19 July 2024
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Is the next Netflix movie to be called “The Aussie Bean Counters Who Shagged the World”?

Peter Switzer
13 June 2024

News from a Parliamentary investigation is raising the possibility that some of Australia’s top accountants were acting like spies to promote international tax reducing opportunities for their big-end-of-town clients.

In a major scandal, Big 4 accounting firm PwC was accused of leaking government information to its clients. These new revelations now mean this scandal won’t be going away any time soon. And that’s because the Senate investigation into how these ‘so-called’ professionals leaked government plans and information, has now uncovered potentially greater crimes that this once highly respected accounting firm was involved in.

The SMH/The Age’s Rachel Clun summed up what PwC was caught doing. “The final report from the Senate committee investigating the behaviour of consulting firms comes 14 months after it released a cache of emails that revealed dozens of PwC personnel were involved in a brazen attempt to use confidential government tax plans to create fresh business from notorious corporate tax avoiders such as Google and Facebook,” she explained.

While that’s bad enough, the findings of the Senate investigating MPs says there was even a related bigger goal!

Evidence given by the Tax Practitioners Board (TPB) indicated that some key players in PwC were shooting for a bigger pay-off than was first thought when this bad behaviour was first revealed.

Here’s Clun’s report on this staggering finding: “The committee expresses concern at the evidence from the TPB that the confidential information was used more broadly than to promote tax avoidance schemes through Project North America. Rather, it was used to influence the direction of negotiations to reform international tax systems.”

The Senate committee is now telling us that this wasn’t just greedy accountants using our government’s inside information to help their ‘buddy’ accountants in PWC’s US division protect their big corporate clients from Australian tax laws. No, this was part of a plot to get tax laws in many countries become more big company tax friendly.

History has shown that countries tend to play follow the leader when it comes to important actions such as big tax reforms, so it’s no surprise that accounting firms that operate in many countries would want to influence political decisions on taxes.

However, when the Senate committee discovered this possible wider plot, chair of the committee and Liberal MP, Senator Richard Colbeck, said it was an “oh wow” moment.

This looks set to end up as a Netflix movie, with accountants leading a double life of international men of mystery and money! Maybe the title could be: The Accountants who Shagged the World!”

Interestingly, this has led to the Greens referring the report to the National Anti-Corruption Commission because they want more scalps and more serious punishments for key players in this drama. Importantly, they say the report from this investigation should end political donations from big contractors! The Greens even support the idea that PwC be banned from all government contracts for five years.

To date, Clun says 700 staff have lost their jobs, the government division now operates under a new name — Scyne — and the Department of Finance has banned people from this newly-named business while investigations are ongoing.

As I said in my opening lines, this scandal won’t be going away any time soon. Now we have accountants acting like ‘spies’ plotting tax reforms, it’s becoming an almost unforgettable taxing tale!

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