Suggestion Big Four too close to government peculiar

by Calum Fuller

More from this author

31 Jan 2013

  • Comments
Margaret Hodge ourcreativetalent flickr photostream

THIS MORNING's Public Accounts Committee hearing into tax avoidance and the Big Four's activities in the area threw up some interesting – and, indeed, surprising – issues.

Chief among them is the accusation made by committee members that the Big Four are too close to government and exert too much influence over the formation of tax law.

There is a twisted logic to the argument mounted by committee chair and Labour MP Margaret Hodge, but in the end I struggle to see the any alternative to the way consultations and projects are conducted, other than to be more open about it.

Particularly telling was Hodge's question of whether PwC's Kevin Nicholson would second a senior staff member to the Office of Tax Simplification – which, it is fair to say, is understaffed and faces a task of Augean proportions. He wearily replied: "I would if I wasn't criticised for having someone on the inside."

The government cannot afford to silo itself off from industry experts who, after all, are hugely experienced and eminently qualified to discuss issues and offer their analysis of tax policy and how to improve it. Few others can provide that.

Bill Dodwell's proposal for greater transparency, such as publishing relationships between tax authorities and companies, could prove effective in an effort to help restore public trust, but to suggest they ought to be excluded from taking government contracts and accuse them of skewing the law towards themselves strikes me as a somewhat extreme and counterproductive.

The government routinely seeks the advice of top professionals from a whole range of sectors, and so to query only the Big Four's role seems peculiar. Of course, if the government is concerned about the quality or the fairness of legislation – and indeed the influence of the Big Four and others – then perhaps Nicholson's suggestion of a "sunset clause" where a law can be rescinded after a set period of time should be considered.

The heightened emotion around the issue is becoming detrimental to the discourse. Perhaps it is time to take a step back and consider how collaboration is of benefit, rather than create trench warfare.

Visitor comments

blog comments powered by Disqus
display:none

Add your comment

We won't publish your address


By submitting a comment you agree to abide by our Terms & Conditions

Your comment will be moderated before publication

Submit
  • Send

Appointments to University Committees

University of Glasgow 120x60University of Glasgow - Glasgow - unremunerated positions

 

 

Newsletters

Get the latest financial news sent directly to your inbox

  • Best Practice
  • Business
  • Daily Newsletter
  • Essentials

Careers

Search for jobs
Click to search our database of all the latest accountancy roles

Create a profile
Click to set up your profile and let the best recruiters find you

Jobs by email
Sign up to receive regular updates with the latest roles suitable for you

Briefings

budget-management

Why budgeting fails: One management system is not enough

If budgeting is to have any value at all, it needs a radical overhaul. In today's dynamic marketplace, budgeting can no longer serve as a company's only management system; it must integrate with and support dedicated strategy management systems, process improvement systems, and the like. In this paper, Professor Peter Horvath and Dr Ralf Sauter present what's wrong with the current approach to budgeting and how to fix it.

cchcover

iXBRL: Taking stock. Looking forward

In this white paper CCH provide checklists to help accountants and finance professionals both in practice and in business examine these issues and make plans. Also includes a case study of a large commercial organisation working through the first year of mandatory iXBRL filing.