The reputation of big UK accountancy firms has suffered because of their substantial role in advising clients how to avoid tax, according to the UK Public Accounts Committee.
In a report update on tax avoidance published today the PAC say accountants’ advice on corporate structures and tax planning only help businesses avoid UK taxes.
The report states: "In becoming more involved in constructing complex tax arrangements for their clients, the big accountancy firms are increasingly seen as being part of the problem of corporate tax avoidance, rather than the solution.
"In providing tax advice and reaching audit judgements on their clients’ UK operations and structures, the big accountancy firms need to focus on the substance of the enterprise, rather than on artificial structures which serve only to avoid tax.
"The worldwide concerns about artificial tax arrangements will not go away and the big accountancy firms have the opportunity to play a leading role in promoting and enabling transparency in their clients’ tax structures and payments."
The PAC said it expects big accountancy firms to recognise the public mood on tax avoidance has changed and that they should provide responsible advice to ensure that corporate arrangements reflect the substance of transactions and operations in the UK and enable their clients to be more transparent about where they make profits and pay tax.
In conclusion the PAC calls for UK professional bodies to emphasise the importance of firms "behaving responsibly in selling tax advice to clients, and in reaching audit judgements on the substance of their clients’ UK operations and structures".