Big Four are developing potential conflict of interest with Australian tax office

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The Big Four accountancy firms have come under attack for their alleged involvement in enabling tax avoidance schemes for multinationals and for having a close relationship with the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) at a series of Australian government committee meetings which were held this week.
The criticism follows hearings by the Australian Senate Economics References Committee, which has been asked to investigate corporate tax avoidance by Australian companies and multinationals.

The Committee’s Melbourne session heard that PwC is in on-going dialogue with the ATO over claims it set up tax avoidance schemes through Luxembourg’s lenient tax laws. PwC was said to have helped in obtaining ‘letters of comfort’, on behalf of Australian clients, which PwC’s Australian head of tax, Thomas Seymour, told the enquiry were legal under current rules.

Leader of the Green party in Australia, Christine Milne repeatedly drew attention to what she described as “a revolving door between big business, the Big Four firms, the tax office, treasury and government ministers whereby now there is negotiation rather than effective implementation of the law”’.

Milne claimed that there were conflicts of interest developing due to the practice of government using Big Four secondees as well as redundant ATO staff, expert in multinational tax issues, looking towards the Big Four for future employment.