by Martin G. Laffer, CPA
Can a licensed accountant turn over a client's records to an IRS agent without the client's approval?
Yes, he can, as long as he does so in accordance with certain rules and regulations.
Under the California Accountancy Act and the regulations of the California Board of Accountancy, all information about a client that a licensee obtains in his or her professional capacity is confidential. The licensee (either a certified public accountant or a public accountant) usually cannot disclose such information without the permission of the client or the prospective client. But there are two exceptions. 1. The licensee must disclose such information to comply with a subpoena or summons enforceable by a court of law even if the client hasn't provided permission. (An IRS summons would fall under this exception.) Also, the licensee must disclose such information in response to an official inquiry from a federal or state government agency.
In addition, under the Internal Revenue Service's governing requirements, "a practitioner must, on a proper and lawful request by a duly authorized officer or employee of the IRS, promptly submit records or information in any matter before the IRS unless the practitioner believes in good faith and on reasonable grounds that the records or information are privileged."
Martin G. Laffer, CPA, is a partner in the firm of Laffer & Gottlieb, CPAs. You can reach him at (310) 274-7600.
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