Effects of organizational ethical culture on the ethical decisions of tax practitioners in mainland China

William E. Shafer (Department of Accountancy, Lingnan University, Tuen Mun, New Territories, Hong Kong, China)
Richard S. Simmons (Department of Accountancy, Lingnan University, Tuen Mun, New Territories, