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Ethics in tax practice: A study of the effect of practitioner firm size

Doyle, Elaine; Frecknall-Hughes, Jane; Summers, Barbara


Elaine Doyle

Jane Frecknall-Hughes

Barbara Summers


While much of the empirical accounting literature suggests that, if differences do exist, Big Four employees are more ethical than non-Big Four employees, this trend has not been evident in the recent media coverage of Big Four tax practitioners acting for multinationals accused of aggressive tax avoidance behaviour. However, there has been little exploration in the literature to date specifically of the relationship between firm size and ethics in tax practice. We aim here to address this gap, initially exploring tax practitioners’ perceptions of the impact of firm size on ethics in tax practice using interview data in order to identify the salient issues involved. We then proceed to assess quantitatively whether employer firm size has an impact on the ethical reasoning of tax practitioners, using a tax context-specific adaptation of a well-known and validated psychometric instrument, the Defining Issues Test.


Doyle, E., Frecknall-Hughes, J., & Summers, B. (2014). Ethics in tax practice: A study of the effect of practitioner firm size. Journal of Business Ethics, 122(4), 623-641.

Acceptance Date Jun 14, 2013
Online Publication Date Jun 22, 2013
Publication Date Jul 1, 2014
Deposit Date Feb 9, 2016
Publicly Available Date Feb 9, 2016
Journal Journal of business ethics
Print ISSN 0167-4544
Electronic ISSN 1573-0697
Publisher Springer Publishing Company
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 122
Issue 4
Pages 623-641
Keywords Ethics; Firm size; Moral reasoning; Tax practice; Tax practitioners
Public URL
Publisher URL
Additional Information Author's accepted manuscript of article published in: Journal of business ethics, 2014, v.122, issue 4. The final publication is available at Springer via


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