Common-Law View on Privilege

Under common law, no confidential accountant-client privilege exists and many states do not recognize an accountant-client privilege.  No accountant-client privilege exists under federal law and state-created privilege has not been recognized in federal cases.[i]  However, accountant-client communications are privileged if they meet the traditional requirements of the attorney-client privilege.[ii] 

In  In re Grand Jury Proceedings, 220 F.3d at 571, the court held although there is no accountant-client privilege, material transmitted to accountants may fall under the attorney-client privilege if the accountant is acting as an agent of an attorney for the purpose of assisting with the provision of legal advice.  No privilege exists if the client sought only accounting service and not legal advice, or if the advice is the accountant’s rather than the lawyer’s. 


[i] Couch v. United States, 409 U.S. 322 (U.S. 1973)

[ii] Cavallaro v. United States, 284 F.3d 236, 246 (1st Cir. Mass. 2002)

Inside Common-Law View on Privilege