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What can I do about a €10,000 bill from my accountant?

Q Lorretto contacted Smart Consumer about an enormous bill she received. She explains that the Revenue Commissioners conducted an audit on her husband but found that nothing was owed.

"It was going on for about two years," she writes, "and we have received a bill from our accountant for over €10,000.

"We feel that it's very unfair, especially when we owed nothing to the Revenue," she continues. "Can you give us any advice?"

A Well, that is some bill! The first thing Lorretto should do is to get a detailed bill from her accountant. This should show a breakdown of each billable item and its associated cost, so that she can begin to understand how the total was arrived at.

The next step is to question individual items, if relevant, asking for an explanation of the various fees.

After that, it's all about discussing and negotiating with the accountant to see if and how the bill can be reduced. It might be useful also to talk to other accountants to get a steer on average fees, while bearing in mind that different service providers can and do charge different amounts.

So, Lorretto's task now is to try and successfully negotiate the bill down, so that she can pay it.

It's worth noting that the Chartered Accountants Regulatory Board (www.carb.ie) does operate a complaints procedure in relation to their members.

However, this doesn't cover complaints about fees but rather ones relating to breaches of regulation and failure to comply with standards.

For future reference, negotiation on price is best done at the start (before the accountant is hired) and continued throughout the process if it's a complex one. This should ensure no unwanted surprises.

Got a question for Tina? tleonard@independent.ie

Irish Independent