The following terms of business apply to all engagements accepted by Brightshire Accountants Ltd. All work is carried out under these terms except where changes are expressly agreed in writing.
These standard terms of business are applicable to all types of entities (e.g. companies, LLPs, charities, friendly societies, academies, pension schemes, etc.) Any reference therefore to ‘director’ or ‘company’ should be interpreted as appropriate for the entity type (e.g. partner, trustee, governor, charity, LLP, etc.)
- APPLICABLE LAW
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.
1.2. We will not accept responsibility if you act on advice previously given by us without first confirming with us that the advice is still valid in light of any change in the law or in your circumstances. We will accept no liability for losses arising from changes in the law, or the interpretation thereof, that occur after the date on which the advice is given.
2. CLIENT IDENTIFICATION
2.1. 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.
3. CLIENTS’ MONEY
3.1. 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 ICAEW’s Clients’ Money Regulations.
3.2. All client monies will be held in an interest-bearing account. To avoid excessive administration, interest will only be paid to you if 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, 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.
3.3. 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, we may pay those monies to a registered charity.
3.4. If the firm is wholly owned and/or controlled by a single member, we are required under the client money regulations to appoint an alternate to administer the client bank account in the event of the death or incapacity of the principal.
4. COMMISSIONS OR OTHER BENEFITS
4.1. In some circumstances we may receive commissions or other benefits for introductions to other professionals or in respect of transactions which we or such associates arrange for you, in which case you will be notified in writing of the amount and terms of payment.
4.2. If we reduce the fees that we would otherwise charge by the amount of commission retained, we will apply the HMRC concession which allows VAT to be calculated on the net fee after deduction of the commission.
4.3. You consent to such commission or other benefits being retained by us or, as the case may be, by our associates, without our, or their, being liable to account for you for any such amounts.
5.1. Unless we are authorised by you to disclose information on your behalf, we confirm that if you give us confidential information we will, at all times during and after this engagement, keep it confidential, except as required by law or as provided for in regulatory, ethical or other professional pronouncements applicable to us or our engagement.
5.2. You agree that, if we act for other clients who are or who become your competitors, to comply with our duty of confidentiality it will be sufficient for us to take such steps as we think appropriate to preserve the confidentiality of information given to us by you, both during and after this engagement. These may include taking the same or similar steps as we take in respect of the confidentiality of our own information.
5.3. 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.
5.4. 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.
5.5. 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.
5.6. If we use external or cloud-based systems, we will ensure confidentiality of your information is maintained.
5.7. We reserve the right, for the purpose of promotional activity, training or other business purposes, to mention that you are a client. As stated above, we will not disclose any confidential information.
6. CONFLICTS OF INTEREST
6.1. 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. If conflicts are identified which cannot be managed in a way that protects your interests, we regret that we will be unable to provide further services.
6.2. If there is a conflict of interest that is capable of being addressed successfully by the adoption of suitable safeguards to protect your interests, we will adopt those safeguards. In resolving the conflict, we would be guided by ICAEW’s Code of Ethics, which can be viewed at icaew.com/membership/regulations-standards-and-guidance/ethics.
6.3. During and after our engagement, you agree that we reserve the right to act for other clients whose interests are or may compete with or be adverse to yours, subject, of course, to our obligations of confidentiality and the safeguards set out in the paragraph on confidentiality above.
7. DATA PROTECTION
7.1 To enable us to discharge the services agreed under our engagement, and for other related purposes including updating and enhancing client records, analysis for management purposes and statutory returns, crime prevention and legal and regulatory compliance, we may obtain, use, process and disclose personal data about you/your business/company/partnership/its officers and employees and shareholders. We confirm when processing data on your behalf that we will comply with the relevant provisions of applicable data protection legislations. If you supply us with any personal data or confidential information you shall ensure you have full informed consent to pass it to us and will fully indemnify and hold us harmless if you do not have such consent and that causes us loss. If you are supplying us with personal data on the basis of a power of attorney for anyone, you must produce to us an original or certified power of attorney on demand.
