Sometimes people send me emails saying: ‘ Blimey, that was harsh.’ My response: define harsh. I’d like to think it means something along the lines: ‘True but did you really have to use those words?’ And yes, sometimes when calling to account, strong words are required because they express the passion I hold for a particular issue. So when I read Robert McIntyre’s critique of PWCs Total Tax Contribution, harsh was not on the list of words that came to my mind. Eviscerated fits much better:
Amazingly, PwC is trying to get corporations to pretend their tax bills are bigger than they really are, by counting not just their actual taxes, but also taxes they don’t pay, such as those paid by their customers, workers, suppliers, and so forth.
Robert then goes on to cite advertising by ExxonMobil as an example of PWC’s dishonest thinking where it claims:
“Last year, ExxonMobil earned about $36 billion, but incurred $99 billion in taxes worldwide.”
As Robert points out, this is untrue. Yet this is the kind of advertising PWC is encouraging. I’d like to know whether the advert, which appeared in The Washington Post, was partly funded by PWC, Exxon’s auditors. If not directly funded, it could not have been compiled without PWCs assistance.
Richard Murphy picks up the beat:
PWC asked me if I’d comment on behalf of civil society on the [TTC] issue, on a more formal basis. They’d already asked Bob McIntyre of Citizens for Tax Justice in the USA his views. He declined, and now he’s said why.
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realise that PWC is attempting to neuter the activities of the small but determined network of tax justice activists in bringing abuse and tax corruption to the public’s attention. What surprises me is that PWC has apparently become so arrogant as to think the public will be swayed by flagrant deceit. It’s not even subtle about its approach, referring to:
‘misconceptions around tax planning…might be usefully woven into…PR and marketing campaigns…lobbying campaigns’
Is it any wonder that when one of the Big Four comes out with cynical attempts to subvert the tax system, that HMRC gets up on its hind legs and attacks the easiest target? The small guy who tries to do his best. Is it any wonder ICAEW, dominated as it is by the same Big Four, is unable to bring an ethics programme to the education of its students? What is worst of all however is the implication that PWC will ‘consult’ with clients on TTC, charging them for what amounts to their own political agenda. That’s unforgivable.