CPA-client privilege vs. the confidentiality ethics requirement.

Clients who consult their CPA for tax planning advice believe any communications with their CPA are privileged, i.e., what they tell the CPA cannot be disclosed by the CPA in court. But are these communications "privileged"? On rare occasions, a CPA's client will receive a letter from an attorney claiming that a law firm's preparation services are superior to nonlawyers' services because tax preparation by the attorney is privileged. Does a "privilege" apply here? The answers to these questions may surprise practitioners and their clients alike.

This column will define what exactly a professional privilege is; how it relates to the ethical requirement of confidentiality; how clients,