The following standard terms of business apply to all engagements accepted by Stewart & Co Accountants LLP. All work carried out is subject to these terms except where changes are expressly agreed in writing.
1 Professional obligations
1.1 Details of the firm’s professional registrations can be found at our offices at Knoll House, Knoll Road, Camberley, Surrey GU15 3SY.
1.2 We will observe and act in accordance with the bye-laws and regulations of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales together with their code of ethics. We accept instructions to act for you on this basis. In particular you give us authority to correct errors made by HM Revenue and Customs 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.
Professional indemnity insurance
1.3 In accordance with the disclosure requirements of the Provision of Services Regulations 2009, our professional indemnity insurer is Aqueous Underwriting, Meridien House 69-71, Clarendon Road, Watford, Hertfordshire, WD17 1DS. 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 of America or Canada.
2 Investment services
2.1 Since we are not authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority then we may have to refer you to someone who is authorised if you need advice on investments. However, as we are licensed by the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales, we may be able to provide certain investment services that are complementary to, or arise out of, the professional services we are providing to you.
2.2 Such advice may include:
• advise you on investments generally, but not recommend a particular investment or type of investment;
• refer you to a Permitted Third Party (PTP) (an independent firm authorised by the FCA), assist you and the PTP during the course of any advice given by that party and comment on, or explain, the advice received (but not make alternative recommendations). The PTP will issue you with his own terms and conditions letter, will be remunerated separately for his services and will take full responsibility for compliance with the requirements of the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000:
• advise you in connection with the disposal of an investment, other than your rights in a pension policy or scheme;
• advise and assist you in transactions concerning shares or other securities not quoted on a recognised exchange;
• assist you in making arrangements for transactions in investments in certain circumstances; and
• manage investments or act as trustee (or donee of a power of attorney) where decisions to invest are taken on the advice of an authorised person.
2.3 For corporate clients we may also, on the understanding that the shares or other securities of the company are not publicly traded:
• advise the company, existing or prospective shareholders in relation to exercising rights, taking benefits or share options, valuations and methods of such valuations;
• arrange any agreements in connection with the issue, sale or transfer of the company’s shares or other securities;
• arrange for the issue of new shares; and
• act as the addressee to receive confirmation of acceptance of offer documents etc.
2.4 In the unlikely event that we cannot meet our liabilities to you, you may be able to claim compensation under the Chartered Accountants’ Compensation Scheme in respect of exempt regulated activities undertaken.
2.5 Where the firm is providing insurance mediation services (including fee protection), we are not authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority. However, we are included on the Register maintained by the Financial Conduct Authority so that we can carry on insurance mediation activity, which is broadly the advising on, selling, and administration of insurance contracts. This part of our business, including arrangements for complaints or redress if something goes wrong, is regulated by our professional body. The register can be accessed via the Financial Conduct Authority website at www.fca.org.uk/register.
2.6 To enable us to provide you with a proper service, there may be occasions when we will need to contact you without your express permission concerning investment business matters. For example, it may be in your interests to sell a particular investment and we would wish to inform you of this. We may therefore contact you in such circumstances, but would only do so in our normal office hours. We shall of course comply with any restrictions you may wish to impose which you notify to us in writing.
3 Commissions or other benefits
3.1 In some circumstances, commissions or other benefits may become payable to us or to one of our associates in respect of transactions we or such associates arrange for you, in which case you will be notified in writing of the amount and terms of payment. If we agree to 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.
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 to you for any such amounts.
4 Client monies
4.1 We may, from time to time, hold money on your behalf. Such 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.
4.2 In order to avoid an excessive amount of administration, interest will only be paid to you where the amount of interest that would be earned on the balances held on your behalf in any calendar year exceeds £25. Any such interest would be calculated using the prevailing rate applied by Handelsbanken for small deposits subject to the minimum period of notice for withdrawals. Subject to any tax legislation, interest will be paid gross.
4.3 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 the money will be placed in a separate interest-bearing client bank account designated to you. All interest earned on such money will be paid to you. Subject to any tax legislation, interest will be paid gross.
