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UK Big 4 tax partners


John Dixon, Bill Dodwell, Jane McCormick and Kevin Nicholson
John Dixon, Bill Dodwell, Jane McCormick and Kevin Nicholson

Advisers are not normally considered for the Global Tax 50, but partners from the Big 4 in the UK, including three heads of tax, attended a House of Commons Public Accounts Committee (PAC) hearing this year, where the actions of the Big 4, in terms of whether they are complicit in facilitating tax avoidance by multinational companies, were called into question.

The hearing included John Dixon of EY, Bill Dodwell of Deloitte, Jane McCormick of KPMG and Kevin Nicholson of PwC.

McCormick does not feel that the Big 4 was fairly represented at the hearing: “Whilst we completely appreciate the PAC's interest in the area of tax and acknowledge their right to make enquiries and gather evidence, the format of the PAC hearings is not particularly conducive to the full exposure of the facts. For example, in response to my statement that our main purpose is to help our clients comply with their tax obligations, Mrs Hodge says that "no one would ask KPMG to submit their tax return" I was not able to respond to this at the hearing but the fact is that every year KPMG prepares and submits 11,000 tax returns in the UK alone.”

In addition, she says KPMG heard very little, directly, from its critics but it was interesting to observe how widely the PAC session was watched outside the UK.

“In general I do not believe that it served to help the reputation of the UK as a place which respects the rule of law and treats business fairly,” she says.

Nicholson, however, says the hearing gave PwC the opportunity to air its support for the debate on the need for change in the international tax system: “As borne out by the OECD action plan, the debate has continued and is one we support and pro-actively participate in.”

Asked whether PwC was inclined to change anything, in terms of their tax policy, following the hearing, Nicholson says it gave them the opportunity to share with the committee the principles governing the way PwC does business and, in particular, its global code of conduct, which was made public a few years ago. “We keep this, and the way we apply it to our work day to day, under constant review.”

KPMG are not inclined to change their tax practice, however.

“We had tax principles in place before the PAC hearing and we continue to operate according to them. We, and our clients, are however conscious of the increased risk of reputational damage and of course we take this into account when giving advice,” McCormick says.

The Global Tax 50 2013
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