accounts papers - whose property?
The accountancy company that I have been using for the past three years have let me down badly this year. I took them my paperwork last May for the year 2005-6 and the first I knew that they had not submitted my accounts for the Inland Revenue in time this year was when I received my first penalty notice from the Tax Office. I telephoned and wrote to the accountant several times over a few weeks, only to have no one call or write back. I have a friend who also uses their services who called and asked them to get in touch. I then got a phone call from the accountant whose job it was to sort my affairs, who said that they had had staff problems and that my accounts were now in hand but he couldn't tell me when they would be done.
I then heard nothing more and still couldn't get them to contact me further. Finally, I wrote to them to let them know that their service was not good enough and that I would be taking them to the Trading Standards Office. The next day I got a phone call from someone at their office who I had never met or heard about, who said that the accountant in whose hands my work had been placed had been having personal problems and had been hiding the fact that he hadn't done the work. My work had now been passed to another accountant and should be ready within the week. This was 3 weeks ago. 2 weeks ago the work was still being done and would be with me by Friday. Last week the same was said. Finally I received a letter on Saturday 26th May 2007 from them that they had submitted my accounts to the Tax Office.
I went to collect my paperwork from them today and, along with a weak apology and an offer to pay any penalties that may have arisen by their inefficiency they would also reduce my payment to them by a (very) little amount. When I asked for my paperwork I was asked if I had the cheque with me to pay for my accounts having been done (last week!). When I said that I did not have a cheque with me the accountant withheld my papers, saying that they were his "working papers" and that they are not my property.
Does he have the right to hold my paperwork to ransom in this way? Or are they legally my papers?
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