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Australian tax leaks scandal could be a police matter

Hannover, Lower Saxony, Germany - September 26, 2021: Logo of pw

Police could be poised to investigate the leak of confidential tax information plans by partners at PwC Australia.

The Australian government said today, May 22, that further steps will be taken in response to the tax leaks at PwC and that this matter may be referred to the Australian Federal Police.

Partners at the accounting firm have been implicated in sharing confidential information about upcoming anti-tax avoidance measures. It’s alleged that PwC partners shared such information with clients to get new business.

“We’ve got Treasury looking at an investigation into what has occurred, and looking at whether criminal charges should be referred to the AFP,” Stephen Jones, assistant treasurer and minister for financial services, told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

PwC Australia CEO Tom Seymour stepped down on May 9 over the scandal. An independent inquiry has been launched and Seymour is set to retire in September when the results of the investigation will be published.

Kristin Stubbins, acting interim CEO, said: “We are committed to learning from our mistakes and ensuring that we embrace the high standards of governance, culture and accountability that our people, clients and external stakeholders rightly expect.”

PwC Australia has had a controversial first half of the year since Peter-John Collins, former head of international tax at the firm, received a two-year ban for sharing government information with colleagues and clients.

Seymour released a statement on May 15 stating that he was one of the partners who had received private information via an email chain, reported the Australian Financial Review.

The unravelling of this case has caused an uproar from the Australian government. Treasurer Jim Chalmers branded the scandal a “shocking breach of trust”, while some legal professionals have called for a ban on PwC obtaining government contracts.

“Flogging off the confidential information to make a buck is not consistent with the sort of good faith that we want to see when we consult business on changes, whether it’s tax changes or other changes,” added Chalmers.

The Australian firm has now lost three leadership figures to the scandal: partners Pete Calleja and Sean Gregory stepped down from the executive board after Seymour gave up his position as CEO.

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