Sunday, December 18, 2022

Should I have told my accountant I was leaving him?

How much of an obligation do you have to a service provider to let them know you’re switching providers? Does it make any difference if you knew the provider as he was getting his start in the business?

Typically, changing service providers would seem like no big deal. It’s rare, for example, that an individual at your cable television service provider would take it personally if you decided to avail yourself of a better offer from a competitor. But a reader we’re calling Penny finds herself wondering if she did something wrong by switching accountants – mostly because the accountant got in touch with her after the move to let her know how disappointed he was she hadn’t given him a heads-up that she was making the move.

Penny had met her former accountant before he opened his own firm. He had audited the business where Penny worked. They didn’t become friends outside of the workplace, but they chatted occasionally while at the office. When the accountant left the large accounting firm he worked for to start his own business, he let Penny know. She was in the market for an accountant to do her annual income tax reports so she signed on with him.

“He did a good job on my taxes,” writes Penny. For the first two years, she met one-on-one with him to discuss her tax filing. She even recommended his firm to others in search of tax form preparation services.

As the accountant’s practice began to grow, he added more accountants to the company. Penny was pleased that he and his firm were doing so well.

She was surprised, however, when at her most recent meeting with her old accountant, she learned that her account had been transferred to somebody new to his office whom she had not met before.

“He never told me he wouldn’t be doing my taxes himself,” wrote Penny. It was then that she decided to find a new accountant. “I might have stayed with him if he’d told me I was being moved to someone else and why. But I’m not sure.”

After she’d found a new accountant and asked her former accountant’s office to send her old tax forms to the new person, she received an email from her former accountant to let her know he was disappointed that she hadn’t told him she was moving and that he wished she had said something if she had been dissatisfied with the service.

“I didn’t respond,” she writes. “Should I have?”

The right thing would have been for Penny’s old accountant to let her know she’d be meeting with someone new at his firm and why. As his firm grew, it might have been understandable that he needed to spread the work out among others. Sure, it would have been good for Penny to let him know why she had made the move, mostly as a courtesy so he might avoid making the same mistake with others. But Penny did nothing wrong. The choice was always hers about what service provider best met her needs.

Jeffrey L. Seglin, author of "The Simple Art of Business Etiquette: How to Rise to the Top by Playing Nice," is a senior lecturer in public policy and director of the communications program at Harvard's Kennedy School. He is also the administrator of, a blog focused on ethical issues. 

Do you have ethical questions that you need to have answered? Send them to

Follow him on Twitter @jseglin


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