Ethics of Tax Interpretation

  • Daniel T. OstasEmail author
Original Paper


This article joins a somewhat nascent, but growing, body of scholarship addressing the ethical obligation to pay tax. The analysis is grounded to the ethical duty to obey law generally and highlights two competing orientations to statutory interpretation. The norms of self-interested advocacy suggest that tax planners should assert that interpretation that will generate the most wealth for the client. The norms of professional advising, by contrast, direct the tax planner to interpret tax law with reference to plain meaning, interpretive maxims, court precedents, and legislative purpose. When the two orientations differ, the ethical duty to obey law requires the tax planner to recommend, and for the taxpayer to follow, the latter view. Case studies drawn from a Louisiana sales tax avoidance scheme and from Google’s profit-shifting activities illustrate the ethical issues incumbent in tax interpretation.


Tax avoidance Tax advising Legal interpretation 


Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The author declares that he/she has no conflict of interest.

Human and Animal Rights

The author declares that this article does not contain any studies with human participants or animals performed by any of the authors.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Michael F. Price College of BusinessUniversity of OklahomaNormanUSA

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