7.2 Applicable data protection legislation places express obligations on you as a data controller where we as a data processor undertake the processing of personal data on your behalf. An example would be where we operate a payroll service for you. We therefore confirm that we will at all times use our reasonable endeavours to comply with the requirements of applicable data protection legislation when processing data on your behalf. In particular, we confirm that we have adequate security measures in place and that we will aim to comply with any obligations equivalent to those placed on you as a data controller.
7.3 We will notify you within 10 working days if an individual asks for copies of their personal data, makes a complaint about the processing of personal data or serves a notice from a relevant data protection authority. You and we will consult and cooperate with each other when responding to any such request, complaint or notice. If an individual whose data you have supplied to us or which we are processing on your behalf asks us to remove or cease processing that data, we shall be entitled to do so where required by Law.
7.4 For the purpose of providing our services to you, we may disclose the client personal data to members of our firm’s network, our regulatory bodies or other third parties (for example, our professional advisors or service providers). The third parties to whom we disclose such personal data may be located outside of the European Economic Area (EEA). We will only disclose client personal data to a third party (including a third party outside of the EEA) provided that the transfer is undertaken in compliance with the data protection legislation.
7.5 We may disclose the client personal data to other third parties in the context of a possible sale, merger, restructuring or financing of or investment in our business. In this event we will take appropriate measures to ensure that the security of the client personal data continues to be ensured in accordance with data protection legislation. If a change happens to our business, then the new owners may use our client personal data in the same way as set out in these terms
7.6 We shall maintain commercially reasonable and appropriate security measures, including administrative, physical and technical safeguards, to protect against unauthorised or unlawful processing of the client personal data and against accidental loss or destruction of, or damage to, the client personal data.
7.7 In respect of the client personal data, provided that we are legally permitted to do so, we shall promptly notify you in the event that:
(a) we receive a request, complaint or any adverse correspondence from or on behalf of a relevant data subject, to exercise their data subject rights under the data protection legislation or in respect of our processing of their personal data;
(b) we are served with an information, enforcement or assessment notice (or any similar notices), or receive any other material communication in respect of our processing of the client personal data from a supervisory authority as defined in the data protection legislation (for example in the UK, the Information Commissioner’s Officer); or
(c) we reasonably believe that there has been any incident which resulted in the accidental or unauthorised access to, or destruction, loss, unauthorised disclosure or alteration of, the client personal data.
7.8 Upon the reasonable request of the other, we shall each co-operate with the other and take such reasonable commercial steps or provide such information as is necessary to enable each of us to comply with the data protection legislation in respect of the services provided to you in accordance with our engagement letter with you in relation to those services.
8.1. If we resign or are asked to resign, we will normally issue a disengagement letter to ensure that our respective responsibilities are clear.
9. ELECTRONIC AND OTHER COMMUNICATION
9.1. Unless you instruct us otherwise, we may, if appropriate, communicate with you and with third parties by email or other electronic means. The recipient is responsible for virus checking emails and any attachments.
9.2. 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 in emails or by electronic storage devices. Nevertheless, electronic communication is not totally secure, and we cannot be held responsible for damage or loss caused by viruses or 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 when electronic submission is mandatory.
9.3. Any communication by us with you sent through the postal [or DX] system is deemed to arrive at your postal address two working days after the day the document was sent.
9.4. It is the responsibility of the recipient to carry out a virus check on any attachments received.
10.FEES AND PAYMENT TERMS
10.1. 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 we provide, as well as the level of risk.
10.2. If we provide you with an estimate of our fees for any specific work, the estimate will not be contractually binding unless we explicitly state 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, VAT being charged thereon. Indicative hourly charge-out rates are as follows:
Manager £ 74
Senior £ 59
Assistant £ 39
Special advisory work will be charged out at a higher rate, which will be discussed with you before engagement.
10.3. If 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 need to be reviewed in the light of events. 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.
10.4. 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 you have. You will remain liable for our fees regardless of whether all or part are liable to be paid by your insurers.
