Journal of Business Ethics

, Volume 114, Issue 2, pp 325–339 | Cite as

An Empirical Analysis of the Ethical Reasoning of Tax Practitioners

  • Elaine DoyleEmail author
  • Jane Frecknall Hughes
  • Barbara Summers


How tax practitioners approach ethical dilemmas remains generally unexplored in academic literature. We use here Rest’s original Defining Issues Test (Development in judging moral issues. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1979; Moral development. Advances in research and theory. New York: Praeger Publishers, 1986), combined with a tax context-specific test and in conjunction with a control group of non-tax specialists, to examine tax practitioners’ moral reasoning in a social and tax context. We investigate: (i) the effect of a tax context on issues raised (finding that practitioners generally reason at lower levels than in social scenarios); (ii) whether the profession attracts people who reason at certain levels (finding that it does not); and (iii) whether practitioners are affected by training/socialization in their professional context (finding that that they are).


DIT Moral reasoning Revenue practitioner Tax practice Tax practitioner 



The authors gratefully acknowledge the helpful comments from anonymous reviewers and delegates on earlier versions of the article at the following conferences: the American Accounting Association Ethics Symposium, 2010, San Francisco; the American Accounting Association Northeast Region Meeting, 2009, Cambridge, Massachusetts; the Society for Judgement & Decision Making Annual Meeting, 2009, Boston, Massachusetts; the IRS Research Conference 2009, Washington DC; and the Tax Research Network Conference, 2009, Cardiff, Wales.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Elaine Doyle
    • 1
    Email author
  • Jane Frecknall Hughes
    • 2
  • Barbara Summers
    • 3
  1. 1.Kemmy Business SchoolUniversity of LimerickLimerickIreland
  2. 2.The Open University Business SchoolMilton KeynesUK
  3. 3.Leeds University Business SchoolUniversity of LeedsLeedsUK

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