To show or not to show…paid and unpaid disbursements on bills


The 1998 Solicitors Accounts Rule 32.8, told you to distinguish between paid and unpaid disbursements on the face of the bill or other written notification of costs, by a paragraph at the end of the Rule.


The 2011 SRA Accounts Rule 29.15, which supersedes the 1998 Rule, does not have that paragraph included, and therefore it is reasonable that you assume you no longer have to.


However, you could fall foul of other regulations if you continue to show unpaid disbursements without describing them as such.


SRA AR29 Guidance Note (vii) states: “Section 67 of the Solicitors Act 1974 permits a solicitor or recognised body to include on a bill of costs any disbursements which have been properly incurred but not paid before delivery of the bill, subject to those disbursements being described on the bill as unpaid.”


SRA AR17.2 states that you must send a bill or written notification of costs to request payment from the client or paying party. If these costs include unpaid disbursements, these should be shown as unpaid, to ensure you comply with the Guidance Note.


Although it would not be a breach of the SRA Accounts Rules should you fail to distinguish the difference between the disbursements, it is recommended you continue to show them as before. Don’t forget that one of your key objectives is client service and clarity of bills could well be argued as an important factor in managing client expectations. Perhaps as a prompt, have the bill template pre-printed with the relevant headings.