The Ethics of Tax Evasion: A Survey of International Business Academics
Robert W. McGee
Journal of Accounting, Ethics & Public Policy
February 12, 2006
In 1944, Martin Crowe, a Catholic priest, wrote a doctoral dissertation titled The Moral Obligation of Paying Just Taxes. His dissertation summarized and analyzed 500 years of theological and philosophical debate on this topic, much of which took place in Latin. Since Crowe's dissertation, not much has been written on the topic of tax evasion from an ethical perspective, with a few exceptions. In 1998 and 1999, a few articles were published on the ethics of tax evasion in the Journal of Accounting, Ethics & Public Policy. An edited book on this topic was published in 1998.
The present paper summarizes, updates and expands on Crowe's work. Recent literature is reviewed and the issues discussed in the last 500 years of theological and philosophical debate are incorporated into an 18-statement survey, which was distributed to members of the Academy of International Business (AIB), the International Management Development Association (IMDA) and the International Academy of Business Disciplines (IABD). These three groups were chosen to be the sample population because members of these groups are knowledgeable about international business practices and they come from a wide variety of backgrounds. They are more cosmopolitan in outlook than the average U.S. business school professor. A large percentage of the membership of these groups have lived in more than one country and many of them were born in a country other than the United States, which reduces the U.S. bias that would result if the sample population consisted of a random sample of American business school professors. A fair percentage of the membership of these organizations presently lives outside the United States.
Three basic views on the ethics of tax evasion have emerged over the centuries. The statements in the survey instrument incorporate all three views, which give respondents an opportunity to express their opinion regardless of which of the three positions they come closest to. Most statements begin with the phrase Tax evasion is not unethical if . . . , which allows the respondents to either agree or disagree with the statement. Each question is graded on a 7-point Likert scale. The responses to each question were tallied and ranked to determine under which circumstances tax evasion might be considered most or least ethical.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 45
Keywords: tax evasion, ethics, Academy of International Business, AIB, International Management Development Association, IMDA, IABD, International Academy of Business Disciplines
JEL Classification: H26, E62, D63, M14, M40
Date posted: September 26, 2005
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