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Chris B.
Chris B.
Warana, QLD

Hi I have been trying to change accountants from a Melbourne firm to a Sunshine Coast Firm the new Accountants have sent a ethical Letter to the old accountants to release documents and tax records but an outstanding bill of my ex wifes hasn't been paid and they wont release any information or even respond to my emails and phone calls by business and tax returns are being held up by this. Can you please advise what I can do ?

3 years ago


Hi There,

Yes they are entitled to a Lien on your books and records.

There is no Legal or ethical obligation for them to release records unless their bill is paid.

Sorry. You can dispute their bill but you probably won't get your records until it has been paid.


Hi Chris,

the right of lien is a contentious issue. From the old firms perspective I can see their issue: they just want to get paid, and short of taking someone to court they can only withhold documents. It is not a great way to end a professional relationship, as it generally leaves a sour taste in everyones mouth.
there are a few questions that you should consider:
1: was your ex-wife your wife when this outstanding invoice was raised: ie can they legally hold YOU responsible for the liability?
2: how big is the bill? it may be simpler to just cop the cost in the neck, because its probably cheaper to do this than get your new bean-counter to reconstruct things.

Unless the invoice is huge my advice is pay the bill, get the documents and move on.


Hi Chris,

There are a couple of issues. Is the Melbourne accountant a member of the institute of Chartered Accountants? If so it is unlikely that they have the capacity to withhold your records.

Was there an engagement letter stating their right to do that that you agreed to?

Further, the records cannot be withheld in any event as the fee dispute is with a seperate client/taxpayer (again subject to engagement letter).

If you feel you are on solid ground (and I suspect you are) I would call the accountant's office and say you required a call back within 2 business days or you will report them to their professional body. If no resolution, Then call the professional body and make a formal complaint.

Having said all that, I agree with Brendan do a deal on the fees and get on with life.

All the best with it.

Regards, David.

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