55. How should I seek tax advice?
The answer is a little more complicated than “ask for it”. The object of any instruction is to get the advice you need as quickly and efficiently as possible. This means that you ought to meet with your barrister to discuss the facts in detail. Expect to be asked lots of questions. If possible provide a summary of the facts you think are relevant. Also provide all of the documents that relate to the issues you are concerned about.
56. Does tax advice have to be a formal opinion?
The advice can be in any form which suits you. But don’t expect that by asking for it to be given informally or in summary form you will save greatly on costs. The same amount of work will be done to research summary advice as for a full opinion unless your specific instructions are that you only want counsel’s impression. In that case you may save costs but the advice will be expressly conditioned so that it would be unwise to rely on it as you might a formal opinion.
57. What keeps the advice I seek confidential?
The client of any lawyer has a legal professional privilege in communications passing between the client and lawyer on legal business. In relation to tax matters this is reflected in statute. Maintaining the privilege is also part of the ethical obligations of all lawyers. It means that neither the client nor the lawyer can be compelled to disclose their communications to any other person (the IRD included). If the IRD investigates the client it is supposed to take reasonable steps to avoid breaching the privilege and privileged material will not be admitted as evidence in Court. Communications which further an illegal or wrongful act are not privileged even if they are between lawyer and client.