BDO LLP - Our principles when providing tax services

BDO LLP - Our principles when providing tax services

The tax system is a complex network of institutions and rules governing personal rights and social duties. We believe that the role of the tax adviser is a vital one in helping to ensure that it operates as intended and our approach to this is one based on trust and doing the right thing. 

Our objectives and responsibilities

As one of the leading firms of tax advisers, we recognise that we have responsibilities to: 
  • Help our clients succeed by providing high quality service and advice.
  • Support our people in respect of their wellbeing, developing their skills and enabling fulfilling and challenging careers. 
  • Serve the wider public interest by maintaining the operation of a fair and transparent tax system.
The practical cornerstone of our work is that we enable our clients to pay the correct amount of tax. 

Whilst this sounds simple, the tax system is notoriously complex (especially, for example, for a growing business or an individual with activities overseas). Whether it is meeting compliance obligations for a prior year or understanding the tax consequences of pursuing their commercial or domestic objectives, clients need access to reliable and responsible advice to meet their own duties in relation to tax.

Working in this way means that responsible tax advisers facilitate the correct tax being collected to fund essential public goods and services, support fairness between taxpayers, and enable governments to implement effectively policies aimed at shaping and growing the economy. 

As experts, and working with professional bodies, we provide constructive feedback and input to the Government and HMRC on whether legislation is meeting its desired objectives and the effectiveness or otherwise of guidance and operational procedures. Normally, there will be a high degree of common interest, but where we believe that rules are not operating fairly, or have unintended consequences, or where short term or narrow interests are being prioritised ahead of wider and longer-term benefits for our clients, communities and the economy, we will challenge this in a constructive way.

Our relationship with our clients

We help our clients ‎to understand and interpret tax law and regulation so that they can manage their tax affairs in the context of their personal and business activities. This enables them to meet their compliance obligations so that they pay the correct amount of tax in the right place and at the right time. We do this by seeking to understanding our clients’ needs and building trusted relationships so we can deliver high quality work that
meets those needs.

We shall only act for clients who share our high standards of ethics and integrity and who expect tax professionals to work with them in this way. Whilst it is for clients to decide on the ethical repercussions of their choices, we will not assist with tax planning that could reasonably be considered to bring the profession, the firm, individual partners or members of staff into disrepute, or which relies for its success on anything less than full disclosure to HMRC.

We will always ensure that the scope of our services and our charging structures and the specific fees that we charge are set out and explained in clear terms of engagement.

What standards to expect from us

Tax advisers can only build trust in the tax system if we behave in a responsible way. 

We always seek to ensure that our advice to clients follows the guidance of our governing professional bodies – in particular the ICAEW and CIOT’s joint guidance entitled 'Professional Conduct in Relation to Taxation' (PCRT). The PCRT sets a standard of professional behaviour that is endorsed by HMRC in its own Standard for Agents.

Our tax professionals across the UK adhere to common principles when providing tax services to our clients. In all the work we do (without exception) we are committed to acting professionally, with integrity, in accordance with our values, and with an overriding commitment to quality, independence and ethics.

In particular, our tax work is undertaken in accordance with the following principles:

1. We shall be objective in the advice and opinions we give to our clients. We shall not allow bias, conflict of interest, or inappropriate influence of others to override our professional judgments and responsibilities.  

2. All advice shall be supported by an appropriate basis in tax law and, where differing interpretations can reasonably be taken, we will explain the implications to our clients clearly and objectively.

3. We shall provide advice to clients that is tailored to their specific facts and circumstances and communicated clearly in a way that meets their particular needs. We shall not promote aggressive tax avoidance schemes, nor will we advise on highly contrived or highly artificial tax planning arrangements. We fully and actively support the efforts of HMRC, professional bodies and other stakeholders to eliminate such activities.
4. We shall maintain a straightforward and honest relationship with HMRC, providing full disclosure in tax returns, and related correspondence, and not permitting the misrepresentation or obfuscation of any relevant facts. 

5. We shall encourage our clients to consider the wider risks associated with their tax affairs, including the reputational risks arising from the way others might view a particular course of action. 

6. As well as upholding these standards, we expect all our staff to be able to work professionally with clients at all times and will not tolerate inappropriate behaviour towards to them (such as behaviour that is intimidatory or appears to exert inappropriate pressure) which undermines the basis of this working relationship and risks compromising our objectivity in providing advice.  

We expect all of our tax partners and staff to apply these principles in the way they work. We seek to ensure that our work is carried out in accordance with the firm’s procedures, which meet relevant professional, legal and regulatory requirements. Our culture is an open and supportive one which encourages partners and staff to consult whenever they are in doubt or to ‘speak up’ to raise any concerns if something does not feel right.