Monday, January 23, 2012

Accounting Not Practice Of Law

The South Carolina Advisory Committee on Standrards of Judicial Conduct opines that a judicial clerk may place a bar number on documents submitted to the IRS:

The question:

A newly-licensed attorney, who serves a law clerk for a circuit judge, is also an accountant, though not a CPA.  The law clerk has recently prepared some amended tax returns for a friend and is planning on submitting them and an IRS Power of Attorney form to the IRS, so that the law clerk can speak to the IRS as the friend’s accountant.  However, to complete the Power of Attorney form, certain qualifications are required; the person submitting the form must either be a CPA or a licensed attorney.  The law clerk intends to use his or her South Carolina Bar number for the form to qualify to speak to the IRS.  The law clerk will not appear before any court on this matter, but will merely speak to the IRS via telephone.  The law clerk inquires as to whether this would constitute the practice of law...


While the inquiring law clerk must complete the IRS’s “Power of Attorney” form by submitting a South Carolina Bar number, it cannot be said discussion of an amended tax return in and of itself “entail[s] specialized legal knowledge and ability,” such that it constitutes the practice of law.  In this situation, the discussion would appear to entail specialized knowledge of accounting, which the inquiring law clerk has as an accountant. Thus, the law clerk may use an SC Carolina Bar number on an IRS Power of Attorney form and converse with IRS about that tax return for a friend without practicing law or performing legal services...

(Mike Frisch)

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