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July 2, 2006

Managing without ethics

Filed under: Tax avoidance, Tax management — Richard Murphy @ 12:20 pm

Why do we have a crisis in tax?

Simon Caulkin gives some guidance in his article for the Observer.

His explanation:

In effect, all professions have come to be judged not in their own terms but on the criteria and rules of another: management. The irony is that the chosen uberprofession has fewer claims to professionalism than almost any other. There is no accepted body of management knowledge, as there is in, say, medicine, and in practice its accounting calculus is deeply fallible: see Enron or any number of other corporate scandals. On a conservative estimate, any corporate profits statement could vary 10 per cent either way and still remain within the increasingly lengthy guidelines. Not only do managers not take anything resembling a Hippocratic oath, in the authorised version of management ‘professed’ in the UK and US – shareholder value – they are actually prohibited from taking ethical concerns into account.

That’s why we have a crisis in tax management; it’s a simple absence of ethics. And it’s noticable that accountants aren’t amongst those Caulkin says are suffering the morale malaise. Is that because they are used to operating without ethics? I wonder.


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