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  • Accountants’ concession

    The accountants’ concession is an administrative concession we have granted to clients of professional accounting advisers. Under the concession, we will generally not seek access to certain advice documents, which we refer to as restricted source and non-source documents.

    The concession recognises that while we have the statutory power to access most documents, there is a class of documents that should, in all but exceptional circumstances, remain confidential to you and your professional accounting advisers.

    In respect of such documents, you should be able to consult with your professional accounting adviser to enable full discussion of your rights and obligations under tax laws, and for that advice to be communicated frankly.

    Forms for claiming the accountants' concession are available via:

    • Accountants' concession form 1 (AC1), which is relevant to a claim for the concession in relation to a document
    • Accountants' concession form 2 (AC2), which is relevant to a claim for the concession in relation to an attachment to a document (note that an attachment is not covered by the concession merely because it is attached to a primary document which is prima facie covered by the concession).

    Document classification

    Our approach to access under the concession varies for differing types of documents. These are classified as:

    • Source documents – records of transactions (we seek unrestricted access to these documents).
    • Restricted source documents – advice documents shedding light on transactions (we seek access to these documents only in exceptional circumstances).
    • Non-source documents – other advice documents (we seek access to these documents only in exceptional circumstances).

    The following are some examples of how we may classify various types of documents under the accountants’ concession.

    Source documents

    Accounting records, including:

    • ledgers, journals and working papers (used for financial statement preparation)
    • profit and loss accounts – balance sheets
    • source records – passbooks, invoices and similar.

    Permanent audit file documents, including:

    • those outlining an organisation's history, structure or chain of command
    • a company's constitution
    • the chart of accounts
    • copies of continuing contracts – for example, leases.

    Tax working papers used to:

    • compile information for completing tax returns
    • prepare a trial balance and tax return reconciliation
    • maintain files and documents for record retention or self-assessment requirements
    • analyse shareholding continuity prior to the completion of tax returns.

    Other documents including:

    • certain non-tax advice on debt restructuring
    • transaction documents – contracts and conveyances
    • formation documents – partnership agreements and declarations of trust
    • accountant trust records and client lists.
    Restricted source documents

    Advice papers:

    • on how to structure or record a transaction or arrangement which is carried out
    • solely for the purpose of advising a client on tax-related matters.
    Non-source documents

    Advice papers:

    • provided after the relevant transaction has been completed
    • relating solely to transactions or arrangements which have not, and are not intended to be put into effect
    • that do not materially contribute to a tax strategy.

    Current audit and assurance files (including statutory audit, prudential tax audit and due diligence reviews), such as:

    • the engagement letter
    • the audit plan
    • letters of confirmation
    • testing results and analysis
    • working papers and commentaries.

    Non-source documents also include tax return opinions that merely state an accountant’s opinion on the matters presented in a tax return.

    Example – Source documents

    Our officer, John, has issued a formal notice to an accountant. John is seeking information about the identification of the persons who set up or participated in an arrangement, the fees charged to them and the contributions they made.

    The notice requires documents in relation to the conception and implementation of the arrangement to be produced to John.

    These are source documents, so the accountants’ concession does not apply to restrict John’s access to them.

    End of example

    The concession only applies to documents prepared by external professional accounting advisers who are independent of you. It does not apply if either:

    • you make any documents covered by the concession available to us
    • the documents relate to non-tax purposes – for example, to determine a potential liability under a contract.

    A document prepared by an accountant could also be subject to legal professional privilege if it was created for the dominant purpose of obtaining legal advice or use in actual or contemplated litigation. In that case, the privilege claim would generally be determined first – if privilege does not apply, we would then consider the accountants’ concession.

      Last modified: 22 Jun 2022QC 56551