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Subsection 114 - Confidentiality

R114.1         A professional accountant shall comply with the principle of confidentiality, which requires an accountant to respect the confidentiality of information acquired as a result of professional and business relationships. An accountant shall:

(a)   Be alert to the possibility of inadvertent disclosure, including in a social environment, and particularly to a close business associate or an immediate or a close family member;

(b)  Maintain confidentiality of information within the firm or employing organisation;

(c)   Maintain confidentiality of information disclosed by a prospective client or employing organisation;

(d)  Not disclose confidential information acquired as a result of professional and business relationships outside the firm or employing organisation without proper and specific authority, unless there is a legal or professional duty or right to disclose;

(e)   Not use confidential information acquired as a result of professional and business relationships for the personal advantage of the accountant or for the advantage of a third party;

(f)    Not use or disclose any confidential information, either acquired or received as a result of a professional or business relationship, after that relationship has ended; and

(g)  Take reasonable steps to ensure that personnel under the accountant’s control, and individuals from whom advice and assistance are obtained, respect the accountant’s duty of confidentiality.

144.1 A1      Confidentiality serves the public interest because it facilitates the free flow of information from the professional accountant’s client or employing organisation to the accountant in the knowledge that the information will not be disclosed to a third party. Nevertheless, the following are circumstances where professional accountants are or might be required to disclose confidential information or when such disclosure might be appropriate:

(a)   Disclosure is required by law, for example:

(i)    Production of documents or other provision of evidence in the course of legal proceedings; or

(ii)   Disclosure to the appropriate public authorities of infringements of the law that come to light;

(b)   Disclosure is permitted by law and is authorised by the client or the employing organisation; and

(c)   There is a professional duty or right to disclose, when not prohibited by law:

(i)    To comply with the quality review of a professional body;

(ii)   To respond to an inquiry or investigation by a professional or regulatory body;

(iii)  To protect the professional interests of a professional accountant in legal proceedings; or

(iv)  To comply with technical and professional standards, including ethics requirements.

114.1 A2      In deciding whether to disclose confidential information, factors to consider, depending on the circumstances, include:

  • Whether the interests of any parties, including third parties whose interests might be affected, could be harmed if the client or employing organisation consents to the disclosure of information by the professional accountant.
  • Whether all of the relevant information is known and substantiated, to the extent practicable. Factors affecting the decision to disclose include:
    • Unsubstantiated facts.
    • Incomplete information.
    • Unsubstantiated conclusions.
  • The proposed type of communication, and to whom it is addressed.
  • Whether the parties to whom the communication is addressed are appropriate recipients.

R114.2         A professional accountant shall continue to comply with the principle of confidentiality even after the end of the relationship between the accountant and a client or employing organisation. When changing employment or acquiring a new client, the accountant is entitled to use prior experience but shall not use or disclose any confidential information acquired or received as a result of a professional or business relationship.