4.4 We will return monies held on your behalf promptly as soon as there is no longer any reason to retain those funds. In the unlikely event of us holding any unclaimed monies we reserve the right to pay such monies to a registered charity in line with the guidelines set out in the Clients’ Money Regulations referred to above. We will not do this unless we have been unable to contact you for at least five years and we have taken reasonable steps to trace you and return the monies.
5.1 Our fees are computed on the basis of time spent on your affairs by the principals and our staff and sub-contractors or consultants (as applicable), and on the levels of skill and responsibility involved. Disbursements represent travel, accommodation and other expenses incurred in dealing with your affairs. For certain types of work, lump sum fees may be agreed by mutual consent.
5.2 If it is necessary to carry out work outside the responsibilities agreed with you for each service, we will advise you in advance. Any additional work will involve additional fees. Accordingly we would like to point out that it is in your interests to ensure that your records etc. are completed to the agreed stage.
5.3 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.
5.4 It is our preferred 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.
5.5 We reserve the right to charge interest on overdue accounts at the current rate under the Late Payment of Commercial Debts (Interest) Act 1998. We also reserve the right to terminate our engagement and cease acting if payment of any fees billed is unduly delayed. The firm also accepts settlement of fees by credit card; in these circumstances a 2.5% charge will be added to cover our transaction charges.
5.6 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.
5.7 For services provided to any company that the company is unable to pay, in all circumstances, as director(s), you guarantee to pay personally any outstanding fees (including disbursements and work to date to be invoiced). This clause would become effective in either the event of a receiver or liquidator being appointed to the company or the company otherwise being wound-up. This clause would also become effective where the company is still continuing to trade or where the company becomes inactive and there are outstanding fees (including disbursements and work to date to be invoiced). Your signed approval to the declaration in the letter of engagement constitutes your agreement to this clause.
5.8 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 all engagements for you until all outstanding fees and disbursements are paid in full.
5.9 In the event that this firm ceases to act in relation to your affairs you agree to meet all reasonable costs of providing information to the new advisers. In particular you agree to meet these costs where we are required by law to provide information to a successor firm.
6 Retention of and access to records
6.1 During the course of our work we will collect information from you and others acting on your behalf and will return any original documents to you following the preparation [and if applicable audit] of your financial statements and returns. You should retain these records for at least seven years from either the end of accounting year or the tax year to which they relate. You should retain them for longer if HM Revenue and Customs enquire into your tax return.
6.2 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.
7 Conflicts of interest and independence
7.1 We reserve the right during our engagement with you to deliver services to other clients whose interests might compete with yours or are or may be adverse to yours, subject to 8 below. We confirm that we will notify you immediately should we become aware of any conflict of interest involving us and affecting you 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.
7.2 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 below.
7.3 If a conflict of interest should arise, either between two or more of our clients, or in the provision of multiple services to a single client, we will take such steps as are necessary to deal with the conflict. In resolving the conflict, we would be guided by the code of ethics of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales which can be viewed at www.icaew.com/regulations.
8.1 We confirm that where you give us confidential information, we shall at all times keep it confidential, except as required by law or as provided for in regulatory, ethical or other professional statements relevant to our engagement.
8.2 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.
8.3 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.
8.4 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.
8.5 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.
8.6 If we use external or cloud based systems, we will ensure confidentiality of your information is maintained.
8.7 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.
9 Quality control
9.1 As part of our ongoing commitment to providing a quality service, our files are periodically subject to an independent regulatory or quality review. Our reviewers are highly experienced and professional people and are, of course, bound by the same requirements of confidentiality as our principals and staff.
Dealing with HM Revenue & Customs
9.2 When dealing with HM Revenue & Customs 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 HM Revenue & Customs, see www.hmrc.gov.uk/charter/index.htm. To the best of our abilities, we will ensure that HM Revenue & Customs meet their side of the Charter in their dealings with you.
9.3 We will take account of the steps and checks suggested by HM Revenue & Customs in their ‘Agent Toolkits’. While use of the Toolkits is voluntary, we will ensure that our quality control procedures match or enhance the suggestions in the Toolkits so that, in the unlikely event that HM Revenue & Customs consider any of your tax returns with which we assist to be inaccurate, we will be able to help you demonstrate to HM Revenue & Customs that reasonable care has been taken in the preparation of the return, thereby significantly reducing the possibility of an inaccuracy penalty being imposed. To further reduce the possibility of an inaccuracy penalty, you will remain responsible for maintaining good quality supporting records for each return, for providing us with all relevant information and explanations and for acting on any advice that we give you.
