Court says accountants cannot use privilege to protect advice

Marion Dakers

TERED accountants are not protected by the same rules on client secrecy as lawyers, the UK’s highest court decided yesterday.

The Supreme Court said it could not extend legal professional privilege to cover tax advice given by non-lawyers.

Prudential had claimed that the privilege rules meant it did not need to hand over documents to tax inspectors back in 2004. The papers were linked to a tax avoidance scheme set up by PwC.

Michael Izza, head of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW), said he will lobby politicians to have privilege extended to its members. “We want people to be free to seek advice from whichever adviser is best able to provide that advice, irrespective of their profession,” he said.

The court said it would be up to parliament to alter the rules.

“As parliament is well-stocked with lawyers it has to be doubtful whether it will bother,” said law firm CMS Cameron McKenna.

Prudential and PwC declined to comment on the case.