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jgordosea, Enrolled Agent
Category: Tax
Satisfied Customers: 3161
Experience:  I've prepared all types of taxes since 1987.
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We had a CPA for our business but we no longer do business

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We had a CPA for our business but we no longer do business with him. He has a lot of our tax information so we want the files back. He says he's going to charge $200 an hour for getting us the files and it'll take him several hours. Is this reasonable? Isn't the CPA bound by some ethical rules of releasing client information upon request? I could understand if the fee is nominal but $200/hr? He will have his hourly staff do the work I'm sure.
Are you asking about items that you gave to the accountant or items that she prepared from your documents?
Are you just asking for things back that have not been worked on?
Thanks for the information.
Customer: replied 4 years ago.

both - info we gave and also returns he worked on. we mainly want our employee's w-4 info and w-2 info

Hello again,

In regard to work that the accountant has done there is not any schedule or maximum charge that the state board of accountancy enforces.

Rules can be found at

Except for continegent fees, there are not actually any rules as to what can be charged for the work.

Unfortunately you do not have any complaint that could be presented to the regulatory agency on the matter of how much the accountant will charge for a given amount of work; but only can choose whether or not to engage the accountant for that work.

There are specific rules on retention and return of client records.

"ARTICLE 9 - Rules of Professional Conduct

§ 68. Retention of Client's Records.

id="sect68" dir="LTR" style="">

A licensee, after demand by or on behalf of a client, for books, records or other data, whether in written or machine sensible form, that are the client's records shall not retain such records. Unpaid fees do not constitute justification for retention of client records. Although, in general the accountant's working papers are the property of the licensee, if such working papers include records which would ordinarily constitute part of the client's books and records and are not otherwise available to the client, then the information on those working papers must be treated the same as if it were part of the client's books and records.

NOTE: Authority cited: Sections 5010 and 5018, Business and Professions Code. Reference: Section 5037, Business and Professions Code. "

So, the accountant must return your books and records.

See also Business and Professions Code Section 5037:

"(b) A licensee shall furnish to his or her client or former client, upon request and reasonable notice:

(1) A copy of the licensee's working papers to the extent that those working papers include records that would ordinarily constitute part of the client's records and are not otherwise available to the client.

(2) Any accounting or other records belonging to, or obtained from or on behalf of, the client which the licensee removed from the client's premises or received for the client's account. The licensee may make and retain copies of documents of the client when they form the basis for work done by him or her."

There are disciplinary actions that have been taken by the board for failure to return client records. Some can be viewed at


Hopefully it helps to know that the accountant must return your records.

Unfortunately, that may not be much help in getting those records on a timely basis. .



My suggestion if you wish to try to limit the fees perhaps you can limit your request (or have the accountant first) to only return your records, as required.


Also, there may or may not be mention of the situation in the engagement letter or agreement from the accountant that would limit the fee for the work or copies of the work.


Unfortunately, customers are sometimes hostage to the accountant for their records; so after you get what you need may be the best time to pursue any action you may consider taking against the accountant.


Please ask if you need more information or clarification.

Thank you.




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