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Going to Finanzamt after accountant messes up

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Posted

Hi all,

I'm in a bit of a sticky situation and curious as to your thoughts on this.

To keep it brief, my ex and I lived together in 2010, half the year in Germany, half in the US. He filed our taxes in the US for 2010 and our German accountant was given all documentation to file in Germany. She never did.

After a lot of prompting on our end, we got her to send us an estimate by the end of 2011, an estimate we disagreed vehemently with her on. She seemed to be unwilling to suggest deductions that we could've taken (moving expenses, foreign earned-income credits) and got generally f*ed up on the idea that taxable income in the US is different from taxable income in Germany, and then simply didn't redo the estimate and never filed with the Finanzamt.

So of course we received a letter from the Finanzamt giving us a deadline of April 10 (Tuesday) to file. I got in touch with the accountant 3 weeks ago, was assured she was on it, then found out today she still hasn't even begun to look at our taxes again and has told us she'll just be filing with the original estimate that we disagreed with.

Because she's filed our taxes in past, she can go ahead and file these electronically without our first reviewing the estimate and that is what she's intending to do. If she does it, we meet the deadline but end up with a tax bill that we don't believe we should pay -- and not because we don't want to pay it but because she has done a horrendous job of estimating taxes.

I've got another accountant who's willing to take us on after the deadline (who agreed our acct has seriously dropped the ball) but we can't at this late a stage have him write the original estimate for 2010. So my question for you all is this: has anyone ever gone to the Finanzamt to file a complaint against their own accountant or to question a return submitted in their name? I guess I'd also like to know legal recourse for this. Do I really need to pay this accountant for all her work if it's completely incompetent or does this need to go through a lawyer to avoid fees?

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Posted

The Finanzamt doesn't give a damn if you're happy with your consultant.

You can protest the return once you receive it, and if you want to complain about the current consultant contact the Steuerberaterkammer for Cologne.

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Posted

Yep, the FA couldn´t give two hoots as to how your tax returns have been put together, or even if you have any idea how to go about it (although if asked directly about something, they will give you a decent answer, but they are never going to be "on your side", as it were)

If your accountant is incapable of filling out your tax forms to your satisfaction, you can either do them yourself, or employ a Steuerberater, who is specifically trained to know how to do it, and to know all the inns and outs of filing taxes, and thus also what you can claim, and what you can´t; likewise anything that you might be able to get away with claiming(!)

Since you only have a deadline until Tuesday of next week, I think my first move, in your position would be to make it absolutely clear to my current accountant that she is NOT to fill out any forms on your behalf, and that you are dealing with the whole issue yourself.

Then you really need to get your act together and have somebody else fill out your tax returns quite quickly.

You will probably find that this is not actually the absolute, final date at which you can send in your tax returns, but I believe you will be fined ofr giving them in late - I would weigh this up against and refund you might be hoping for, and then maybe take a little more time over them and the whole situation.

Not sure if you would have a legal case against your current accountant, but it might be something worth looking into...

Disclaimer: I am NOT a tax advisor, and have only picked up this information along the way...

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Posted

We had a similar problem about 10 years ago when I was still married. Our tax consultant was making a real mess of our taxes and then disappeared without a trace, we never found out what happened to him. We looked for and found a new one and he sorted everything out for us. He contacted the FA, explained the situation to them and made a deal on our behalf. It was fine in the end and I'm still with that tax consultant today.

You need to talk to people around you and ask for recommendations, I think that's the best way to find a good one, but you need to do it fast so they can deal with the FA for you and delay the submission date of the tax returns.

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Posted

Either you or you new accountant need to call the Finanzamt on Tuesday morning to ask for an extension. From what I've been told, as long as you ask before the deadline they'll usually extend it, however, if you contact them after the deadline it becomes much more complicated.

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Posted

Yes, either your new accountant or your need to get in touch with the Finanzamt immediately to get an extension (there is usually a contact person noted by name an any correspondence you have received from the FA). Follow up the phone call immediately with a written request for an extension, so it's on paper as well - your new accountant should know the proper procedure and formulation.

