The UK Law Society has been granted permission
to intervene in Prudential’s appeal to the Supreme Court to extend
legal professional privilege (LPP) to tax practitioners.
In April the UK Supreme Court granted
Prudential permission to appeal against a previous ruling that LPP
can only apply to lawyers.
The Law Society said it is intervening in this
appeal because Prudential is “again seeking to extend legal
professional privilege beyond the legal profession.”
The group also said it is pleased to have
another opportunity, “to put forward arguments on behalf of the
solicitors’ profession in the appeal”.
Law Society chief executive Linda Lee said
that if LPP is opened up to any professional person who asserts
that they give advice on the law – such as tax advice – they can
then seek to withhold vital information from bodies such as HM
Revenue & Customs.
“Extending LPP in such a way risks creating
uncertainty over what can and cannot fall under LPP. The boundaries
of LPP must remain clear,” she added.
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In 2009, the issue was brought to the fore in
a case between HMRC and Prudential, regarding the disclosure of tax
advice provided by Prudential’s accountants PwC.
Prudential has been trying to extend LPP
privileges that would allow tax practitioners similar court
privileges to lawyers to protect client confidentiality.
In October 2010, the UK Court of Appeal
unanimously confirmed that LPP does not apply to any professionals
except for qualified lawyers – solicitors and barristers. It also
stressed the need for a clear and certain application of LPP,
pointing out that when applied to members of the legal profession
acting in a professional capacity, clarity and certainty is