Accounting Invoice
August 17, 2012 9:29 AM   Subscribe

How can I best handle an invoice from an accountant that does not seem reasonable to me?

This is in Ontario, Canada, if it makes a difference. I found out I had to submit outstanding GST/HST (a kind of sales tax) returns for a corporation I had set up a while ago: 2 yearly returns that were missing. Each return is a one-page form where you fill-in the corporation's GST/HST account number and the amount of income it had that would be GST/HST taxable. Since the corporation did no business, it was just a matter of writing in a bunch of zeroes. He did that, sent me the forms... as well as an invoice for $500.

It seems unreasonable to me. He couldn't have spent more than a minute writing in the zeroes. He also forgot to write in the GST/HST account number of the corporation--I noticed and did it--if I would have the forms in as he gave them to me, they government would not have known which corporation they were for.

This whole situation arose in the first place because it turned out the dissolution of the corporation, which I had paid him to take care of for me a couple of years ago, had not in fact gone through due to some flawed detail in the paperwork submitted.

What do I do? What happens to me if I don't pay the invoice? Is there any process for dealing with this situation?
posted by Paquda to Work & Money (9 answers total)
Call them up and say you're not willing to pay $500 for the work and ask them to send you an updated invoice.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 9:32 AM on August 17, 2012

Why are you using the same accountant who has screwed up critical work for you before? Ordinarily I'd say you're paying $5 for him to fill out the form and $495 for him to know how to fill the form out, but given the critical mistake in THIS form, I'd offer him $100 as a full settlement of the invoice.
posted by randomkeystrike at 9:36 AM on August 17, 2012

Was his firm responsible for the paperwork error that prevented the correct dissolution? If so, that's your bargaining chip. Call him up and negotiate. On the other hand, when clients say to me "all you did was blahblahblah, I could have done that myself", I say "Then why didn't you?"

When he started on this paperwork, did he know all he had to do was fill in zeroes? Does he have to sign anything stating that the work is correct and accounted for? Is it his professional expertise that backs up any statements that the corportation didn't make any money?
posted by Ideefixe at 9:36 AM on August 17, 2012

Yes, he knew the situation and knew there was $0 income.

His name is not on the form and it's me who has to submit it, so there would be no discernible connection between the form and him, as far as I can tell, that would imply any responsibility for backing-up the truth of it.
posted by Paquda at 9:42 AM on August 17, 2012

Is it possible he quickly filed out the form and asked his assistant to take care of it and that assistant automatically sent it to you and billed you the standard amount for one of these forms? Maybe accountant guy does not even know. Call him to discuss.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 9:45 AM on August 17, 2012

Even if you aren't originally invoiced that way, you should be able to get from him a breakdown of the hours that go into that $500. But it does seem high, and it is possible that there was some minor error that can be easily corrected. Call, and at least give them the benefit of the doubt to start with. Among other things, summer is when you're most likely to get work done by a new hire who made a mistake. The firms I've worked for generally wrote down a lot of invoices like this, although granted not in Canada.
posted by gracedissolved at 9:48 AM on August 17, 2012

We have an outside law firm that we regularly do business with. They bill us by the hour and their bill contains the particular lawyer, what they did, who here they did it for and how many hours it took. When there's an issue with a particular billing item, we just call them up and ask them to describe what they did for it. On more than one occasion they've revised the bill when we've called them on something. They're looking for money like everyone else and sometimes they'll overstate things a little but realize the value in keeping us as a client.

I would expect any reputable professional should be able to describe exactly what they did in order to generate billable hours, just call him up and ask.
posted by tommasz at 9:59 AM on August 17, 2012 [2 favorites]

I agree that it is a-ok to call and ask for some sort of explanation of the invoice. I worked somewhere that professionals were billed out at up to $1000 an hour, but they were always willing to discuss/itemize a bill, and come down where the bill was clearly unreasonable under the circumstances.

Although, I gotta say, you are paying for a skill. If this required no skill, as you claim, why didn't you fill it out yourself? Did he have to analyze the letter from the govt? Figure out what form to use? Talk to someone on your behalf?
posted by murfed13 at 10:40 AM on August 17, 2012

So he didn't dissolve your corporation properly a few years ago and that led to the current situation? I would expect him to correct his mistake for free or for a minimal fee (10% of his current bill at most).
posted by quince at 12:25 PM on August 17, 2012

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