10.5. Invoices are payable in full (including disbursements) in accordance with the terms set out on the invoice. If you do not accept that an invoiced fee is fair and reasonable you must notify us within 21 days of receipt, failing which you will be deemed to have accepted that payment is due.
10.6. Unless otherwise agreed to the contrary, our fees do not include the costs of any third party, counsel or other professional fees. If these costs are incurred to fulfil our engagement, such necessary additional charges may be payable by you.
10.7. It is our normal practice to request that clients make arrangements to pay a proportion of their fee on a monthly standing order. These standing orders will be applied to fees arising from work agreed in this letter of engagement for the current and ensuing years. Once we have been able to assess the amount of work and time involved, we would be grateful if you would agree to pay an amount to us on a regular basis.
10.8. We reserve the right to charge interest on late paid invoices at the current rate 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, having given written notice, if payment of any fees is unduly delayed. We intend to exercise these rights only if it is fair and reasonable to do so.
10.9. 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.
10.10. Insofar as we are permitted to so by law or by professional guidelines, we reserve the right to exercise a lien over all funds, documents, and records in our possession relating to the engagements for you until all outstanding fees and disbursements are paid in full.
10.11. In the event that we cease to act in relation to your financial affairs you agree to meet all reasonable costs of providing information to the new advisers where the request for information is considered outside the scope of the normal requirements. These costs will be agreed with you in advance.
11.HELP US TO GIVE YOU THE BEST SERVICE
11.1. We are committed to providing you with a high-quality service that is both efficient and effective. If, at any point you would like to discuss with us how our service to you could be improved, or if you are dissatisfied with the service you are receiving, please let us know by contacting Suzanne Preston (firstname.lastname@example.org)
11.2. We will consider carefully any complaint you may make about our service as soon as we receive it and do all we can to explain the position to you. We will acknowledge your letter within five business days of its receipt and endeavour to deal with your complaint within eight weeks.
11.3. If we do not answer your complaint to your satisfaction, you may, of course, take up the matter with our professional body, ICAEW.
12. INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY RIGHTS AND USE OF OUR NAME
12.1. We will retain all intellectual property rights in any document prepared by us during the course of carrying out the engagement except where the law specifically states otherwise.
12.2. You are not permitted to use our name in any statement or document you may issue unless our prior written consent has been obtained. The only exception to this restriction would be statements or documents that, in accordance with applicable law, are to be made public.
13.1. If any provision of our engagement letter or terms of business is held to be void, 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.
14. INTERNAL DISPUTES WITHIN A CLIENT
14.1. If we become aware of a dispute between the parties who own the business or who are in some way involved in its ownership and management, 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. We reserve the right to cease acting for the business/client entirely.
15. INVESTMENT ADVICE (INCLUDING INSURANCE DISTRIBUTION SERVICES)
15.1. 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.
16. LIMITATION OF THIRD-PARTY RIGHTS
16.1. 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.
17. PERIOD OF ENGAGEMENT AND TERMINATION
17.1. 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.
17.2. Each of us may terminate our agreement by giving not less than 21 days’ notice in writing to the other party except if 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 before termination.
17.3. We reserve the right to terminate the engagement between us with immediate effect in the event of: your insolvency, bankruptcy or other arrangement being reached with creditors; an independence issue or change in the law which means we can no longer act; failure to pay our fees by the due dates; or either party being in breach of their obligations if this is not corrected within 30 days of being asked to do so.
17.4. 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 will not be required to carry out further work and shall not be responsible or liable for any consequences arising from termination.
18. PROFESSIONAL RULES AND STATUTORY OBLIGATIONS
18.1. We will observe and act in accordance with the Byelaws, regulations and Code of Ethics of ICAEW and will accept instructions to act for you on this basis. In particular you give us the authority to correct errors made by HMRC if 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 online at icaew.com/membership/regulations-standards-and-guidance.
