Call for rethink on PwC doing assessment

Big four firm ‘clearly faces an impossible conflict of interest’

Michael Barnier, commissioner of internal markets at the European Commission. Photograph: Michele Tantussi/Bloomberg

Michael Barnier, commissioner of internal markets at the European Commission. Photograph: Michele Tantussi/Bloomberg

Thu, Jul 3, 2014, 01:20

Thirty-two civil society organisations who take an interest in multinational tax avoidance have written to the European Commission asking it to think again about asking PricewaterhouseCoopers to do an impact assessment of public country by country reporting by banks.

The big four firm “clearly faces an impossible conflict of interest and will not be able to deliver a credible impact assessment”, the groups have said to Michel Barnier, commissioner for the internal market and services.

To bolster their argument the groups have referred to what PwC has said to the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD) on the subject as part of the consultation process for the base erosion and profit shifting (Beps) taxation project. The points made by PwC to the Beps committees are based on its consultation, in turn, with its clients, who in the view of the NGOs should be paying more tax. “PwC has shown itself as a hardline opponent of public country by country reporting, but at the same time the company holds itself up to be a neutral and unbiased assessor,” said Tove Maria Ryding, tax co-ordinator for the European Network on Debt and Development.

PwC has expressed concerns to Beps about the compliance burden of some of the proposals that it is considering, as well as raising confidentiality issues.

It wants a more stringent confidentiality regime for any country by country reporting, which would then see companies supplying the information to “the parent company’s home tax authority and distributed only through relevant provision and upon request (together with real sanctions for countries that violate confidentiality provisions)”.

Of course this would scupper any chance for the NGOs to use the figures supplied to highlight what they might view as overly aggressive tax strategies.

Who would have thought that accountancy rules would ever become the focus of NGO agitation?

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