Accounting for influence: How the Big Four are embedded in EU policy-making on tax avoidance

Accounting for Influence

Published by: Corporate Europe Observatory, July 2018

Written by: Rachel Tansey

Edited by Katharine Ainger. Designed by Emily Sadler. With thanks to Vicky Cann, Olivier Hoedeman, Tove Maria Ryding, and Pascoe Sabido for discussions and insightful comments to the different drafts of the texts, and to David Leloup for additional research.

 

We pay our taxes, so why don’t corporations? This new report shows how the Big Four are embedded in EU policy-making on tax avoidance, and concludes that it is time to kick this industry out of EU anti-tax avoidance policy.

big_four_influencesEU policy towards corporate tax avoidance is informed by an advisory system littered with conflicts of interest. Despite all the evidence – from the various tax leaks, scandals, and parliamentary enquiries and reports – of the role the ‘Big Four’ global accountancy firms play in facilitating, encouraging, and profiting from corporate tax avoidance strategies, they continue to be treated in policy-making circles as neutral and legitimate partners.

big_four_lobby_groupsAdvisory groups giving the Commission ‘expert’ opinions on its tax policy are populated by both corporate interests and members of the tax avoidance industry. At the same time the EU is paying millions for private ‘expertise’ in the form of tax-related policy research from the Big Four. The tax avoidance industry, particularly the Big Four, also have ‘informal’ channels of influence, using lobby vehicles like the European Business Initiative for Taxation, the European Contact Group, Accountancy Europe, and AmCham EU. And a normalised revolving door between the Big Four and EU institutions perpetuates a shared culture and ideology.

pwc_under_magnifying_glass_webThe lobbying and influence of tax intermediaries like the Big Four (and the multinational corporations they sell tax avoidance schemes to) is illustrated by two EU case studies: on new transparency rules for tax planning intermediaries, and on public country-by-country tax reporting, a proposal which is yet to be agreed by the EU institutions.

kick_out_of_tax_avoidance_policy_0This report concludes that it is time to kick the Big Four and other players in the tax avoidance industry out of EU anti-tax avoidance policy. The starting point for this must be recognition of the conflict of interest in allowing tax intermediaries to advise on tackling tax avoidance. Only then can an effective framework emerge to ensure public-interest tax policy-making is protected from vested interests.

 

Download the full report. A summary briefing is available in English, Deutsch, Español, and Français.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s