Step 3 Dealing with your priority debts


If you have not paid your accountant, they may refuse to return your books until your bill is paid. This is known as a
‘lien’. It means that the accountant has the right to keep the books they have worked on if you have not paid their fees in full. However, they should return any of your materials used to create the books such as invoices, bank statements and so on.

You may need to treat your accountant’s bill as a priority if you need your books for things such as HMRC returns. This is because if you do not send HMRC returns off on time, HMRC can add penalties to what you owe.

Contact your accountant and explain that you cannot pay. Explain that having your books back will help you put together a repayment plan, which should mean you can make a better payment offer to them. This is particularly important if you have to deal with income tax or VAT assessments, as sending these in may mean you get a refund.


limited companies

The rules about what an accountant can hold in lien are different if the books are for your limited company. If you accountant is refusing to return any documents relating to your limited company, contact us for advice.

Extra advice:

legal action

You could take legal action to get your books back. However, it is important to get a solicitor’s opinion about this first. Contact us for advice about how to find a solicitor that may be able to help you.