PricewaterhouseCoopers, the worlds largest accounting firm, is being audited by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) for potential violations in reporting its own taxes, according to the IRS and company documents.
The IRS was evaluating the timing of tax deductions, PWCs pension plan, and how the company moved profits between international units, said a person briefed on the audit.
The review might be completed later this month and the IRS was expected to reach its conclusions by the year-end, PWCs tax partner Samuel Starr said in a June 15 letter to the New York-based firms 2,000 US partners, who could be liable for any back taxes.
Additional taxes or penalties could damage the reputation of the firm and the industry, which have been under increased scrutiny since the 2001 collapse of Houston-based energy trader Enron Corp and the demise of its auditor, Arthur Andersen. The IRS review might cost partners at PWC scores of millions of dollars, said Robert Willens, a tax and accounting analyst at Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc in New York.
If the pension plan were to be disqualified, the results would be potentially nuclear, said Richard Susko, a pension attorney and partner at the New York law firm of Cleary, Gottleib, Steen & Hamilton.
PWC could lose deductions it took on contributions to the pension plan, though the IRS probably will work out something less draconian, he said.
PWC executives declined to discuss the audit. IRS spokesman Bruce Friedland also declined to comment, saying federal audits were confidential.
PWC is a large organisation and like any large entity is under constant review by various taxing jurisdictions, said Steven Silber, a spokesman for the firm.