In my opinion, this question is one that should be answered by a lawyer, accountant, EA, etc. When voting to close or put the question on hold, I would probably choose "Off-topic" with a custom reason of "needs a lawyer, accountant, etc." Since we have a fair amount of questions where this is a response, would it make sense to add this as a custom off-topic close reason?

Note: I'm not asking this to discuss that question in particular; the community can decide that through close votes, comments, etc. That question, along with the revisions to the closing process, that made me think of this issue.

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    Is leaving a comment not sufficient? There is certainly the potential for us, but what is the evidence for the need? One question? Is there a large enough body of questions fitting this description to demonstrate a need? Commented Jun 26, 2013 at 18:14
  • @GeorgeMarian I normally just leave a comment (as I did with the linked question), but I thought I remembered other questions that were closed because professional advice was needed. Upon searching, though, I just find this one, which may have other problems, so it looks like you're right that this probably isn't necessary. Guess my mind is playing tricks on me! Commented Jun 26, 2013 at 18:21
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    There's nothing wrong with considering it or even bringing it up. It obviously seems like a possible need. We've also discussed a disclaimer, along the lines of "this is not professional advice, blah, blah, blah." Some have chosen to use a disclaimer, precisely because their profession opens them up to a potential liability. However, it should be obvious to the average person that these sites aren't trying to provide professional advice. One principle I apply for this question, is to cringe at customization. Can we do it w/ existing functionality? Is there a large enough need? Commented Jun 26, 2013 at 18:45
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    Related meta discussion: Generic Disclaimer stating the advice here is not a professional tax advice Commented Jun 26, 2013 at 19:41
  • The entire close reasons what revamped recently. See the blog at blog.stackoverflow.com/2013/06/the-war-of-the-closes ... so maybe we can have custom close reasons ...
    – Dheer
    Commented Jun 27, 2013 at 8:54
  • Shouldn't the entire site have a disclaimer about financial advice in this case? (sheepishly going to go look for it after I post)
    – Paul
    Commented Oct 11, 2013 at 13:18
  • @Paul I agree; I imagine section 5 of Stack Exchange's terms of service (linked in the footer, under "legal") provides us enough of a disclaimer, although I'm not a lawyer so I can't say for sure. Commented Oct 11, 2013 at 13:30

2 Answers 2


(Expanding my comment into an answer.)

Provided a question is otherwise on-topic, i.e. relevant to personal finance, then I think that "You ought to check with a [lawyer | accountant]" can often be a useful disclaimer and suggestion on a helpful answer that touches on matters of law or specific accounting rules.

But, I don't think "check with a [lawyer | accountant]" is, by itself, a valid close reason.

In fact, we'd like for lawyers and accountants who know about personal finance matters to come here and answer questions! Stack Exchange sites are for experts including the professionals. We just don't have many accounting and legal professionals here, yet.

On the subject of disclaimers, I'll point out there is already a disclaimer on the Stack Exchange legal page, under Section 5, Warranty disclaimer:

The Services, Content, Network and any Software are provided on an "as is" basis, without warranties of any kind, either express or implied, including, without limitation, implied warranties of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose or non-infringement. [...]

... I'd personally feel better seeing something along those lines in the footer of every page on the site, but, what the heck do I know? IANAL. :-)

  • I noticed the new close reason: "Other: This question appears to be off-topic because it is asking for a legal advice" but shouldn't it read "asking for legal advice" instead of "asking for a legal advice" ? Commented Jun 26, 2013 at 20:09
  • @JohnBensin Hmm - I don't see that anywhere?! Commented Jun 26, 2013 at 20:39
  • My mistake, it's not something you added. It's because littleadv voted to close with that custom close reason; it's now shown up as this comment. That's my guess, at any rate. Commented Jun 26, 2013 at 21:56
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    @JohnBensin Aha - now I see it .. custom close reason. Gotcha. I was looking at the close dialog box by trying to close another question, and it wasn't showing up there. :) Commented Jun 26, 2013 at 22:23
  • @john yeah, I added that as a free text that now can be added to the close reason. Sorry for the grammar mistakes, I have those occasionally...
    – littleadv
    Commented Jun 27, 2013 at 18:33
  • @littleadv Goodness knows I make grammar mistakes too; I thought that it had been permanently added to the list at first, which is why I mentioned it. Commented Jun 27, 2013 at 18:34

I think we should. While we answer a lot of questions with the declaimer @Chris mentioned, some questions should not even be asked anyone other than a lawyer.

For example, a person describing something that he/she did that might be illegal in some way - we should not attempt to answer, and we should not encourage the OP to elaborate and provide further details. Attorney-client communication is privileged, and so is CPA-client in non-criminal issues, but OP-forum communication is not.

Furthermore, I've seen questions where people specifically ask whether something is legal, OK, or not, and argue with responders requesting substantiation. While easier and more standard mainstream situations can be substantiated easily by amateurs like us - more complicated issues cannot, and by attempting doing so we may cause the OP damage (even if in the end we will not be liable because of all the disclaimers and IANALs, still - there may be some damaged caused because the OP is too cheap to talk to a lawyer).

I personally vote to close for this reason quite often, and I'd appreciate a standard text to show the OP the right direction in these cases (as my own words may seem too harsh occasionally to some).

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