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Monday Morning Accounting News Brief: PwC Canada Admits to Layoffs; Why Audit? | 11.27.23

fat grey cat on floor next to cup of coffee

Hey. Hope everyone had a nice Thanksgiving. Get yourself something nice if you’re doing a little Cyber Monday shopping on the clock today. Also can we rename Cyber Monday? “Cyber” has negative connotations to those of us who spent time in AOL chatrooms in the 90s. Alright anyway! It’s Monday, it’s almost December, the tryptophan has worn off, let’s do this.

ICYMI: A layoff situation has been brewing up north at PwC Canada, a spokesperson finally copped to it. We’ll have more on this story a bit later (thank you to the tipster who’s been in touch with info and insights). For now, The Globe and Mail updated their story with the firm statement:

PwC Canada spokesperson Anuja Kale-Agarwal confirmed via e-mail that “some limited job reductions” have been made, representing less than 2 per cent of the company’s Canadian work force. PwC has more than 7,700 Canadian employees in 19 offices across the country, with 2 per cent representing roughly 150 people.

“These decisions are very difficult and are never taken lightly,” Ms. Kale-Agarwal said. “The impacted individuals were treated fairly.”

Also LOL:

Canadian Accountant has their own article on the layoffs:

Anxiety over potential layoffs began building earlier this month when some PwC employees received meeting requests (“Important Business Update”) with “relationship leaders” (RLs). According to various sources, the layoffs occurred over several business units, including assurance, consulting and tax.

The Globe and Mail, which obtained a termination email, reported that PwC:

offered employees whose “services are no longer required” one week of pay per year of service, with benefits to be terminated one week from the date of dismissal. The e-mail also said the severance offer “includes all of our obligations to you, whether statutory, contractual, at common law, or otherwise.”

“Layoffs at Big Four accounting firm PwC Canada face media scrutiny over severance,” Canadian Accountant November 26, 2023

If you thought the US tax system was antiquated check out this Telegraph piece on how things work across the pond:

Over 600,000 workers are missing out on income tax rebates because of HM Revenue and Customs’ outdated system.

Every year over five million workers mistakenly pay too much income tax to HMRC. This common problem can occur because of a change in benefits the worker claims or, if they are self-employed, a drop in profits made compared to the previous year.

If you overpay income tax, HMRC will send you a P800 letter explaining how to request a rebate through bank transfer.

However, if after 21 days you have not claimed your refund, HMRC will send a cheque to the address it has on file.

Last year it issued over five million cheques – yet as of the start of November, 615,383 had not been cashed, according to data obtained in a Freedom of Information request by the paper.

They got a quote from this woman who works at a terribly named firm:

Elaine Clark, of Cheap Accounting, said: “This is an outdated system which is easily remedied by refunding the overpayment via the Tax Code, cutting out the administrative effort involved.”

ESG is on the way out?

According to ESG Today, the survey, encompassing 520 Chief Sustainability Officers (CSOs) from various industries and countries, signals a notable deceleration in climate achievements.

Key findings include:

  • A decrease in the average reduction of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to 20%, a drop from 30% reported last year.
  • Organizations are undertaking fewer climate change actions, averaging at 4 compared to the previous 10.
  • An extension of deadlines to reach climate goals, now set around 2050, as opposed to the earlier target of 2036.

These trends correlate with another recent EY survey of senior corporate finance leaders, which suggests sustainability, though a top investment priority, is prone to budget cuts due to current economic and geopolitical pressures

KPMG had some bad news to break to Florida:

The initial results of a state-commissioned audit found Florida’s prison system is unsustainable without significant changes and billions of dollars in investment.

The state budgeted $5 million for the audit, which is being conducted by global consulting firm KPMG.

The consultants have spent 15 months looking into the Florida Department of Corrections and found that without a change of course, Florida prisons could be headed toward crisis.

According to the audit, crumbling infrastructure, staffing shortages and a prison population that’s expected to grow are converging into critical challenges for the Florida Department of Corrections.

“Unfortunately like a lot of other systems, Florida is now facing a bit of a perfect storm,” said consultant Jeff Goodale.

PwC Australia has paused partner promotions until July. Can’t imagine why.

