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Big Tech mainstays named as targets of PwC tax law leak

Consultancy's Australian arm is in deep trouble after offering advice on how to avoid rules its people helped write

In 2015 a PwC partner named Peter Collins was engaged to provide Australia's government with advice on how to strengthen its tax code.

He did so. Then, before the changes he worked on became public, he shared them within PwC.

The consultancy sprang into action and offered its clients consultancy on the new tax code and how to – ahem – manage their affairs effectively under the incoming regime.

Unsurprisingly, this set of facts above has become quite the scandal in Australia. Collins has been barred from acting as a tax agent. Several senior figures at PWC have stepped down. The firm's top global execs have come to Australia to clean up the mess.

The mess intersected with The Register's world on Monday, when Apple, Google, and Microsoft were named by The Australian Financial Review as among the companies PwC contacted to hawk its ill-gotten insights into Aussie tax laws.

None of the tech giants are accused of wrongdoing – although all are known users of legal-but-cynical tax minimization practices. The mere fact that PwC allegedly thought the three could be interested speaks volumes.

PwC's acts have returned to the spotlight in recent weeks thanks to a government inquiry into management and assurance of integrity by consulting services that considers the conduct of consultancies and the risks they pose to public sector integrity.

That inquiry is taking place against a background of Australia's year-old government questioning the $20.8 billion spent on consultants in FY 21/22 – 43 percent of it related to information technology – and whether that money might better be spent on government employees and capabilities.

It's highly likely the government will choose that path in coming years. PwC and pals can probably start to downsize their Canberra operations.

Ironically, PwC has turned to a technologist to probe the mess: Ziggy Switkowski, a former CEO of top Aussie telco Telstra, chair of the country's national broadband network, and a former nuclear physicist, will investigate the scandal. ®

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