Using an accountant’s address
Acting as company secretary or using the accountant’s business address as the official address for correspondence for clients seems such an innocuous thing to do.
However, we have seen some examples recently where procedures (or lack of thereof) for noting receipt of official correspondence have resulted in actions being brought against the accountancy practice.
In one case, the practice was acting only in the capacity of accountant to a company yet also gave their address as that of the company for whom they were acting. Unfortunately there were no accepted procedures for post, it was never recorded as received, opened or passed unopened within set timeframes to their client.
In this instance the post received was a notice from the Health and Safety Executive advising the client of an official investigation of an employee injury matter, asking the company to provide certain documents within a relatively short time frame. (This particular incident had already been reviewed by the HSE, who had originally told the company concerned that they were not taking matters further. Having been challenged by the injured party, this decision was revisited and changed, hence the subsequent correspondence.)
The accountant failed to realise what was in the letter and it was set aside for collection at a later date. The letter contained legal papers that required immediate attention and failure to do so could have caused their client a considerable sum at court. Fortunately the papers, although delayed, were forwarded within the required 21 days, but the accountant admitted that had there not been a scheduled appointment on other matters it would not necessarily have delivered the papers and the client would have missed the legal timeframe.
This event highlighted another way in which an accountant might find themselves liable to pay compensation without doing anything wrong.
Karen J Brown – vice president, Lockton Companies LLP
Footnote: Accountants who operate a registered office service should ensure that they have documented policies and procedures in place regarding the forwarding of post and/or emails.