Opinion: 2218
Year Issued: 2012
RPC(s): RPC 1.6
Subject: Disclosure of Client Information during Department of Revenue (DOR) Audit

An inquiring lawyer requested an opinion from the Committee regarding whether he may provide access to client files without the client’s consent, including unredacted financial records, to comply with a demand from the Department of Revenue which is conducting an audit on his real estate and tax practice. The committee opined as follows:

“The Committee has reviewed your inquiry and has unanimously declined to issue an opinion based upon their determination that existing Advisory Opinions 194 and 195 are dispositive of your question. Rule of Professional Conduct 1.6 obligates you to keep confidential client files and unredacted client related financial records, even if demanded by the State of Washington Department of Revenue. Such information shall not be disclosed without clients’ permission. No further opinion is necessary.”

Advisory Opinions are provided for the education of the Bar and reflect the opinion of the Committee on Professional Ethics (CPE) or its predecessor, the Rules of Professional Conduct Committee. Advisory Opinions issued by the CPE are distinguished from earlier RPC Committee opinions by a numbering format which includes the year followed by a sequential number. Advisory Opinions are provided pursuant to the authorization granted by the Board of Governors, but are not individually approved by the Board and do not reflect the official position of the Bar association. Laws other than the Washington State Rules of Professional Conduct may apply to the inquiry. The Committee's answer does not include or opine about any other applicable law other than the meaning of the Rules of Professional Conduct.