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The US tax adviser’s privilege: Insights for Australia


In 2008, the Australian Law Reform Commission indicated that consideration should be given to extending legal professional privilege in tax matters to the wider tax profession, rather than restricting it only to advice from the legal profession, as is currently the case. In considering the form that the recommended extension should take, the ALRC canvassed the approached in other comparable jurisdictions, focusing mainly on New Zealand's non-disclosure right. An alternative model mentioned, but not analysed in great detail, is the United States' tax adviser's privilege, which differs primarily from the New Zealand rule in that the former imports the common law privilege into statute, compared with the latter's creation of a separate statutory right.

This paper analyses the United States' rule with a view to assessing its suitability for Australia. The conclusion reached is that the general premise is suitable for Australia if the premise for an extension is to achieve uniformity of treatment for tax advice, regardless of the adviser's professional association. The limitations written into the United States' rule, though, should not be replicated in Australia, since these aspects of the tax adviser's privilege undermine the objective of identical treatment (since these limitations do not apply to the common law), also creating a number of practical problems.

Author profile

Dr Keith Kendall CTA
Photo of author, Keith KENDALL Study Period 1 2017 CTA1 - Lecture Presenter - Lecture 1 - 6 (Face to Face class) and Lecture 1 - 6 (ShineWing class) Dr Keith Kendall is a Barrister at the Victorian Bar, specialising in all aspects of taxation law at both a Commonwealth and State level. Prior to coming to the Bar in 2011, he worked in the Tax Services Division of Deloitte in Melbourne for over 10 years. Keith's practice encompasses all aspects of the tax litigation process, including objections and settlement negotiations, as well as the provision of opinions. Until 2016, Keith was the co-ordinator of Tax Law programs at the School of Law at La Trobe University, where he was a Senior Lecturer. Keith is a regular presenter on a wide range of taxation topics. As well as being a member of the Victorian Bar, Keith has also been admitted as an interstate member to the South Australian Bar and the Queensland Bar. - Current at 26 June 2017
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