Our blog two weeks ago highlighted the main pieces of legislation that go into an audit letter of engagement, while last week we looked at the fundamentals of tax engagement letters.
This week we show you a checklist that covers worthwhile clauses for all types of letters of engagement:
- Exclusion clause. Because tax services can be broad, an exclusion clause that identifies what services will not be provided can be invaluable. For example, a payroll taxes preparation engagement might exclude subcontractor tax, personal or corporate tax compliance, and Forms P11D preparation.
- Deadline for submitting return information. Establishing a date by which the client must provide the information needed to prepare the return is essential.
- Limitation on use of the returns. Clients may submit tax returns and/or supporting data (like rental income computations) to third parties in lieu of a financial statement, for which potential liability can be addressed through a clause limiting the circulation of tax returns, supporting data and distribution and/or requiring advance written permission before allowing the client circulate the information to named third parties.
- Tax position clauses. Many times, what the client thinks is acceptable will conflict with professional standards. Establish language stating that tax positions taken must satisfy professional standards.
- Supporting documentation. Because a Revenue audit or investigation is always a possibility, remind clients of their responsibility to maintain adequate records to support the deductions claimed on the return. Include in the letter a reminder of the length of time for which the records should be maintained.
- Revenue Audit. Representing a client in a Revenue Audit may be more involved than the tax return preparation itself, for which many accountants may want to deal in a different manner to the main tax assignment e.g. by allowing for the use of specialist advice. The engagement letter should state that in the event of a Revenue Audit the assignment will be covered by the terms of a separately signed engagement letter.
- Outcome or results. The engagement letter is not a marketing device. Never guarantee the outcome or results.
- Limitation of liability. Ensure such clauses are used appropriately.
- Complaints/best service. Make it clear what the lines of communication are in the event of a dispute or claim (give the contact name for the Partner/Director in your organisation that will primarily handle client complaints) and in the event of failure to reach a satisfactory outcome, give the contact details of your professional body.
For a complete list of our time-saving engagement letter templates for audit, non-audit, tax, grant claims, forensic services and other templates like letters of representation dealing with Brexit and Covid-19, visit our store here.
We also have a suite of 19 webinars if you want to catch up on your CPD before the end of 2020 here.