I'm just wondering whether there is some formal procedure you need to go through viz. the Finanzamt (and your old accountant) to declare that your old accountant is no longer authorized to act on your behalf. As she has filed for you previously, she can file electronically and this may slip through the loophole and then count as your legitimate tax return, if not caught by you before it lands on the desk of the Beamte who processes it.

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Posted

Thanks for all the advice.

To be clear, the accountant I'm referring to here is a Steuerberaterin.

And she's sitting on every piece of documentation we have so there's really no way to file these by the deadline without her at this point, unless she'll just magically hand over the reams of receipts, which she's thus far not been willing to do, even with my new accountant asking for them.

I'll write up the letters below and visit the Finanzamt on Wednesday and see what they're willing to do. We always owe money -- I'm self-employed -- but they didn't seem to give a flip in 2009 (when the FA mis-filed them and forgot to send the accountant a bill, who forgot to ask for one until just last month and we magically didn't owe interest on the late payment), so I'm hoping they'll be as understanding for 2010, at least giving us an extension until the new accountant can adjust the taxes. Thanks again for your help.

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Posted

I'll write up the letters below and visit the Finanzamt on Wednesday

Wednesday is too late. If the deadline is Tuesday, you need to either call or go there on Tuesday.

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Posted

As Engelchen has said, you do need to get this taken care of on Tuesday, straight away. Don't wait until Wednesday!

It's much easier to get an extension if your deadline hasn't already run out!

... Steuerberaterin. And she's sitting on every piece of documentation we have so there's really no way to file these by the deadline without her at this point, unless she'll just magically hand over the reams of receipts, which she's thus far not been willing to do, even with my new accountant asking for them.

As PandaMunich has pointed out, if you still owe your old Steuerberaterin money, she unfortunately is within her rights to hold back your documentation. IMO, besides the Widerruf der Vollmachten and the additional letter to the Finanzamt (both excellent), you also urgently need to get a letter out to your old Steuerberaterin, best would be straight away tomorrow, to instruct her that she is no longer authorized to act on your behalf. That would mean all your bases are "officially" covered. Do this as a registered letter (Einschreiben mit Rückschein), which means you will need to go to the post office tomorrow before noon to send it off (you can't just put a stamp on it and throw it in a postbox).

Once you work out whether or not you still owe her money, and pay, and she still refuses to hand over the documentation, you then would have to send her another letter with a Frist etc. for that - but I certainly hope that you won't need that.

Example of what you can write to her:

Sehr geehrte Frau ...

hiermit entziehen wir Ihnen mit sofortiger Wirkung unseren Auftrag an Sie zur Steuererklärung 2010.

Mit freundlichen Grüßen

Translation:

We hereby revoke our commission to you for our tax return 2010, effective immediately.

Mit freundlichen Grüßen

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Posted

And she's sitting on every piece of documentation we have so there's really no way to file these by the deadline without her at this point, unless she'll just magically hand over the reams of receipts, which she's thus far not been willing to do, even with my new accountant asking for them.

I'll write up the letters below and visit the Finanzamt on Wednesday and see what they're willing to do. We always owe money -- I'm self-employed -- but they didn't seem to give a flip in 2009 (when the FA mis-filed them and forgot to send the accountant a bill, who forgot to ask for one until just last month and we magically didn't owe interest on the late payment), so I'm hoping they'll be as understanding for 2010, at least giving us an extension until the new accountant can adjust the taxes. Thanks again for your help.

Go to the Finanzamt on Tues, as mentioned earlier. Perhaps supplying them with the name of your new accountant with his/her agreement, and arranging a realistic deadline to resubmit your tax return, so you're talking about concrete rather than open-ended stuff. At the very least, let them know you're on top of it. I'm speaking from my own experience, not legal or financial know-how, btw (disclaimer!) I let the FA know I was going to be late in submitting one year, but gave them a new deadline of a month or so later, passed on the name of my tax guy and things turned out ok.

