Ethics in tax practice: a study of the effect of practitioner firm size

Doyle, Elaine; Frecknall Hughes, Jane and Summers, Barbara (2014). Ethics in tax practice: a study of the effect of practitioner firm size. Journal of Business Ethics, 122(4) pp. 623–641.



While much of the empirical accounting literature suggests that, if differences do exist, Big Four employees are more ethical than non-Big Four employees, this trend has not been evident in the recent media coverage of Big Four tax practitioners acting for multinationals accused of aggressive tax avoidance behaviour. However, there has been little exploration in the literature to date specifically of the relationship between firm size and ethics in tax practice. We aim here to address this gap, initially exploring tax practitioners’ perceptions of the impact of firm size on ethics in tax practice using interview data in order to identify the salient issues involved. We then proceed to assess quantitatively whether employer firm size has an impact on the ethical reasoning of tax practitioners, using a tax context-specific adaptation of a well-known and validated psychometric instrument, the Defining Issues Test.

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