Supreme Court rejects accountants' bid for professional privilege

Posted: 23rd January 2013

The Supreme Court has ruled, by a majority of five to two, not to extend professional privilege to members of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW).

ICAEWProfessional privilege means that advice given by an adviser to their client cannot be required to be disclosed in court proceedings. The right of privilege extends to communications between solicitors and barristers and their clients only. It does not extend to the clients of accountants.

The case concerned tax advice given by accountants to the Prudential. HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) sought disclosure of documents passing between them in connection with a legal dispute concerning the Pru's taxes.

The case was backed by the ICAEW, which has long sought professional privilege for its members.

The Court's decision was that the right of privilege, established 400 years ago, would require the intervention of Parliament to be extended.