For future reference if applicable you can always ask for an extension, but always communicate this in writing before the end of the fiscal year, and ask for an acknowledgement. And keep chasing up the process. Also my experience!

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Posted

Thanks PandaMunich and all!

When I said originally that I'd go to the FA on Wednesday it was because the last I heard from my accountant, she was planning to file no matter what on Tuesday so I would go there as an after-fact --- biting the bullet on this f*ed up return and paying according to however she filed while seeing to it that in future she didn't work for us (also because the FA is asking for 2011 estimates from me). When I originally wrote this post, I had more in mind that there might be something similar to an Amended tax form, as there is in the US, which adjusts an already-filed tax estimate so that I could repair this after the fact. I should've been more proactive but also put a lot of trust into this accountant who came highly recommended by other expats for a multi-national that deals often international returns.

In any case, I'll be calling the new Steuerberater on Saturday morning to make sure he's in agreement on this next step to revoke her rights and him file 2010 instead, and filing for the extension using PM's letter below (Thanks again!).

The shite of it is that she *can* withhold this documentation but in 5 years, she has never once asked for us to pay her in advance of her filing -- she's only ever billed once it's been returned by the Finanzamt as okay (so our bill for 2009 arrived last month, along with the bill from the FA). If I have to pay two accountants because she messed this up, I may just freak out, but it's the least bad thing that could happen at this point, I guess.

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Posted

[adminmerge][/adminmerge]

The end of last year, I gave all of my documents for the taxes 2010 to my accountant.

In February I get a letter from the finanzamt that I need to do this by March or they will guesstimate my taxes and charge me accordingly. I call my accountant and he says, "we have a lot of our people out sick at the moment, but we got an extension from the finanzamt".

In March I get another letter from the finanzamt, do my taxes by April 18th and this time we mean it. I call the accountant and he says, "no problem, we'll get it done by then". On April 12th I call my accountant and say, "I want it tomorrow, as I have to sign it and am only home on weekends". He says fine, your wife can pick it up tomorrow afternoon.

On April 19th I come home and the only documents to sign are about my wife's income (which she doesn't even have), I don't see any of my income or deductions anywhere and say, "this can't be enough. I always have to sign several pieces of paper". I signed it and my wife talked to him and he said, "no that's all you have to sign, I'll get it off to the finanzamt today!"

On May 13th, I got a bill from the finanzamt for several thousand Euros, since I never turned in my taxes. My wife tried to call the accountant, but he "wasn't in". 5 minutes later he sends me an email, "just ignore it. I just applied for the guesstimation to be negated, so you won't have to pay these several thousand Euros" and said that he'd call the finanzamt and let me know this week.

Wednesday I sent him an email asking if he ever got in touch with them. He never responded, so this morning I called the finanzamt. They never applied for an extension, they never applied for the guesstimation to be negated, they didn't turn in my tax forms until May 15th (after I got the guesstimation), and they only turned in my income tax, without the VAT or the determination of taxable income, so they can't do anything with it anyway.

I sent another email explaining what I just learned and he wrote back that they just applied for the negation of the guesstimation and the missing forms yesterday. Since he said the same thing in an email a week ago, I obviously don't believe anything he says anymore.

What can I do? Can I make them pay the several thousand euros until the finanzamt gets all of the appropriate forms and figures out my taxes? It's too late to get another accountant to do it... I'm at my wits end. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

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Posted

Oh, I'd be furious! But I would have called the finanzamt earlier as well (I've found them to be pretty cool, unlike 'other' countries).

Me?

I'd 1) call the finanzamt and tell them the story and that you are trying to sort it all out, see if they will give you a break (probably not, but at least let them know there's a big problem with this guy, they might tell you how to proceed, get extensions, etc.)

2) call a second tax person to file the proper extensions.

3) march over there and get everything from this guys office

4) consider calling a tax lawyer.

Seriously, it's your money, not his.

