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Changes For Legal Privilege In Tax Matters

30 May 2002

The government is considering extending to chartered accountants the legal privilege protecting tax advice given by lawyers to their clients against disclosure to Inland Revenue.

The proposal is set out in a discussion document released today by Revenue Minister Michael Cullen and is part of a broader review of the whole privilege system.

Also under consideration is a new definition of privilege which will be more limited than the existing one in that it will apply only to opinion on tax law, not to facts.

“The current privilege rule prevents some factual information communicated between lawyers and their clients from being released to Inland Revenue. This creates widely recognised difficulties in the administration of the tax system. These problems were highlighted by the Wine-box Inquiry, the Committee of Experts on Tax Compliance, and the Law Commission," Dr Cullen said.

"The change will help to promote a greater sense of fairness amongst taxpayers if they see that others cannot use privilege to conceal the details of their income.”

The current privilege relating to tax litigation will not be affected by the proposed changes.

The discussion document, "Tax and privilege: a proposed new structure", is published on the website of the Policy Advice Division of Inland Revenue at Submissions on the proposals close on 31 July.


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