10 Help us to give you the right service
10.1 We are committed to providing you with a high quality service that is both efficient and effective. If at any time 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 one of the Partners at the Camberley office.
10.2 We undertake to look into any complaint carefully and promptly and do all we can to explain the position to you. If we do not answer your complaint to your satisfaction you may of course take up the matter with the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales.
10.3 In order for us to provide you with a high quality service on an ongoing basis it is essential that you provide us with relevant records and information when requested, reply to correspondence in a timely manner and otherwise follow the terms of the agreement between us set out in this Standard Terms of Business and associated Engagement letter(s). We therefore reserve the right to cancel the engagement between us with immediate effect in the event of:
• your insolvency, bankruptcy or other arrangement being reached with creditors;
• failure to pay our fees by the due dates;
• either party being in breach of their obligations where this is not corrected within 30 days of being asked to do so.
11 Applicable law
11.1 This engagement letter is governed by, and construed in accordance with, English law. 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. Each party irrevocably waives any right it may have 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.
11.2 If any provision in this Standard Terms of Business or any associated engagement letter, or its application, are found to be invalid, illegal or otherwise unenforceable in any respect, the validity, legality or enforceability of any other provisions shall not in any way be affected or impaired.
12 Changes in the law, in practice or in public policy
12.1 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 your circumstances.
12.2 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.
13 Internet communication
13.1 Unless you instruct us otherwise we may, where appropriate, communicate with you and with third parties via email or by other electronic means. However, internet communications are capable of data corruption and therefore we do not accept any responsibility for changes made to such communications after their despatch. It may therefore be inappropriate to rely on advice contained in an e-mail without obtaining written confirmation of it. We do not accept responsibility for any errors or problems that may arise through the use of internet communication and all risks connected with sending commercially sensitive information relating to your business are borne by you. If you do not agree to accept this risk, you should notify us in writing that e-mail is not an acceptable means of communication.
13.2 It is the responsibility of the recipient to carry out a virus check on any attachments received.
14 The Data Protection Bill 2017-19 and the Data Protection Act 1998
14.1 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. We confirm when processing data on your behalf that we will comply with the relevant provisions of the current Data Protection Act 1998 and of the Data Protection Bill 2017-19 which is anticipated to receive royal assent in May 2018. You will also ensure that any disclosure of personal data to us complies with these acts.
14.2 Both pieces of legislation place 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 comply with the requirements of both pieces of legislation when processing data on your behalf. In particular we confirm that we have adequate security measures in place and that we will comply with any obligations equivalent to those placed on you as a data controller.
14.3 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.
14.4 We will answer your reasonable enquiries to enable you to monitor compliance with this clause.
15 Limitation of third party rights
15.1 Persons who are not party to this agreement shall have no rights under the Contracts (Rights of Third Parties) Act 1999 to enforce any term of this agreement. This clause does not affect any right or remedy of any person which exists or is available otherwise than pursuant to that Act.
15.2 The advice we give you is for your sole use and is confidential to you and will not constitute advice for any third party to whom you may communicate it, unless we have expressly agreed in writing that a specified third party may rely on our work. We will accept no responsibility to third parties, including any group company to whom the engagement letter is not addressed, for any aspect of our professional services or work that is made available to them.
16 Client identification
16.1 In common with other professional services firms, we are required to:
• maintain identification procedures for clients and beneficial owners of clients;
• maintain records of identification evidence and the work undertaken for the client; and
• report, in accordance with the relevant legislation and regulations.
16.2 If we are not able to obtain satisfactory evidence of your identity and where applicable that of the beneficial owners, we will not be able to proceed with the engagement.
17 Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) and Common Reporting Standards
17.1 Unless agreed specifically in a separate engagement letter, we are not responsible for your compliance with the International Tax Compliance (United States of America) Regulations 2013, produced as a result of FATCA. In particular, we are not responsible for the categorisation of any UK entity into either a Financial Institution (FI) or an active or passive Non-Financial Foreign Entity (NFFE) nor, if a Financial Institution, for its registration with the US Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and subsequent submission of the required annual returns to HM Revenue & Customs.
