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Accountants cannot give legal advice: What that means for them, their clients and the lawyers


A recent AAT decision highlighted a problem that has existed for many years. Accountants have long-believed that they are entitled to give advice, including legal advice, about the operation of tax laws.

This article considers the extent to which accountants’ “bread and butter” work involves the provision of legal advice.

The article discusses why accountants incorrectly believe that they can give legal advice, the risks for accountants who give legal advice, and how tax practitioners can ameliorate those risks. The article concludes with some suggested curative approaches.

Author profile

Christopher Wallis CTA
Chris commenced practice as a Barrister in 1991 and 27 years later has a strong no nonsense reputation throughout Australia in the fields of equity and revenue law. Chris’ focus is on keeping clients out of the AAT and Court using attention to detail and negotiation to secure certainty for clients at the earliest opportunity, a focus which has involved him in numerous in-house facilitation sessions. Chris is a regularly published author and a member of the Editorial Board of the Australian Tax Law Bulletin and also of the Australasian Tax Teachers Association (ATTA). Chris presents regularly throughout Australia for the professional bodies and ATTA and has completed studies in international tax at the Institute for Austrian and International Tax Law at Wirtschafts Universitat in Vienna and the IBFD in Amsterdam. Two of Chris' recently published articles have addressed issues arising under the ATO's in-house facilitation process. Subsequent changes to the process reflected observations in the articles. - Current at 08 October 2019
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