Treasury reveals level of Big Four secondments

THE TREASURY has revealed the extent to which it uses secondments from the Big Four, quashing claims the firms hold an “undue influence” over the formation of tax laws and policy.

In response to a request under the Freedom of Information Act 2000, the Treasury revealed that, in the three years 2012 to 2014, the Big Four firms provided just eight people on one- to two-year secondments working for senior policy advisers.

The Treasury said staff currently on secondment work in a range of areas including the Business and International Tax Group and the Office of Tax Simplification.

“As has been the case with successive administrations, the Treasury benefits from secondments into and out of the Treasury from a variety of organisations, including private sector institutions, in order to gain expertise for a period and to allow Treasury officials to benefit from a diverse range of experience by being seconded to other organisations in return,” it said.

The Public Accounts Committee had previously claimed that the secondment of Big Four staff was allowing the firms to advise clients on how best to exploit loopholes to drive down their bills.

“The close relationship that the four firms enjoy with government creates a perception that they wield undue influence on the tax system which they use to their advantage,” the PAC said.

Based on those findings, it recommended a consultation on rules banning tax-avoiding firms from winning government contracts be extended to include companies providing tax advice. The Treasury said such a move would be “absurd”.

Between 2012 and 2014, Deloitte and PwC each provided three members of staff to the Treasury, while KPMG and EY provided one each.

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