19. QUALITY CONTROL
19.1. As part of our ongoing commitment to provide a quality service, our files are periodically reviewed by an independent regulatory or quality control body. These reviewers are highly experienced professionals and are bound by the same rules of confidentiality as our principal and staff.
19.2. When dealing with HMRC on your behalf we are required to be honest and to take reasonable care to ensure that your returns are correct. To enable us to do this, you are required to be honest with us and to provide us with all necessary information in a timely manner. For more information about ‘Your Charter’ for your dealings with HMRC, visit www.gov.uk/government/publications/your-charter. To the best of our abilities, we will ensure that HMRC meet their side of the Charter in their dealings with you.
20. RELIANCE ON ADVICE
20.1. 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.
21. RETENTION OF PAPERS
21.1. 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:
a) with trading or rental income: five years and 10 months after the end of the tax year
b) otherwise: 22 months after the end of the tax year.
Companies, Limited Liability Partnerships, and other corporate entities:
c) six years from the end of the accounting period.
21.2. Although 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.
22. THE PROVISION OF SERVICES REGULATIONS 2009
22.1. We are not registered to carry on audit work in the UK and Ireland by ICAEW.
22.2. We are not registered to carry out the reserved legal activity of non-contentious probate in England and Wales. As we are not licensed or authorised for the reserved legal activity of non-contentious probate, any work we do for you on closely aligned activities, such as estate administration or inheritance tax advice, will not be covered by the ICAEW Probate Compensation Scheme and you will not have access to the Legal Ombudsman, nor is our advice covered by legal professional privilege.
22.3. Our professional indemnity insurer is Hiscox, of The Hiscox Building Peasholme Green York YO1 7PR United Kingdom.
23. TIMING OF OUR SERVICES
23.1. 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 to meet any regulatory deadlines. However, failure to complete our services before any such regulatory deadline would not, of itself, mean that we are liable for any penalty or additional costs arising.
24. GENERAL LIMITATION OF LIABILITY
24.1 We will provide our services with reasonable care and skill. Our liability to you is limited to losses, damages, costs and expenses caused by our negligence or wilful default and shall not exceed our current level of professional indemnity cover of £2,000,000 (two million pounds). However, to the fullest extent permitted by law, we will not be responsible for any losses, penalties, surcharges, interest, or additional tax liabilities where you or others supply incorrect or incomplete information, or fail to supply any appropriate information or where you fail to act on our advice or respond promptly to communications from us or the tax authorities. Further, we will not be liable to you for any delay or failure to perform our obligations if the delay or failure is caused by circumstances outside our reasonable control. Subject to clause 24.5 below, our liability to you shall be limited as set out in our engagement or other client letter.
24.2 You will not hold us, our principal/director, shareholders and staff responsible, to the fullest extent permitted by law, for any loss suffered by you arising from any misrepresentation (intentional or unintentional) supplied to us orally or in writing. This applies equally to fraudulent acts, misrepresentation or wilful default on the part of any party to the transaction and their directors, officers, employees, agents or advisers. However, this exclusion shall not apply where such misrepresentation, withholding or concealment is or should (in carrying out the procedures which we have agreed to perform with reasonable care and skill) have been evident to us without further enquiry.
24.3 You agree that you will not bring any claim in connection with services we provided to you against any of our partners, shareholders, directors or employees personally.
24.4 Our work is not, unless there is a legal or regulatory requirement to be made available to third parties without our written permission and we will accept no responsibility to third parties for any aspect of our professional services or work that is made available to them. You agree to indemnify us and our agents in respect of any claim (including any claim for negligence) arising out of any unauthorised disclosure by you or by any person for whom you are responsible of our advice and opinions, whether in writing or otherwise. This indemnity will extend to the cost of defending any such claim, including payment at our usual rates for the time that we spend in defending it and our legal fees on an indemnity basis.
24.5 Nothing in this agreement shall exclude or limit our liability for death or personal injury caused by negligence nor for fraudulent misrepresentation or other fraud which may not as a matter of applicable law be excluded or limited.