The Influence of Ethical Codes of Conduct on Professionalism in Tax Practice

  • Darius Fatemi
  • John HasseldineEmail author
  • Peggy Hite
Original Paper


Professional integrity is a fundamental principle of the International Ethics Standards Board for Accountants Code of Ethics (IESBA, in Code of ethics for professional accountants, IFAC, New York; IESBA, Code of ethics for professional accountants, IFAC, New York, 2016). This does not apply directly to members of a particular professional body, but rather member organizations from around the globe are required to adopt a code no less stringent than the principles in the IESBA Code. Hence, all professional accountants are required to possess integrity as a core ethical principle. In the USA, certified public accountants must, in addition, also adhere to the principle of client advocacy in relation to their tax clients. Despite extensive prior literature on accounting ethics, firm culture, and ethical codes, no prior research has tested whether the communication of an Integrity ethical standard actually affects practitioners’ actual judgments and decisions. In this study, we use brief interventions to determine whether a prime of two ethical professional standards (Integrity; Advocacy) affects tax practitioners’ recommendations to their clients. One implication for professionalism in tax practice is our finding that a brief intervention of professional standards can directly impact on practitioners’ judgments. Most notably, a joint presentation of Advocacy and Integrity leads to contrasting results that depend on the order of the intervention. In sum, when the Integrity (Advocacy) standard was presented before the Advocacy (Integrity) standard, tax practitioners were significantly less (more) likely to choose a tax-favorable outcome. That is, the order of professional ethical standard intervention significantly affects tax practitioners’ judgments.


AICPA Client advocacy Code of ethics IESBA Integrity Professional ethics Tax practitioners 



This paper has benefitted from the detailed and helpful comments of the associate editor (Muel Kaptein) and three anonymous reviewers. We thank our participants and gratefully acknowledge funding from the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA).


This study was funded by the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (grant number 14ND27).

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

Author Fatemi declares that he has no conflict of interest. Author Hasseldine declares that he has no conflict of interest. Author Hite declares that she has no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

10551_2018_4081_MOESM1_ESM.doc (66 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOC 65 KB)


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Haile/US Bank College of BusinessNorthern Kentucky UniversityHighland HeightsUSA
  2. 2.Paul College of Business and EconomicsUniversity of New HampshireDurhamUSA
  3. 3.Kelley School of BusinessIndiana UniversityBloomingtonUSA

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