Right of Accountant to Retain Data

Working papers, drafts, notes, calculations, and typed final accounts created by an accountant in the course of auditing a client’s account and ascertaining its tax liability is the property of the accountant.  However, in United States v. Slutsky, 352 F. Supp. 1105 (S.D.N.Y. 1972), the court held that the work product of an accountant hired full time for the purpose of keeping his or her employer’s records belongs to his or her employer.  

In United States v. Fisher, 352 F. Supp. 731 (E.D. Pa. 1972), the court held that work product of an accountant are his or her property unless the contrary is shown.  Papers in the possession of an accountant are required to be produced pursuant to a summons issued by the Internal Revenue Service pursuant to 26 U.S.C.S. § 7602. If a taxpayer owns the papers subject to the summons, or if they are in his or her indefinite and rightful possession, those are protected under the U.S. Const. amend. V right of his privilege against self-incrimination.  

In Ablah v. Eyman, 188 Kan. 665 (Kan. 1961), the court held that the ownership of work product of an accountant is determined by the contractual relation under which the professional services are rendered.  An accountant may prepare working papers in the capacity of an employee, or an independent contractor.  If he is an employee, the ownership vests in the employer, but if he is an independent contractor, ownership vests in the accountant.


Inside Right of Accountant to Retain Data