News Releases

Customers Don’t Need Privilege?

The 2011 Internal Revenue Service and the Attorney-Client Privilege

DALLAS, February 24, 2011 -- In the current issue of the BNA Pension & Benefits Daily newsletter, Baker Botts partner Bruce Pingree discusses the “clash of principles” -- secrecy or truth through investigation -- for tax lawyers and employee benefits practitioners.

It is a given of law school curricula, Pingree writes in the opening of his article, in at least 49 states that ours is an ‘’adversarial legal system.‘’ A key element of this system is a legal doctrine steeped in hoary tradition -- the attorney-client privilege. Its ideological twin is the ‘’attorney work-product‘’ doctrine. These two pillars of secrecy are adversarial in nature; they are intended to shield the secrets of an adversarial party from the ‘’enemy‘’ -- the opposing party in the combat of litigation.

In contrast to these well established legal principles, section 7602 of the Internal Revenue Code (‘’tax code‘’) authorizes the Internal Revenue Service (‘’the IRS‘’) to issue administrative summonses for the production of ‘’any books, papers, records, or other data which may be relevant or material‘’ in ‘’asserting the correctness of any return, . . ., determining the liability of any person for any internal revenue tax . . ., or collecting any such liability. . . .‘’

“We are faced then with two competing principles,” Pingree states in the article, “one favoring secrecy and one favoring enhanced ability to ferret out the truth through investigation. This clash of principle is not new, but there are new developments of which tax practitioners should be aware. The field on which these conflicting principles must be addressed is shifting, if not fissuring.”

This article is intended to assist the general federal tax lawyer or employee benefits practitioner to be keenly aware of the significance of these developments.

The complete BNA Pension & Benefits Daily article is available here.

About Baker Botts L.L.P.
Baker Botts L.L.P., dating from 1840, is a leading international law firm with offices in Abu Dhabi, Austin, Beijing, Dallas, Dubai, Hong Kong, Houston, London, Moscow, New York, Palo Alto, Riyadh and Washington. With approximately 700 lawyers, Baker Botts provides a full range of legal services to international, national and regional clients. For more information, please visit

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