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Highlights

Recent legislative and regulatory changes have addressed the relationship between auditor-provided tax services and auditor independence. At this time, the federal regulatory community is exploring further changes. To contribute to the discussion surrounding these changes, GAO's objectives were to determine (1) according to Internal Revenue Service (IRS) data, how many Fortune 500 companies obtained tax shelter services from their auditor; (2) according to IRS data, in how many Fortune 500 companies did the auditor provide the services to individual company officers or directors; and (3) whether selected Fortune 500 case study companies changed how they obtain tax services from their auditor in recent years. For the first two objectives, GAO used IRS and Standard and Poor's data after finding they were sufficiently reliable for our work. GAO counted a company, officer, or director as obtaining a tax shelter service from the company's external auditor when an auditor that IRS identified as promoting a tax shelter also audited the company in at least one year that the shelter was in effect. For the third objective, independent of any IRS information, GAO selected case studies on the basis of geographic location and previous GAO contact. The companies are illustrative in nature and not intended to be representative of other companies.

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