shall not be required to carry out further work and shall not be responsible or liable for any consequences arising from termination.
Professional rules and statutory obligations
We will observe and act in accordance with the bye-laws, regulations and code of ethics of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales and will accept instructions to act for you on this basis. [In particular you give us the authority to correct errors made by HMRC where we become aware of them.] We will not be liable for any loss, damage or cost arising from our compliance with statutory or regulatory obligations. You can see copies of these requirements in our offices. The requirements are also available on the internet at www.icaew.com/en/members/regulations-standards-and-guidance.
We confirm that we carry out no statutory audit work.
We confirm that we carry out no probate work.
As part of our ongoing commitment to providing a quality service, our files are periodically reviewed by an independent regulatory or quality control body. These reviewers are highly experienced and professional people and, of course, are bound by the same rules for confidentiality as our principal.
Reliance on advice
We will endeavour to record all advice on important matters in writing. Advice given orally is not intended to be relied upon unless confirmed in writing. Therefore, if we provide oral advice (for example during the course of a meeting or a telephone conversation) and you wish to be able to rely on that advice, you must ask for the advice to be confirmed by us in writing.
Retention of papers
You have a legal responsibility to retain documents and records relevant to your financial affairs. During the course of our work we may collect information from you and others relevant to your tax and financial affairs. We will return any original documents to you [if requested]. Documents and records relevant to your tax affairs are required by law to be retained as follows:
Individuals, trustees and partnerships:
with trading or rental income: 5 years and 10 months after the end of the tax year
otherwise: 22 months after the end of the tax year
Companies, Limited liability Partnerships, and other corporate entities:
6 years from the end of the accounting period
Whilst certain documents may legally belong to you, we may destroy correspondence and other papers that we store electronically or otherwise that are more than [seven] years old, except documents we think may be of continuing significance. You must tell us if you wish us to keep any document for any longer period.
The Provision of Services Regulations 2009
We are not registered to carry on audit work in the UK.
We are not licensed by the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales to carry out the reserved legal activity of non-contentious probate in England and Wales.
Our professional indemnity insurer is Hiscox. The territorial coverage is worldwide excluding professional business carried out from an office in the United States of America or Canada and excludes any action for a claim brought in any court in the United States or Canada. Policy number PL-PSC10000441434/08.
Timing of our services
If you provide us with all information and explanations on a timely basis in accordance with our requirements, we will plan to undertake the work within a reasonable period of time in order to meet any regulatory deadlines. However, failure to complete our services prior to any such regulatory deadline would not, of itself, mean that we are liable for any penalty or additional costs arising.
Your right to complain
You have a right to complain if we fall short of any of our services. The contact details for ICAEW are ICAEW, Metropolitan House, 321 Avebury Boulevard, Milton Keynes, MK9 2FZ