Lawyer-client relationships enjoy what is commonly referred to as solicitor-client privilege – or lawyer-client privilege. Regrettably (and surprisingly to some), accountants do not have this protection!
As the recent Federal Court of Appeal (“FCA”) decision in Zeifmans LLP has confirmed, where pushed for client information by the CRA, accounting firms – but not law firms – are required to disclose client information, including work done in tax situations!
In a previous blog (click here) we wrote about the case of CBS Canada Holdings Co. v. The Queen (2016 TCC 85), and the limitations that decision placed on a lawyer acting as an advocate. In particular, the Tax Court of Canada (the "TCC") held that the law firm representing CBS had sworn an affidavit on a controversial issue, and in doing so had crossed the line between being an advocate for the client and inappropriately become involved in the facts of the case as a witness.
As we noted at the time, the decision was appealed to the Federal Court of Appeal (the "FCA"). The FCA has now issued its decision (2017 FCA 65), completely exonerating the lawyers for CBS!
The discovery process allows litigating parties to collect and consider all pertinent facts, to use those facts to assess the strengths and weaknesses of their case and to otherwise prepare for trial. A general exception to the requirement to disclose relevant documentation and information during the discovery process relates to documents or information that are “privileged”.
The recent decision of the Chief Justice of the Tax Court of Canada in CIBC v. The Queen (2015 TCC 280) is an excellent review of the strict rules surrounding privilege in this context, and a cautionary tale for litigants taking an overly obstructionist approach to the principles of full and proper disclosure.