Communications between a client and their tax attorneys are often protected by various privileges.
For tax attorneys, this can include the attorney-client privilege and, for written communications between the client and tax attorney, the work-product privilege. These privileges prohibit the tax attorney from disclosing confidential information in court.
Communications between a non-tax attorney and their clients (such as accountants or other persons holding themselves out as tax practitioners) may also be privileged under the federal tax practitioner privilege. This also prevents the government from compelling the tax attorney to testify against their client in court.
Out of court, licensed tax attorneys and certified public accountants are prohibited from disclosing confidential client information by way of local rules of professional conduct and professionalism rules, which are enforced through local bar ethics committees and state boards of accounting.
These rules generally prohibit the disclosure of all information provided to the tax attorney (1) that is not necessary for the representation of the client, (2) information that is not likely to result in imminent and substantial bodily injury to a third party, and (3) information used to defend the tax attorney against a civil lawsuit filed by the client or a criminal suit brought by the government against the tax attorney.
The penalty for a licensed attorney or certified public accountant disclosing confidential client information can be quite severe–including suspension or disbarment from practicing law or holding them out as a certified public accountant.
An experienced tax attorney can help answer your confidentiality questions.
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