BusinessCompany NewsPlans for privilege ‘useless’

Plans for privilege 'useless'

Experts appeared divided this week over the benefits of Home Office proposals to allow accountants similar exemptions to lawyers on reporting money-laundering suspicions to NCIS.

Link: The case for legal privilege

The proposals – to offer accountants a form of professional privilege in relation to money laundering reporting – were variously described as ‘virtually useless’ and a ‘huge, huge, success’ by two specialists this week.

David Winch, an expert on laundering and a director of MLRO Support, said: ‘The Home Office proposals would be of no benefit at all to the vast majority of accountants – and could actually make matters worse for some.’

He said that most high street accountants would not benefit because they do not fit the criteria of providing ‘directly comparable services’ to lawyers.

And he warned that, despite the changes, forensic accountants could be effectively forced to ‘act as spies’ for prosecuting lawyers – arguably in breach of the Human Rights Act.

But Felicity Banks, head of business law at the ICAEW, said such concerns were unfounded and described the Home Office proposals as a ‘huge, huge success’ for accountants.

‘The vast majority of high street accountants give legal advice whenever they give tax advice, the majority of which comes under legal privilege because you are assessing the clients legal position,’ she said. The consultation closes on 30 September.

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