Legal Professional Privilege to Extend to Accountants’ Advice?

The UK Supreme Court in Prudential plc and another) (Appellants) v Special Commissioner of Income Tax and another (Respondents) is presently hearing an appeal on whether, at common law, legal professional privilege (“LPP”) applies to communications between a client and an accountant seeking and giving legal advice on tax law. At first glance, it would appear that the answer to this question should be no, since LPP seems to require a lawyer to provide advice. It will be interesting to see if the Supreme Court decides to extend LPP so widely to cover accountants’ advice.

In Malaysia, it is also very common to have accountants provide tax advice and where the boundaries of whether it amounts to legal advice are not very clear. Often, the accountants are the ones who are better qualified and more experienced in giving such tax advice compared to lawyers. Even if the Supreme Court does decide to extend LPP at common law, Malaysia could possibly not go down such a route since it could be argued that LPP in Malaysia solely stems from sections 126 and 128 of the Evidence Act 1950 which uses the term “advocate.” The Interpretation Act defines an “advocate” as “a person entitled to practise as an advocate or as an advocate and solicitor under the law in force in any part of Malaysia.”

I will update this blog on this Prudential decision once I read about it. In the meantime, I came across an interesting blog post on the issues and facts of this Supreme Court case on Global Corporate Law.

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