Accountant Client Confidentiality
When you think about legally confidential and privileged communications with a professional, it is likely that attorney-client privilege is the first phrase that comes to mind. However, confidential communications with other industry professionals can be privileged as well.
One such example of this is communications with an accountant, which can be privileged under Florida law.
Florida’s Accountant-Client Privilege
Section 90.5055 of the 2016 Florida Statutes lays out the groundwork for what Florida’s accountant-client privilege entails. If you are wondering whether the professional you work with fits the statute’s definition of accountant, the statute indicates an accountant must be a certified public accountant (CPA) or public accountant.
If this criteria is met, you must then fit the statute’s definition of “client” in order to have your communications treated as privileged. Under the terms of a statute, a client must consult with the accountant for the purpose of receiving accounting services and must also be:
- A person
- A public officer
- A corporation
- An association
- Other public or private organizations and/or entities
Effectively, the accountant-client privilege is not limited to individuals since the statute makes clear that companies and other entities may obtain accountant-client privilege. For communications to be privileged, however, they must be confidential.
To meet the confidential requirement, communications with an accountant must not be intended to be disclosed to third persons other than those who further the rendition of accounting services or those who are reasonably needed for transmitting communications.
If communications are deemed privileged, a client can refuse to disclose confidential information based on these privileged communications, and the client can prevent others from disclosing this information as well.
While accountant-client privilege is broadly and generally available to most clients who pursue accounting services, there are exceptions that limit this broad understanding of accountant-client privilege.
Exceptions to Accountant-Client Privilege
The first and perhaps most common exception to accountant-client privilege occurs if a client seeks accountant services and obtains them to enable, aid, commit or plan to commit a crime such as fraud.
Second, communications are not privileged if the communications have relevance to an accountant or client’s breach of duty to one another.
Finally, privilege does not apply if a communication is relevant to a common interest of two or more of the accountant’s clients or if a client consults an accountant jointly with another person. Regarding this final exception, a Florida court determined in Cone v. Culverhouse that determining whether a communication fits this criteria depends on whether an objectively reasonable client who consulted an accountant jointly with another person would have understand that particular communications might be accessible to the other client as well.
For the most part, communications with an accountant will be privileged, unless they fall within one of these listed exceptions. Contact The McKinney Law Group, your divorce lawyer Tampa, if you have any questions or concerns about whether your accountant-client communications are privileged.
If you have questions regarding custody and divorce, or are unaware as to the terms and conditions in, talk to, and retain, a Tampa family law attorney who can help. Contact Damien McKinney of The McKinney Law Group, your divorce lawyer Tampa, to discuss your case further. He can be reached by phone at 813-428-3400 or by e-mail at [email protected]