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THE CORPORATE CRIME OBSERVATORY DISCUSSES TAX ABUSES AT LAW AND SOCIETY'S MEETING IN PUERTO RICO


Costantino Grasso presents on tax abuses and professional enablers at the Law and Society Meeting in Puerto Rico 2023
Dr. Costantino Grasso's presentation at the Law and Society Conference in Puerto Rico

Our Editor-in-Chief and Co-Founder, Dr. Costantino Grasso, who serves as an Associate Professor in Law at Manchester Law School, has recently participated in the Annual Meeting of the Law and Society Association in Puerto Rico. During the conference, he offered a presentation within the Tax Advocacy & Tax Justice paper session entitled "Going over to the dark side: Exploring the controversial aspects of tax professionals’ practice."


The presentation provided insights into the collaborative research efforts of Prof. Diane Ring, Dr. Costantino Grasso, and Dr. Donato Vozza, who are currently working together to explore the controversial role that tax professionals play as enablers or facilitators of tax abuses. This joint research project, which is carried out in preparation of a monographic volume to be published by Routledge International, represents a continuation of the study conducted during the EU-funded research project VIRTEU and builds upon the initial reflections included earlier this year in the Special Issue titled "Tax Evasion, Corruption, and the Distortion of Justice" published in the Law and Contemporary Problems journal.


The presentation focused on the role of professionals, such as tax advisors, academics, and legal experts, in facilitating abusive practices in taxation. It highlighted how several scandals, including the Pandora Papers, FinCEN Files, Paradise Papers, Panama Papers, SwissLeaks, and LuxLeaks, have exposed the involvement of professionals in enabling tax evasion and other unethical behaviors.


The presentation delved into the inherent conflict of interests and corruption risks that arise due to the intermediary role played by professionals between taxpayers and authorities. It explored both active and passive forms of unethical behavior exhibited by tax professionals, such as deliberately turning a blind eye or adopting a laissez-faire approach towards abusive tax practices.

This statistics demonstrate that both accountants and lawyers as the most relevant categories of professionals that frequently serve as enablers or facilitators of tax crimes and that they are only rarely sanctioned for such a role.
Statistics on Professionals as Enablers of Tax Crime from the VIRTEU Expert Survey Report (www.corporatecrime.co.uk/virteu-expert-survey)

Additionally, the presentation examined conflicts of interest that exist when high-level experts or senior academics advise governments and at the same time serve as consultants for big law or accountancy firms. It also highlighted situations where the judiciary relies on tax scholars' expertise despite their secondary positions in the tax advising industry, which can incentivize them to propose legal arguments in their scholarly work that benefit their private clients.

The academic world is a problematic area due to the presence of potential conflicts of interest. It is common for tax law professors to work for big accountancy firms. This is an issue in that the advice that lawmakers receive from them may be biased rather than neutral and objective.
Excerpt from the VIRTEU National Workshop - The Netherlands, Session 2, Video recording at 20:50 (www.youtube.com/watch?v=jZ28h2R7u6U&t=1250s)

Furthermore, the presentation investigated how professionals exert political influence and other forms of pressure to shape and weaken regulatory and organizational environments. This can lead to the implementation of self-regulatory regimes instead of mandatory ones, the introduction of unnecessary complexity in regulation, the creation of obstacles to or limitations on the criminalization of tax abusive practices, and the adoption of legal instruments favoring tax evaders, such as tax amnesties and negotiated resolutions. It also mentioned the role of lobbying against the introduction of effective transparency regimes.


Overall, the presentation highlighted the need to address the ethical challenges posed by professionals in the field of taxation and suggested the importance of implementing stricter regulations, enhancing transparency, and promoting integrity to combat tax abuse effectively.


For additional insights into the matter see our synopsis of the article “Beyond Bribery: Exploring the Intimate Interconnections between Corruption and Tax Crimes” by Diane Ring and Costantino Grasso available at: www.corporatecrime.co.uk/post/beyond-bribery-overview.


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