Wednesday, August 5, 2015
Diane Ring (Boston College), Who Should Be Invited to the Tax Dinner? Another Perspective on the Role of Tax Professionals (Jotwell) reviewing Gillian Brock (Auckland) & Hamish Russell (Toronto), Abusive Tax Avoidance and Institutional Corruption: The Responsibilities of Tax Professionals):
Brock and Russell’s article [argues that] the functioning of the tax system depends, in part on our acknowledgement that certain behavior is important to its successful operation, even though that behavior may not have been formalized explicitly into the law. ... [I]t has been ... difficult to establish a shared vision of the moral responsibility for curbing abusive tax avoidance. But Brock and Russell seek to ignite this conversation through their fresh perspective. ...
Brock and Russell consider a number of well-known cases of abusive tax avoidance and evaluate the roles played by tax lawyers, accountants and financial advisors in shaping the law, designing the strategies, implementing the strategies, and in some cases, defending the strategies. Ultimately, Brock and Russell argue that those who have caused, have benefitted from, and have the capacity to fix the situation bear a special duty to undertake reform efforts. Brock and Russell are cognizant of the likely challenges to their framework (in particular critiques grounded in the traditionally recognized duties that lawyers owe clients). But their primary mission in this article is to provide an alternative framing of this entire debate – one that begins with notions of integrity and corruption in fiscal institutions, and concludes with a powerful claim that professionals who have contributed to abusive tax avoidance (and thus potential institutional corruption) bear a special duty to “engage in collective action to support necessary changes to practices or norms in their professions.” Brock and Russell’s fresh take on defining the ethical and moral duties of tax professionals provides a valuable contribution to the literature and one that I hope they continue to develop.