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On 6 April 2011, in an address to the Institute of Chartered Accountants' 2011 National Tax Conference, held in Melbourne, Victoria, the Assistant Treasurer and Minister for Financial Services and Superannuation, Bill Shorten, announced that a discussion paper on tax accountants and professional privilege will be released in the following week.

Mr Shorten said:

"While the extension of a privilege to tax advice documents of accountants is by no means a foregone conclusion, there are cogent reasons for a robust debate on the issue.

For example, [the accounting] profession would rightly point out that the degree of candour and frankness in any tax advice given by accountants is tempered by the ability of investigatory agencies to access, in certain circumstances, the advice provided.

Given the substantive complex nature of advice provided by tax accountants to their clients, it is argued that the absence of a privilege puts the profession at a competitive disadvantage.

But the (admittedly receding) lawyer in me would argue that the lawyer-client privilege is one safeguarded by the additional duties incumbent upon lawyers as officers of the court, and that the absence of such a duty among accountants is fatal to your profession's claim."


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