PracticeAccounting FirmsChiltern pioneers global model

Chiltern pioneers global model

Taxand is growing fast, but it still has a long way to go before it challenges the Big Four

Taxand, the global network of tax advisers, stated last week that it had
doubled in size in its first six months. The global network of advisers was
formed to challenge the hegemony of the Big Four on tax advice and now has 1,000
advisers on its books, including 174 partners in 19 countries.

‘Taxand is the first and only global network of independent tax firms that
offers seamless international tax services to meet clients’ needs both quickly
and efficiently, while also providing the best possible expertise,’ said David
Pert, tax managing director of Chiltern plc, the UK member of Taxand Global
Alliance.

‘Taxand is a true alternative to traditional operators,’ claimed Donnedieu de
Vabres, the international co-ordinator of Taxand. ‘Taxand is not only a success
with and for clients, but also with tax professionals who are attracted to this
new model, which is creating value and growth for its members.’

The international scope of the Big Four is the major reason why they maintain
such a grip on all accountancy services, with big blue chips unable to employ
firms without a global scope.

But the network has a long way to go before it can genuinely challenge the
Big Four. Its army of 1,000 advisers worldwide compares with
Pricewater-houseCooper’s 2,500 in the UK alone, and the Chartered Institute of
Tax’s 13,000 British-based members.

The network was formed initially out of former Andersen firms around the
world, which were cast to the winds when it collapsed in 2002. It has a
particularly strong presence in South America, but also covers the main bases:
the US, the UK, Germany and France, among others.

One benefit is that it has few conflicts, as it does not provide audit work
in the same way as other firms: ‘It can take a Big Four firm six to eight weeks
to establish if it has a conflict. It takes us six to eight minutes,’ claimed
Pert.

The network also claimed to be especially strong in specific areas of tax,
including transfer pricing, property, VAT and financial services.

But there are concerns that being in the network could be limiting for
companies, including Chiltern, that face the dilemma of being forced to choose
advice from within Taxand.

Pert said: ‘I would turn that on its head, actually. If you are a client of
the Big Four, you have to use the Big Four’s office in Timbuktu or wherever,
whether or not it is any good. If a client has an issue that requires a
specialism, we can go to another practice to get that. It’s not an exclusive
network.’

Taxand has a long way to go before it could usurp the Big Four, but the
network can only create more opportunities for its members, and is unlikely to
limit them. ‘I don’t think the Big Four will be quaking in their boots,’ Pert
said. ‘We hope it will stay that way, as we hope the complacency will continue
for a bit longer,’ he added.

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