If any of the three bills were to pass, they would repeal existing Ohio law that protects work papers
used to prepare audits of governmental units.
Because corporations or nonpersonal entities have no privilege against self-incrimination, it follows that corporations have no privilege against self-incrimination regarding their accountant's work papers relating to the corporation.
Second Circuit Court of Appeals had created for accountants' tax accrual work papers to comply with federal securities laws.
In the course of an audit, for example, many electronic documents and messages in various states of planning and revision can be created by all of the individuals involved as the work papers for the entire engagement are built up.
State Auditor Betty Montgomery expressed her support for public access to IPA work papers, noting those produced by her staff are already open to the public.
From an accounting firm's perspective, the bottom line is also an issue: unlike state government, IPAs do not enjoy sovereign immunity from lawsuits for information contained in the work papers. The resulting spike in liability insurance costs would drive a number of firms out of the government audit business.
Most IPA audit work papers are not sitting around in file folders, but are prepared and maintained electronically.
The Ohio Society of CPAs succeeded in changes to Ohio law in both 1991 and 1998 to keep work papers private to maintain the free flow of information between the client and auditor and to help contain litigation.
The Ohio Society of CPAs will be working with members of the Ohio Senate to express the strong concerns of the accounting profession over this work paper proposal.
However, most courts allow ajury to infer from a firm's destruction of work papers that those papers would have demonstrated malfeasance.
If your client has been sued with regard to a material misstatement in the financial statements, the work papers related to your client's engagement should be kept indefinitely.
CPAs are known for having detailed documentation in their work papers to meet the standards required for audit work.