• Register
Return to: Home > Comments > Editor's letter: Quid pro quo

Editor's letter: Quid pro quo

Carlos Martin Tornero, editor, The Accountant

What prompts companies and individuals to make political donations? Some would argue it's a political right or even a matter of social responsibility.

Others would regard it as an attempt to gain undue access to politicians or a way to gain the inside track with those who can influence government -if not the government itself.

One thing's for sure, whatever the motives, the donor needs to have money or resources aplenty to spare.

In light of the UK General Election, those who could afford to be big donors within the accountancy profession were the Big Four.

During the past five years of the UK Coalition government, PwC, KMPG and Deloitte have contributed almost £2.5m ($3.8m) to Britain's three main political parties, according to the Electoral Commission.

Those donations are in kind and reflect the value of services rendered by their staff in secondment to assist political parties.

Another £614,099 worth of professional services to Labour shadow ministers was given gratis during 2014 and 2015, the vast majority courtesy of PwC, according to the House of Commons Register of Members' Financial Interests.

Contacted for an interview on this subject, the Big Four did not extend this magazine the same generosity as that shown towards political parties.

EY didn't reply. Top donors PwC and KPMG issued a brief statement essentially copy-pasted from their transparency reports. The only firm that responded to specific questions was Deloitte.

PwC's spontaneous statement, issued before I could ask any questions, anticipated: "We do not develop policy on behalf of parties".
Ancient Romans used to say that he who excuses himself, accuses himself. I'm sure that's certainly not what PwC wanted to express in its statement.

And talking of the Romans, being accountants and therefore knowledgeable people, I'm also sure they know the story of the richest man in ancient Rome: Marcus Licinius Crassus.

Crassus was the major donor of Julius Caesar's campaign to become consul in 59 BC. Once elected that very same year Caesar passed a law called Lex Iulia de publicanis.

That law allowed private tax collectors to keep one third of the tax revenues they collected. By coincidence Crassus was a shareholder in many of those companies, called societates, which collected taxes on behalf of the state.

If asked, Crassus would possibly have said he didn't develop any tax policy on behalf of Julius Caesar.

One who would disagree with both Crassus and PwC is Austin Mitchell, the retiring Labour MP for Great Grimsby. Mitchell was a member of the House of Commons' Public Accounts Committee, which extensively investigated the role of accountancy firms in facilitating tax avoidance schemes.

One of the aspects the committee looked at was the secondments of the Big Four, which Mitchell described as a way of influencing policy.

"They permeate government presumably by providing staff and transferring people over and recruiting the high-fliers from government for their own purposes," he told me. Read the full story in this month's issue.

Carlos Martin Tornero
carlos.tornero[at]uk.timetric.com

Related stories
Why the Big Four chip in
Labour to win, if Big Four donation patterns become self-fulfilling prophecy

Top Content

    HONG KONG NATIONALS: UNDERSTANDING VISA AND TAX WHEN MOVING TO THE UK

    Over 2 million Hong Kongers learned recently that they may soon be offered a route to UK citizenship following China’s introduction at the end of June of its controversial Security Law in the territory.

    read more

    SASB IMPLEMENTATION SERIES: COMMUNICATING ESG TO MAINSTREAM INVESTORS

    As part of a series of webinars, the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB) took a closer look at how to communicate ESG initiatives and progress to mainstream investors

    read more

    REPORTING AND COMPLIANCE: WHY WE NEED A DATA REVOLUTION

    Commerce no longer adheres to national boundaries: the largest international organisations to the smallest businesses operate in a global market. However, rules for corporate reporting and compliance do adhere to borders, write IMA’s Jeff Thomson and Liv A Watson

    read more

    CORONAVIRUS TIMELINE: REACTIONS FROM THE ACCOUNTANCY PROFESSION

    As the Coronavirus (COVID-19) continues to spread across the world, the International Accounting Bulletin and The Accountant will be collating all the latest news and updates from the profession on the pandemic’s impact.

    read more
Privacy Policy

We have updated our privacy policy. In the latest update it explains what cookies are and how we use them on our site. To learn more about cookies and their benefits, please view our privacy policy. Please be aware that parts of this site will not function correctly if you disable cookies. By continuing to use this site, you consent to our use of cookies in accordance with our privacy policy unless you have disabled them.