As a general rule, an auditor cannot be required by an information notice to provide information and/or produce documents that belong to the auditor if they were created for the purpose of carrying out the audit.
Audit papers in the hands of anyone other than the auditor who created them (‘auditor’ includes the audit function of the relevant accountancy firm, not just the specific auditor) are within the scope of information notice and inspection powers.
There are circumstances where an auditor can be required to provide information or produce documents that would otherwise be protected. These are where:
- the auditor has helped a client in the preparation or delivery of any information or documents (such as a tax return) sent to us, and the auditor’s information or documents explain the information or documents given by the client to us. This exception allows us to obtain information showing how a particular entry was arrived at. We cannot obtain information showing why the entry was arrived at in a particular way; and
- in relation to an identity unknown information notice (see RSTP2006), the auditor’s information or documents gives the identity or address of a person to whom the notice relates (or of a person who has acted on behalf of such a person)
In these circumstances, we are entitled to have access to the protected information and documents to the extent necessary to get the explanation required. If the information requested has already been provided to us then the auditor does not have to supply it again.
Where either of the exceptions are met by a document being produced, an information notice requiring that document to be produced has effect as if it required any part (or parts) of the document containing the information (in relation to the exceptions) to be produced.
Where a document contains both protected and non-protected information, the auditor can choose to provide us with a copy of the part of the document which is not protected (any protected parts do not need to be disclosed). See RSTP2017.