Ca. Tax Lawyer OCTOBER 2018, VOLUME 27, NUMBER 3

A Cultural Compulsion to Share All Gives Way to a Passion for Confidentiality and Non-Disclosure in Tax Matters Section 7525 Federally Authorized Practitioner Privilege and the Work-Product Doctrine in Today’s World

By Carolyn M. Lee1


In the real world, taxpayers with tax issues often turn first to accountants for understandable reasons: Accountants are more plentiful and perceived to be more approachable than tax attorneys; accountants are the go-to professionals for tax return preparation and—logically—problems arising from a filed return; and, in general, the accountants offer lower fees compared to tax attorneys. Yet there is no accountant-client privilege that parallels the attorney-client privilege protecting a client’s confidential communications with the client’s attorney. Why not? Wouldn’t the same public policy favoring full disclosure between taxpayer and attorney apply to communications between taxpayer and accountant? Wouldn’t an accountant-taxpayer privilege, shielding confidential communications from disclosure, result in more open disclosure by the taxpayer to the accountant, and more effective tax planning and tax reporting?

In fact, Congress did act to extend the zone of confidentiality afforded to attorney-client confidences to some communications between accountants and their clients. In 1998, Congress enacted Internal Revenue Code section 75252 protecting against disclosure of a limited range of confidential communications between qualifying tax practitioners and their clients. It does not extend to all accountants in all facets of the services they provide to their clients. Another restriction: The § 7525 privilege does not protect work product.3

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