Mr Z, the principal of Z & Co, a small firm in the north, is planning to stop using his big six accountancy firm – because of its charges and, he says, its lack of understanding of the legal market.

Z's firm had used a medium-sized firm of accountants for some years, but decided to switch after it was late sending accounts to the Law Society.

On a relative's recommendations, he went to a big six firm, which charged over u2,000 for its first year's standard accounts work – a standard rate.

However, by the next year the rates had increased to u4,300 and that was just the beginning. “They just went up and up,” says Mr Z. By last year they had reached u18,000 and he expects this year's costs to be u30,000.

“This was because they had not supplied my proper accountancy figures to the Inland Revenue in time,” says Mr Z. “They have put me in the most awful position.”

His discontent was exacerbated by the charges for simple three-minute telephone calls – charged at the full half-hourly rate of u80.

Mr Z says the accountants are “toffee nosed” and unhelpful. He says: “I'm waiting for the opportune moment to arrive” before he fires the firm. He is also considering legal action and claims other firms in his area have had the same problem with the same firm.

And he has a word of advice for law firms his size: “Don't go to the large firms. Go to the medium-sized accountants who are still prepared to treat you as an individual rather than as a number.”