Welcome Dave. Tell us more. Who are you?? What is your position in the company??
Where is your company located??
How much did the employee misappropriate??
Was the misappropriate "reasonable"??
It seems that you are NOT trying to close the cash door, after the employee already get the funds,
BUT arguing over "reasonable".
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Dave, I agree that a comparison of the attorney's and the CPA's per-page rate, and a comparison of your copying time against the CPA's, certainly makes the accountant's billing look a bit predatory, at first glance.
I can't defend nor attack the CPA's numbers without knowing all details, but I can suggest some behind-the scenes possibilities which might give rise to variations that might not be obvious at first glance.
Professionals such as accountants and attorneys aren't primarily in the business of copy-making, but running copies nevertheless pops up here and there, ancillary to their primary service. Since it's merely an ancillary activity, there's no across-the-board standardization in how they'll seek compensation for such. One professional might charge a premium for their standard hourly rate, but then throw in a few amenities at low/no cost; such as free Starbucks in their waiting room, parking validation, or nickel-a-page copies when needed. In such case, the economic reality is that clients who enjoy the lattes and the inexpensive copying service are actually having their benes partially subsidized by the whole client base, as the clients all pay the higher hourly rates for the professional's primary services.
A different professional might prefer the pay-as-you-go approach, charging a higher rate for copies or other ancillary services---a cost paid by only those using such services, and in direct proportion to their use---while charging a relatively lower rate for the primary service.
Similarly, Professional A might have a lower copy charge than Pro B because A uses state-of-the-art office technology that's not only faster but also much more toner-efficient than B's old machine. But then, of course, you're paying for that snazzy technology every time you pay A's hourly rate.
As to the amount of time spent running the copies, try to find out if there were any significant differences in how you were able to approach the job, vs. your accountant. Depending on how the documents existed prior to copying, an accountant might have to incur time (1) locating the docs themselves, as they're scattered across many different files, file folders, embedded within other docs and files, some in paper form and some on flash drives, etc.; (2) going through the docs to identify which ones are actually needed, and filtering out the unnecessary ones; and (3) getting them ready for the copy process itself (de-stapling contracts, tax returns, and other thick bundles; arranging for non-standard-size copies and scans (e.g., W-2s)); and so on. And then, of course, there's time to get everything re-stapled, put back together, re-filed, etc.
Afterwards, of course, simply making "copies of the copies" isn't much more than running them through the doc feeder on the machine.
Again, I'm NOT defending the CPA's bill; that'd be impossible without access to all the facts. It may well be ridiculously inflated, and you should absolutely obtain a specific justification of the charges. I'm just offering up a few beneath-the-surface issues that sometimes make matters of this nature not quite what you'd think at first glance.
Best of luck with it, Dave.
My guess is that the CPA's charges weren't just for running the photocopier.
My guess is the CPA's charges including rooting around through filel cabinets, thumbing through file folders, maybe removing binding (or staples), rebinding (or restapling), putting docs back into cabinets, etc. If you had several years of documentation you requested, the project may have started with a trip to an offsite storage locker where boxes had to be searched to find your documents.
The other thing about this--and I say this as a CPA--this archivist work is just a total money loser for the CPA firm. The only products or services a CPA can truly offload to a low-wage, low-skill staff person are tasks where the work is routine and regular. Surely, the clerk or staff person fumbling through the files repeatedly asked the CPA, "Hey, Boss? Do I need to make a copy of this document, too?"
Stephen brings up some very good points to consider. I hadn't thought of the extras that might have gone into fetching the documents that were copied. It's been a while since this thread was responded to . I hope Dave gives us an update and clears up the controversy of what is 'reasonable'.
The update and context. Had the CPA enumerated activity for the hourly charges that would ahve been more palatable. She had only recently pulled all the files for attorney's to review and the request was for all records; therefore, the very simple procudure would be to direct a clerk to copy all records. Given that the CPA is implicated in the misappropriatiion, having clearly shown she had knowledge of the illegal action, it would appear that some of the office time charged was to select and pull out documents which might implicate her. That's our take anyway.
Wow . what a mess! I hope it's all straightened out and things go smoother from here on out, Dave. Thanks so much for the update. Keep us in the loop. I think we all learn from threads like this. It's a big part of what this Community is for.
You also have to consider where the accountant had to get the documents from... chances are they are not all in a basic file folder that just had to be copied. He may have had them all online or used documentation from online sources (banks/cc) that needed to be obtained again. I suspect a lot of the documents are stored on the web and the accounting file itself would have to be located, accessed and reports printed.
Not trying to justify the charges, just alerting you to the fact that document gathering may not be just as simple as pulling out a file and making a copy.
My small business recently had to bring a claim against an employee for misapropriation. We supeoned the CPA's records and agreed to pay for copies. We were billed by her $.26 per page plus $45 hourly for 15 hours. We made copies of the copies in 3 1/2 hours! We received coprorate records from the company attorney for $.05 per page with no hourly charge.
I agreed to pay reasonable market rate for the copies. The new CPA says the charge is outrageous. The Society of CPA's states "reasonable" but does not define reasonable.
Does anyone have expeience in a similar matter, that is, how does one define reasonable, or market rate? Have the courts ever defined "reasonalbe" rate for profesisonal copies?
thanks for input.