Opinion 94-14
(August 1994)

You have inquired as to whether it is permissible for you to inform Federal, State and local tax authorities with regard to the failure of a certain individual to pay taxes. The individual is the plaintiff in a personal injury action, in which you represent the defendant. The plaintiff claimed damages for lost wages, and during the course of discovery, you learned the plaintiff has not paid any taxes or filed tax returns since 1984. The plaintiff subsequently dropped his wage loss claim, however, you would like to report to the appropriate authorities the information you learned with regard to his apparent failure to pay taxes.

The information that you have learned, even though known by others, is still covered by attorney-client confidentiality as provided by Pennsylvania Rule of Professional Conduct 1.6. As such, prior to reporting the information, you must obtain your client's consent to do so, being sure to advise your client of whatever impact, if any, the disclosure may have on his or her case. Providing you do this first, it is permissible for you to inform the authorities with regard to the plaintiff's apparent failure to pay taxes.

However, the Committee draws your attention to the fact that there is no rule which requires you to inform the authorities with regard to the plaintiff's failure to pay taxes.

   

The Philadelphia Bar Association's Professional Guidance Committee provides, upon request, advice for lawyers facing or anticipating facing ethical dilemmas. Advice is based on the consideration of the facts of the particular inquirer's situation and the Rules of Professional Conduct as promulgated by the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania. The Committee's opinions are advisory only and are based upon the facts set forth. The opinions are not binding upon the Disciplinary Board of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania or any other Court. They carry only such weight as an appropriate reviewing authority may choose to give it.