The Supreme Court is to hear the appeal in the ‘Prudential’ case against the decision that legal advice privilege does not extend to non-lawyers.
The purpose of legal advice privilege is to protect confidential communications between a client and his lawyer from production where otherwise that would be required – for example in litigation or to tax authorities. In this case, Prudential had obtained tax advice from accountants. HMRC served a notice requiring Prudential to deliver certain documents which were relevant to Prudential’s tax position but this would not include privileged documents. Prudential argued that privilege applies not only to members of the legal profession but also to legal advice on tax received from accountants. This was rejected by the courts and has now been appealed to the Supreme Court by Prudential where it will be heard in November 2012.
Why is this case important?
This case is important as the law on legal advice privilege currently protects only legal advice given by members of the legal profession but not accountants even though the advice is legal in nature. If the Supreme Court agrees with the Court of Appeal then it will be important for clients wishing to protect advice they seek on tax issues to obtain that from lawyers and not their accountants who could be forced to disclose the advice they have given.