Records-request duties clarified in AICPA ethics proposal

By Ken Tysiac

The responsibilities of AICPA members when responding to client requests for client-provided records would be clarified under a proposal that would amend the AICPA Code of Professional Conduct’s “Records Requests” interpretation.

The AICPA Professional Ethics Executive Committee (PEEC) proposed the changes to the “Records Requests” interpretation (ET §1.400.200) under the “Acts Discreditable Rule” (ET §1.400.001) in the AICPA Code of Professional Conduct.

Under the existing interpretation, client-provided records in the member’s custody or control are required to be returned to the client upon request. But the interpretation permits withholding these records if the client does not pay the member for the time and expense the member charges to retrieve and copy the records.

The proposed interpretation would clarify that such records are only permitted to be withheld if the member previously provided them to the client. With the interpretation, PEEC intends to clarify that withholding is not permitted when responding to a client’s initial request for the records to be returned.

In addition, the proposal:

  • Would permit shipping fees to be treated similarly to copying and retrieval fees with respect to responding to client requests for client-provided records.
  • Would clarify that making member-prepared records or work products available to a client (for example, available to be picked up or available in a portal) would satisfy the member’s ethical responsibility under the “Records Request” interpretation even though this could result in placing some responsibility on the client.
  • Would require that a member provide member-prepared records on request to a beneficiary (the existing interpretation requires the beneficiary only be provided with the member’s work products).

Comments can be made through Sept. 30 by emailing Ethics-ExposureDraft@aicpa-cima.com.

Ken Tysiac (Kenneth.Tysiac@aicpa-cima.com) is the JofA’s editorial director.

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