PwC Australia will delay appointing new partners for the second time since the tax leaks scandal broke, from January until July next year, and candidates will have to submit a new business case to justify becoming part of the partnership.

The move comes after the firm delayed its main mid-year partner intake in June, affecting about 50 candidates who were going through the process at the time. The new delay will be another blow to the true believers on the cusp of becoming partner and who have stuck with the firm through the crisis.

The firm has also managed to redeploy 37 staff originally earmarked for redundancy, bringing down the total number cut earlier in the month to about 300, or less than 4 per cent of its 8000-strong workforce.

Gold star to Edmund Tadros for calling almost-partners “true believers on the cusp” 😂

Speaking of Edmund Tadros, he and Australian Financial Review colleague Neil Chenoweth won some well-deserved accolades for their work on the PwC Australia tax scandal. Without them we would have never known the shady shit partners at PwC (and at least one other Big 4 firm) were up to in the shadows.

The Guardian:

Australian journalism’s biggest and sparkliest shindig, the Walkleys, was held on Thursday night. The top gong – the Gold Walkley – went to The Australian Financial Review’s Edmund Tadros and Neil Chenoweth for their uncovering and subsequent coverage of the PwC tax leaks. That story is still unfurling in the corridors of power.

Tadros drew laughs for a self-deprecating speech about being described by editor in chief Michael Stutchbury as “a little bit crazy” and told he would work well with Chenoweth who was also “a little bit crazy”. It seems to have paid off.

Chenoweth said he was thankful for the members of the Tax Practitioners Board who “put their jobs on the line” to speak out, while Tadros thanked current and former PwC staff who also spoke out.

“There are good people there, they were just wildly let down by their leaders,” he said.

Beautifully said.

The ICAEW answers the question “Why audit?” with video evidence. Auditors interviewed include Tim Rush, an audit partner at KPMG, who said “It wasn’t that I wanted to be a partner at KPMG from day one.”

“Training as an auditor has always been seen as a good career route for accountants who can then go on to do any number of other things. An auditor’s skill set needs to be very broad, whereas many other areas in accountancy have a narrower focus without the same transferable skills.” So says freelance lecturer and writer John Selwood, interviewer for this series of videos.

Selwood is keen to emphasise the changing nature of a career in audit, with the use of technology providing more and better organised information for the auditors of the future to exercise their skills.

For this new series of videos, Selwood spoke to a range of people who have chosen to make audit their career, finding out why they went into it in the first place and, more importantly, what they have gained from it and how they see the future of audit.

AT talks inclusion. Less than half of respondents to a Accounting Today and Arizent Research survey think it’s important for their firm to evaluate its progress on DEI:

Inclusion in accounting: By the numbers,” Accounting Today November 26, 2023

On the topic of DEI, here’s a partner at Deloitte’s AI business in Australia on how AI might help:

Artificial Intelligence could help to address gender bias, rather than perpetuate it if it is well designed, according to Deloitte AI partner, Dr. Kellie Nuttall.

Nuttall told Mediaweek that contrary to criticisms that AI will perpetuate society’s gender bias, there is great potential for it to help overcome this.

“AI can be a force for good as organisations seek to address pervasive and persistent gender bias,” said Nuttall.

One of the greatest factors impacting the “stickiness” surrounding gender inequality, particularly in the workplace, are the consciously and unconsciously harbored biases that are geared towards women and other gender minorities.

“Poorly designed and governed AI will perpetuate these biases,” Nuttall warned. “However, AI that is well designed with ethical decisioning at its core can systematically mitigate and compensate for these social prejudices.”

The strategy and business design head, and leader of Deloitte Australia’s AI institute, described the tech as “an extension of an operations” and as such an business’ AI must be trained to uphold its ethical position, and that at a minimum, AI must adhere to human rights law against discrimination because of their sex, gender, sexual orientation or relationship status.


I trust that’s enough news for you. Comments are turned off on these news briefs by default, if you have something to say you can email me directly or tweet us. We also welcome letters to the editor on these or any other topics, we’re running one later on the ever-popular 150 hour rule debate. Submit your own letter to the editor if you want.

Have the happiest of Mondays, you.