PracticeAccounting FirmsICAEW: Extend legal privilege to accountants

ICAEW: Extend legal privilege to accountants

Legal privilege, which protect the clients of lawyers, should be extended to accountants and other professional fields, or be scrapped altogether, the ICAEW will tell the government.

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The ICAEW will deliver this message in response to the recent Department of Constitutional Affairs report on competition and regulation in the legal profession, which recommends the future widening of competition in probate services.

Felicity Banks, head of the institute’s business law committee, said the ICAEW was concerned the government had missed an opportunity to ‘level the playing fields in respect of professional privilege’.

This applies in particurlar to the area of tax and Companies Act advice where confidential technical help is required and accountants and lawyers compete for the same business.

‘Under the Proceeds of Crime Act, the clients of lawyers continue to have the protection of legal privilege, provided they are not using the advice to further a criminal purpose. There is no similar protection for the clients of accountants, where even the contractual aspects of confidentiality are overridden by the Act,’ Banks said.

‘This will limit choice by steering consumers seeking confidential advice to a legal advisor in cases where they might otherwise have chosen a chartered accountant.’

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