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Accounting firms are blasted over taxes.

THE UK's "big four" accountancy firms came under sustained fire from a committee of MPs yesterday over their work in minimising tax paid by multinational companies.

Margaret Hodge, the chairwoman of the Public Accounts Committee, told the heads of tax at KPMG, PWC, Ernst & Young and Deloitte that certain activities to reduce tax liabilities were "shocking".

But the accountancy firm executives rejected claims they were marketing "aggressive" tax avoidance schemes and insisted their work benefited the UK by encouraging companies to locate and recruit here.

They were grilled for almost three hours amidst controversy over low tax paid by multinationals like Amazon, Google and Starbucks.

When Jane McCormick of KPMG said "our main purpose is to help our clients pay their tax", Ms Hodge cut her off, dismissing her answer as "laughable". "Nobody would pay your fees if they didn't think you would help them pay less tax," said the PAC chairwoman.

The hearing came as a report by charity Oxfam estimated tax evasion deprives the Treasury of at least PS5.2 billion a year, enough to scrap the 1% cap on welfare rises. But the accountancy firms were keen to distinguish between evasion, which is illegal and which they all said they would not engage in, and avoidance, taking advantage of incentives within the tax system.

After the hearing, the chief executive of the TaxPayers' Alliance, Matthew Sinclair, said: "Rather than looking for headlines, politicians should be focusing on simplifying taxes. They are the ones who set rules so complicated that those with crafty accountants can find loopholes."
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Publication:Daily Post (Conwy, Wales)
Date:Feb 1, 2013
Words:259
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