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Posted

If you call the finanzamt to ask for time to sort things out make sure you follow that up with a letter setting everything out again and when you're talking to them ask them to confirm the outcome in writing, too. Your accountant should have been doing that and sending you a copy of every piece of correspondence as soon as he had sent it (at least, that's the standard practice where I work).

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Posted

Got a lawyer yet? Contacted the Steuerberaterkammer München? (they mediate in such disputes)

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Posted

Oh, I'd be furious! But I would have called the finanzamt earlier as well (I've found them to be pretty cool, unlike 'other' countries).

Me?

I know. I let this slide too long and trusted too much, as I've been dealing with other shit.

I'd 1) call the finanzamt and tell them the story and that you are trying to sort it all out, see if they will give you a break (probably not, but at least let them know there's a big problem with this guy, they might tell you how to proceed, get extensions, etc.)

I did that. The finanzamt guy said, "dazu möchte ich mich nicht äussern".

It's simply too late to get another guy to start all over, otherwise I would. I've been with this accountant for 10 years and never had a reason not to trust them before. I guess I'm still hoping that I can trust them this time.

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Posted

I don´t think that this "guesstimate" is really so bad - surely, if you have been forced to pay too much, it´ll be set-off against your next tax bill?

(assuming, of course, that you have enough to live on in the meantime?)

Do you have legal insurance? I would definitely get the opinion of a lawyer on this - surely your tax accountant is charging you for services that he is not providing?

Time to get a new accountant, methinks!

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Posted

I don´t think that this "guesstimate" is really so bad - surely, if you have been forced to pay too much,

If only I had the 30 thousand Euros to pay them, when I should actually be getting a couple of thousand euros back...

New accountant is definitely slated for next year. I'm probably going to use the one you suggested in a PM. It's time to get this stuff done in Munich anyway, so I can keep closer track of it, instead of sending my wife in to do it.

He hasn't charged me yet, and how much or if I pay will be determined by how this works out.

No legal insurance. Never needed it and hopefully never will.

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Posted

If only I had the 30 thousand Euros to pay them, when I should actually be getting a couple of thousand euros back...

- maybe we could have a whip-round for you? Might get enough together for you to go and drown your sorrows! :D

How on earth have they managed to estimate 30 thousand? I mean, obviously your earnings are in a different league to mine, but even so, that really is a LOT!

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Posted

I wonder how they even do this estimation. I would have assumed they would do it according to what I presented them for my monthly VAT payments. I understand that they would just assume there were no deductions, since I didn't send in a form to claim any, but how did they figure that I had an income way higher than it was?

Edit: I wish I had that answer, Robbie...

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Posted

Contact an accountant and ask!

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Posted

If you can time wise, march down to his office and ask him WTF is going on and demand ( not ask ) that the papers are done there and then and signed by you etc etc.

Explain that you pay him to sort out your taxes, not fark them up, be polite, be firm and be ever so concentratedly pissed off - no offence to my hosts but be exceedingly farking German about it and ask what the farking problem is and that you want if fixed NOW.

I had a similar situation that ended up with me getting a pfändung being placed on a bank account and i went completely Chuck Norris when I found out about the whole thing via the pfändung. I talked to the Finanzamt right away and explained what had happened and that I was sorting it out this week, I was ever so sorry that this crap had happened and that it was so sehr peinlich that my accountant had farked up and that I would personally deliver the papers to their office. Did that, Pfändung was lifted / withdrawn a few days later.

Depending on what happens then, have serious thoughts about dropping him and getting another ( recommended ) ASAP afterwards. If you end up staying with him, make sure that he is required to send copies of ALL communications from the Finanzamt to you as soon as they get them. ( for that matter, make sure the new one does this as well.)

Good luck Jay, I really hope it ends well.

EDIT ... see from your new post that he's not in Munich - crap

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Posted

That's actually a good thing, because I don't think it would go well if I walked into his office now, having learned that he's been lying to me the entire time.

I was going to get another accountant as of the taxes for 2012 for personal reasons, anyway, so I'll just go to a new one as of the 2011 taxes instead.

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