If you are a bookkeeper who contracts directly with your clients, there are several business risks which you need to consider. Having a professionally drafted Client Agreement, which includes a Proposal for your work with Terms and Conditions attached, along with a disputes policy, will help reduce your liability and protect your business interests.

A good Client Agreement should cover all the items outlined below.

Services and Scope

As a bookkeeper, it’s important for you to set out the services that you will provide and the scope of these services. Do you provide monthly bookkeeping services? Will you file their tax returns? Are you going to take care of your client’s payroll? Your client needs to know exactly what services you will provide and what you will not.

Fees and Charges

You need to set out clearly in your Proposal what your fees and charges will be for the services you are providing. You also need to set out what the payment terms will be.  You may seek regular upfront payments, or you may send regular invoices.  You need to inform your clients of the due dates and any rights you have to charge interest on invoices which are overdue or cease services.

Confidentiality

Being a bookkeeper gives you access to the financial records of your client. This information is confidential. Your Terms and Conditions should reflect your commitment to keeping this information confidential. However, there may be circumstances which require you to disclose client information to third parties. This needs to be addressed in your Terms and Conditions.

Industry Standards

If you perform bookkeeping services in Australia, you must follow the Australian Accounting Standards. Addressing your adherence to such standards in your Terms and Conditions demonstrates your commitment to your professional standards and high quality customer service.

Limitation of Liability

You perform services for the client based on the information that has been provided to you by your client.  You rely on their information. It can be difficult for you to ensure that all the information is a true, complete and accurate reflection of their business. You are a bookkeeper and not an auditor. You should state in your Terms and Conditions that your client is responsible for providing complete and accurate information, and you will not be liable for any errors which arise from their failure to provide you with the correct information. Please note that you must follow the mandatory consumer guarantees in the Australian Consumer Law which require you to give a refund or re-do services if there is a fault in your services.

Website Terms of Use

If your business has a website, you need a Website Terms of Use. These apply to every website visitor, protect your website and limit your liability for your website. The Terms claim your copyright and intellectual property rights, and set out permissible and prohibited uses of your website, including that competitors cannot use your website information.

Privacy Policy

If you collect, use and disclose personal information from customers, including using the information for direct marketing, you need a Privacy Policy, to assist you to comply with the Privacy Act.  The Privacy Policy is between you and each person that you collect personal information from. It sets out what personal information your business collects, how this information is used, and under what circumstances the information will be disclosed to third parties.

To conclude

A well-drafted Client Agreement will cover the fundamental aspects of your business and legal relationship with your clients. Regardless of whether you run your own bookkeeping business, or work as a contractor for a company, you should have a business lawyer draft strong Terms and Conditions to protect your business and have clear procedures to resolve any disputes between you and your client.

Ursula Hogben
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