Disbarred New York attorney Kenneth Heller was among 7 UBS clients charged a few weeks ago with failing to file Foreign Bank Account Reports, TDF 90.22-1 (FBARs), and tax evasion as a result of failing to report his Swiss bank accounts to the IRS. The case would be just one more in a string of FBAR and tax fraud criminal tax cases, but something in the complaint caught my eye. Some of the records that the IRS Criminal Investigation Division used to prepare its tax fraud case against Heller were obtained from Heller’s tax preparer-both documents and through an interview of the tax preparer. The records included instructions to the tax preparer to go to Switzerland to review the offshore bank account records. There was also a letter from the tax preparer to Heller reminding him that he had to report the income from the Swiss bank accounts.
This illustrates a vital point that as a tax controversy lawyer I remind clients about all the time. In a criminal tax case many times the first witness is the client’s tax preparer. There is no accountant client privilege in a criminal tax fraud case! Had these communications been between Heller and his tax attorney it is likely that the attorney-client privilege would have shielded them from IRS . While the IRS might have been able to bring a tax evasion case without the tax preparer the statements by the tax preparer will no doubt be extremely damaging.