Australian tax office explores possible offences abroad in PwC scandal

Tax leaks scandal has dragged in the firm’s businesses in other countries, including Ireland

Australian tax officials have said they are working with international peers to explore any potential offences outside the country related to the PwC tax leaks scandal.

The affair has engulfed the firm’s Australian operations and threatened its business in other locations, including Ireland.

Jeremy Hirschhorn, second commissioner of the Australian Taxation Office, told an Australian senate hearing on the consulting industry that the regulator has the power to share information and concerns to overseas counterparts regarding “potential offences in other jurisdictions that might have been triggered by some of this behaviour”.

The public inquiry follows the revelations that a PwC partner involved in developing laws designed to crack down on multinational tax avoidance shared confidential information with colleagues, who won business on the back of his guidance.


The senate released internal PwC emails last month that showed partners in Australia and internationally discussing the use of the confidential information.

The emails show former PwC Australia tax partner Peter-John Collins emailed other PwC offices details of the discussions he had been involved in with Australian officials on tax policy. The released emails show that on April 17th, 2015, Mr Collins wrote to a colleague at PwC Ireland, whose identity has been blacked out, saying he was helping the Australian government “think about” tax proposals that he expected to be released in the country’s then forthcoming budget.

The PwC Ireland individual – who the firm declined to name when asked by The Irish Times last month – responded in an email, copied to two other PwC Ireland staff members, that they had been following developments in Australia and suggested a “chat” the following week.

The are no details of any follow-up in the released email chain. There are also no suggestions that anyone from PwC Ireland was aware that Mr Collins was seeking to share information that was the subject of confidential agreements.

PwC executives are due to speak at the current Australian senate hearing, following officials from the treasury, the tax watchdog and the tax office.

Mr Hirschhorn responded to questions from MPs about the impact of the PwC confidentiality breach on Australia’s “cutting-edge” role in tailoring laws to stop multinational companies avoiding tax by using complex structures stretching across various countries.

“Those emails clearly show the international tax network within PwC was operating internationally to subvert the Australian law development or the application of the law,” Mr Hirschhorn said.

PwC has been under pressure to release a full list of partners who were included in the emails and the clients that potentially benefited from its advice.

The firm provided a list of 63 names to senators at the start of the week, as well as naming four former partners who it said were involved in the sharing of information and nine partners who have been stood down by the consultant pending the outcome of a review.

“It is important for us to respect the ongoing investigations and legal processes to ensure this matter is investigated appropriately, and that is what we are doing,” a spokesman for PwC said. – Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2023