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Business clients, very properly, wish to have recorded in their own accounting systems, how items paid out to us have been dealt with. The natural and obvious way of dealing with this is for us to issue an invoice, which can then go into the client's account records.
For solicitors however this is not straightforward. Many of the items which we pay out on behalf of clients, are payments made as agents for the client, rather than the purchase of services or goods for re-sale to a client. It is therefore incorrect to invoice the client for those payments. When we purchase a service for our client, such as a local search, or an agency fee with another firm of solicitors who represent a client at a distant court, we can pass on the invoice. There are however equally many items, such as stamp duty, where we are unlikely to be able to issue an invoice.
Our own accounts are controlled closely by statutory rules: the Solicitors Accounts Rules. These require us to make very rigid distinctions between money held on behalf of clients, and our own money. In particular, in this circumstance, we can only issue invoices where we have paid the money ourselves from our office bank account. Where we receive money from a client, and that money is paid into client account, and that money is then used as intended to pay for example stamp duty, we cannot issue an invoice.
This should not be a problem since we can instead issue detailed statements showing the moneys received and paid. If this comes to be a difficulty, please do contact us.
We must also ensure that clients are able to recover VAT on these disbursements, and this is not usually difficult, but again, there are some special rules we have to follow, for example with counsel's fee notes.
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