Accountants Not to Get LLP: Court

Sarah Woodman, Global events journalist
October 13, 2010 /

The Court of Appeals has unanimously confirmed that the legal professional privilege only applies to qualified lawyers, and not accountants.

The judgement has dashed the hopes of accountancy bodies that had started a campaign where they wanted the status extended to their own profession.

The Court of Appeals was ruling on the case of Prudential v HMRC. Prudential had wanted that the existing rule of legal professional privilege (LPP) be extended to the advice accountants give on tax law.

The LLP gives the right of certain communications between a lawyer and their client being absolutely confidential so that it cannot be disclosed to the court or a third party without the client’s consent.

The Court of Appeals has emphasized in its ruling statement that the matter of extension of LLP communications to professionals in other sectors, such as accountancy, was something that should be considered by the Parliament and that the courts should not be deliberating on this.

The Court of Appeals also noted that during the last 40 years, the Parliament has deliberated on the issue quite a number of times and that that “failure to change the law in this respect is not an accident”.
Linda Lee, who is the President of The Law Society, said that the lawyer community was very jubilant on the court’s judgement.

Lee further added that the decision has given clarity and confirmation about the issue of when LLP is applicable.

ICAEW however said in a statement that the body would be reviewing its options before deciding on how to go forward.

Frank Haskew, who is the Head of the ICAEW Tax Faculty, said that the regulatory body was naturally disappointed about the ruling given by the Court.

Haskew added: “This was an opportunity for the court to decide that on public policy grounds there should be a level playing field for LPP.”

 

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