The offer to pay for the file setup was made, and the tax preparer/bookkeeper -REFUSED!

He will not give the QuickBooks file over. This individual has claimed that the file belongs to him even though he has been paid to do the work. A letter from a lawyer has not accomplished anything to date.

We live in an electonic data day and age, data entry is terribly expensive. To recreate any data that has been already been paid for is ridiculous!

This is not my battle but my clients, but I am so passionate about this, it has consumed me!

To date the possible recourse results are:

  1. File a complaint with the IRS
  2. Small claims court
  3. Create a state law to protect small business owners
  4. Write a letter to the local papers

My belief is that Lawyers should not have to get a penny, this should be just common sense or outright illegal.

Any help would be appreciated for a QUICK resolution!


I don't personally know what a CTPA is, but this individual put these letters next to his name.

I asked a lawyer and they told me Certified Tax Preparer Accountant which I have never heard of. The IRS would be the agency to resolve any of the issues for this individual.

asked 06 Mar '10, 23:44

Karen%20Siewert's gravatar image

Karen Siewert
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edited 09 Mar '10, 17:32

TaxQueries's gravatar image

TaxQueries ♦♦

The title to your post says "CTPA/bookkeeper". Please excuse my ignorance, but what is this designation?

If the preparer is a CPA, my first step before a lawyer would by the state CPA licensing board and the state society of CPAs.

It's possible that the threat of a public complaint to the professional association might do more than the fairly empty threat of legal action.


answered 07 Mar '10, 15:33

Lance%20W%20Gurel%20CPA%203's gravatar image

Lance W Gure...
accept rate: 17%

It appears the the electronic file may be considered "books of original entry", and if so, cannot be withheld irregardless of fees paid. if the "professional" is a CPA, a complaint to the State Board of Accountancy is in order and should pry the file loose.

(07 Mar '10, 20:54) Brent Berkman

Pay an attorney to listen to the details of your client's situation and tell them what recourse they have. Then decide if you want to take legal action.


answered 07 Mar '10, 00:23

dustincpa's gravatar image

accept rate: 0%

Commonsense would be putting this sort of thing into a contract at the start. If the client wants to have the files, then the client could have had the bookkeeper sign a contract agreeing to provide a copy of the files, before the work was started. The lawyer's fee is effectively a penalty for not addressing this issue at the start.


answered 07 Mar '10, 01:38

stephenweinstein's gravatar image

accept rate: 1%

It is my opinion (some others on this site seem to support my opinion) that the Quickbooks files are the property of the accountant. There is no requirement to give them to the client unless it was part of the original agreement.

The requirement is to give the source documents and the accounting that was paid for to the client upon separation. So the client should receive the output from the Quickbooks files (ie financial statements) that they have paid for but Quickbooks is just the program that the accountant chose to use to prepare them and the property of the accountant.

I suggest making an attractive enough offer to the former accountant to purchase their files.

Check this thread for more information:


answered 07 Mar '10, 19:42

JFulton's gravatar image

accept rate: 0%

edited 07 Mar '10, 23:47

TaxQueries's gravatar image

TaxQueries ♦♦

Send them as well all the "data" in the file, chart of accounts, G/L, T/B, bank reconciliations, etc. As far as the file itself is concerned, no need for that, but they did pay for the numbers, so is important to send that to them. I don't give workpapers to a client who leaves, but all the entries made from those workpapers, they paid for

(08 Mar '10, 19:08) SandySea

A few questions for clarity, if you please:

1 - what is a CTPA?

2 - first you say that an offer to pay for setup was made but the bookkeeper refused - then you say the individual (I assume the bookkeeper) says the files are his even though he's been paid. Which is it? Has the bookkeeper been paid for the work or not? If he did the work and refused to accept payment I don't see how you have any right to the work.

I think it DOESN'T matter WHY he wasn't paid - either because the client refused to pay or because the pro refused to accept payment. If I'm not paid all I have to return are your source docs, nothing more.

And quite frankly your belief that lawyers should not have to get a penny means nothing. Your theory is a nice goal, but it applies to everything. If everyone did the right thing we wouldn't need lawyers for anything (not that I'm partial to them). But the sad reality of life is that lawyers are there for when we can't work things out amongst ourselves.


answered 08 Mar '10, 20:45

EAgent's gravatar image

accept rate: 6%

You fellow "accounting professionals" are scaring me!! Wow, don't give up the files? In effect, you are saying "screw the successor accountant". Very unprofessional in my humble opinion.


answered 12 Jul '10, 01:45

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Frank 1
accept rate: 0%

The file in and of itself is not necessary if you provide all the source documents and the reports (full reports). Sure if paid and if the client is just changing accountants, etc. I would give them the backup file or the working file. But having all the reports including the T/B, B/S, P&L, G/L etc should suffice. What do you need to recreate? Just a new file and you have ALL the reports to do so.

(12 Jul '10, 15:04) SandySea

I also never heard of a CTPA. I can tell you that none of this has anything to do with IRS. IRS will not get involved in this. I was a Tax Auditor/Tax Compliance Officer with IRS for many years. They do not get involved in these situations. If the client were to be audited for any years involved source documents are far more important than the QB file. If for some reason IRS had to have QB files they would summons them. I suspect the CTPA would provide it to IRS. I suspect IRS would not then provide it to your client.


answered 13 Jul '10, 19:35

Toni%20McIntyre%20CPA's gravatar image

Toni McIntyr...
accept rate: 5%

Good accountants/bookkeepers always make copies of any documents that are given to them before working on them. That allows them to make tickmarks, notes, etc., on copies and return the orginals to the clients.

For my firm, once the work is finished, we return the orginals to the client along with their finished product. If for example, a client ("new client" for this example) stops in to get their completed tax return, we would give them their orginals back and expect them to pay for their tax return before they pick it up. This is the same principal as for the "QB's file".

Think of it - like picking up pizza - you pay for it before you are allowed to leave with it. If you don't pay for it - even though they made it and made it - the way you wanted it - they are going to keep it unless they get paid. You are not entitled to keep that pizza even though it was made for you -unless you paid for. And when you walk in to get that pizza - you are not expecting them to teach you how they made that pizza.

As far as the succcessor accountant - he/she is not entitled to the workpapers prepared by the accountant - only the information provided by the client. Now having said that, most accountants would reply to information requests from a successor accountant as long as it does not mean turning over senstive workpapers.


answered 17 Aug '10, 02:19

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Joe Sparks 1
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Asked: 06 Mar '10, 23:44

Seen: 5,069 times

Last updated: 17 Aug '10, 02:19