17.2 However, if requested to do so we can provide advice on the completion of the forms supplied by Financial Institutions under these Regulations, or under Common Reporting Standards, and used by them to determine the status of an entity. We can also provide advice on setting up the appropriate systems to identify and report on your clients or beneficiaries who are foreign citizens affected by FATCA or Common Reporting Standards.
18 The Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 and the Money Laundering Regulations 2017 (updated)
18.1 In common with all accountancy and legal practices, the firm is required by the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 and the Money Laundering Regulations to:
• Maintain identification procedures for clients and beneficial owners of clients;
• Maintain records of identification evidence and the work undertaken for the client; and
• Report, in accordance with the relevant legislation and regulations.
18.2 We have a duty under section 330 of the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 to report to the National Crime Agency (NCA) if we know, or have reasonable cause to suspect, that another person is involved in money laundering. Failure on our part to make a report where we have knowledge or reasonable grounds for suspicion would constitute a criminal offence.
18.3 The offence of money laundering is defined by section 340(11) of the Proceeds of Crime Act and includes concealing, converting, using or possessing the benefits of any activity that constitutes a criminal offence in the UK. It also includes involvement in any arrangement that facilitates the acquisition, retention, use or control of such a benefit.
This definition is very wide and would include such crimes as:
• deliberate tax evasion;
• deliberate failure to inform the tax authorities of known underpayments or excessive repayments;
• fraudulent claiming of benefits or grants; or
• obtaining a contract through bribery.
Clearly this list is by no means exhaustive.
18.4 We are obliged by law to report any instances of money laundering to NCA without your knowledge or consent. In consequence, neither the firms’ principals nor staff may enter into any correspondence or discussions with you regarding such matters.
18.5 We are not required to undertake work for the sole purpose of identifying suspicions of money laundering. We shall fulfil our obligations under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 in accordance with the guidance published by the Consultative Committee of Accountancy Bodies.
19 General Limitation of liability
19.1 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. 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.
19.2 You will not hold us, our (principal(s)/director(s)) 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.
19.3 You have agreed that you will not bring any claim in connection with services we provide to you against any of our partners or employees personally.
19.4 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.
20 Intellectual property rights and use of our name
20.1 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.
20.2 You are not permitted to use our name in any statement or document that 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.
21 Draft/interim work or oral advice
21.1 In the course of our providing services to you we may provide advice or reports or other work products in draft or interim form, or orally. However, final written work products will always prevail over any draft, interim or oral statements. Where you request it, we will provide you with written confirmation of matters stated orally.
22.1 If any provision of our engagement letter or terms of business is held to be void for whatever reason, then that provision will be deemed not to form part of this contract, and no other provisions will be affected or impaired in any way. 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.
23 Internal disputes within a client
23.1 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 or 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.
24.1 If we resign or are asked to resign, we will normally issue a disengagement letter to ensure that our respective responsibilities are clear.
25 Probate-type services
25.1 The firm is licensed/ authorised by the ICAEW for non-contentious probate services.
25.2 As we are licensed/authorised for the reserved legal activity of non-contentious probate, in the unlikely event that we cannot meet our liabilities to you, you may be able to seek a grant from ICAEW’s Probate Compensation Scheme. Generally, applications for a grant must be made to ICAEW within 12 months of the time you become aware, or reasonably ought to have been aware of the loss. Further information about the scheme and the circumstances in which grants may be made is available on ICAEW’s website: www.icaew.com/probate
25.3 To discuss any aspect of our probate service, contact David Hartley at our Camberley office.
26 Equality & Diversity Policy and Data
26.1 The firm subscribes to the principles of Equality & Diversity and our recruitment policy is based solely on ability to fulfil the role irrespective of age, gender, disability, ethnic background, faith, sexual orientation or socio-economic background. It is a requirement of some of the regulated activities that the firm conducts to publish diversity data, however completion of this questionnaire by staff is voluntary and we must also consider privacy and data protection when publishing results. As such we choose to summarise our publicly disclosed data as follows:-
Broadly our partners and staff are 50% Male and 50% Female
We have a broad spread of ages between 18 and 65
Whilst the majority of our staff are from a white UK background we also have staff from other ethnic backgrounds. The majority of our staff have received UK state education.