Practice of Law by Accountants

Accountants may not provide legal advice to clients.  However, in answering law related questions in connection with the practice of ordinary work in the keeping of books and records, preparing tax returns, and advising with respect to such matters, an accountant may apply legal knowledge.  An accountant is guilty of practicing law without a license, where s/he undertakes to give legal advice and answer legal questions completely disconnected with such ordinary work in keeping and auditing books and preparing tax returns.[i]

It is an accountant’s duty to leave direct legal questions to a lawyer, when faced with interpretation or application of tax statutes, administrative regulations and rulings, court decisions, or general law.[ii]  Accountants are not authorized to engage in the business of giving legal advice based on their knowledge of the subject, claiming that tax law is a specialized area of competence.[iii]

 

[i] Emden v. Martin Automatic Fishing Reel Co., 10 A.D.2d 603 (N.Y. App. Div. 4th Dep’t 1960)

[ii] Agran v. Shapiro, 127 Cal. App. 2d Supp. 807 (Cal. App. Dep’t Super. Ct. 1954)

[iii]In re Roel, 3 N.Y.2d 224 (N.Y. 1957)


Inside Practice of Law by Accountants