The Florida Bar
www.floridabar.org
PROFESSIONAL ETHICS OF THE FLORIDA BAR

OPINION 62-24
October 9, 1962

A lawyer is not required nor permitted to disclose to the Internal Revenue Service the name and address of a client at whose request the lawyer framed a hypothetical question and obtained an answer and ruling from the Internal Revenue Service.

Canon: 37

Chairman Holcomb stated the opinion of the committee:

A member of The Florida Bar requested an opinion from the Committee on Professional Ethics as to whether his office is required or permitted to disclose to the Internal Revenue Service the name and address of a client, at whose request he framed a hypothetical question and obtained an answer from the Internal Revenue Service. Now we understand the Internal Revenue Service is demanding of the lawyer the name and address of this client on the supposition that the client may be involved in some violation of federal law which the Internal Revenue Service would like to follow up.

It is the unanimous opinion of this Committee that the lawyer is neither required to nor should, and that he cannot ethically disclose to the Internal Revenue Service the name and address of his client. He is bound by the confidences of the client, and it is under this privilege of not divulging his confidences that the client is able to make full disclosure.

On page 136 of Drinker on Legal Ethics, it is stated that a lawyer may not disclose “his client's funds or his whereabouts . . . .”

The only way that we can conceive that would allow disclosure of the name and address of the client would be with the client's consent, and we would suggest that that consent be obtained in writing for protection.

Considering Canon 37, Drinker on Legal Ethics further states at page 138: “A lawyer may not inform the collector of a failure by his client to disclose income, or of his client's address. . . .”

This opinion, of course, does not encompass any thought that an attorney and his client together conspire to defraud the government or commit any offense, but only covers the situation where the client discloses confidential matters to his attorney.

[Revised: 08-24-2011]