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Big Four accountants forced to defend legality of tax advice in Australia

By Neasa MacErlean

10 April 2015 at 06:13 BST

Already under pressure in the UK and EU over the lawfulness of their tax advice, the top accountants are being questioned by an Australian Senate inquiry on tax avoidance - as part of government moves to close off loopholes for tax evasion.

Accountants, KPMG included, are appearing before the Australian senate over tax issues Tupungato

Rosheen Gamon, managing partner of KPMG, was forced into insisting that 'what these companies are doing is legal', in reference to the top accountants. She added: 'When we give advice and it relates to structuring it is done within the law, we always act within the law.'  She was replying to Senator Christine Milne. The senator argued that what the accountancy firms did in tax havens was immoral. Very similar discussions have been taking place between the Big Four and lawmakers in the UK. 

Microsoft in Singapore

Microsoft, Google and Apple are among the businesses which have told the Senate inquiry that they patriate money abroad to lower-charging jurisdictions. Microsoft, for instance, admitted that the A$2b it makes a year in Australia is immediately routed over to Singapore in order to take advantage of lower tax rates. 

Dangers of acting alone

But Ernst & Young (EY) partner Rob McLeod urged Australia to go for multinational tax reform through the OECD rather than  opting to make unilateral changes. He said: 'Australia has no choice but to ride that process and keep the pressure on, like many other countries will be doing, to have a speedy conclusion. Because the alternative of a single and unilateral solution for joint problems, I believe, will not deliver the dividends that Australia will be looking for.' The danger for a single country acting alone is that companies will relocate their HQs or other offices and bases to jurisdictions with more favourable tax regimes. Source: ABC


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