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KPMG To Be Key Witness At Senate Tax Shelters Hearing

by Mike Godfrey, for, New York

18 November 2003

In advance of Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs hearings this week into the US tax shelter industry, KPMG LLP issued a statement saying it has made a number of changes to its tax practice.

In two days of hearings on Tuesday and Thursday the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations will examine the role of professional organizations like accounting firms, law firms, and financial institutions in developing, marketing and implementing tax shelters. The Subcommittee will hear from tax experts, as well as representatives from accounting firms, law firms, financial institutions, and a panel of government regulators.

Five KPMG officials are scheduled to give testimony on Tuesday, including Philip Weisner, Partner in Charge , Washington National Tax, Client Services, and
Lawrence DeLap , Retired National Partner in Charge , Dept. of Professional Practice - Tax.

KPMG said it has made changes in its tax practices, policies and procedures over the past three years "to respond to the evolving nature of both the tax laws and regulations, and the needs of our clients." KPMG says it has discontinued the sale of various tax strategies, introduced more rigorous oversight procedures, shut down two groups dedicated to selling strategies to corporations and individuals, and discontinued training focused on marketing. The firm said it also has implemented an ethics hotline to encourage employees to raise any potential concerns about improper conduct within the firm.

Last year the Internal Revenue Service took legal action to force KPMG and other tax practices to turn over documents relating to tax shelters, but the firm has been allowed by the courts to withhold a nmber of documents it says are privileged.

"KPMG takes seriously our responsibility to restore confidence and trust in the accounting profession," said KPMG. "We want to work with Congress, as well as the IRS and other policymakers, as they consider sound and responsible approaches to better define what tax strategies are allowable under the law."

The leading Senator behind the hearings, the committee’s ranking Democrat, Carl Levin announced that: “We are determined to do everything we can to expose, condemn, and stop the unethical and illegal conduct involved in the peddling of abusive tax shelters.”

Levin has been a particularly outspoken critic of the recent activities of certain corporations caught up in financial and accounting scandals, most notably Enron. In a speech to the Citizens Crime Commission in New York last week, Levin told the audience “the fact is that the mass marketing of abusive tax shelters by respected accounting firms, law firms, banks, and investment advisers who are hawking these so-called "tax products" to thousands of people like late-night, cut-rate T.V. bargains, is surely scandalous, just as Enron was scandalous.”

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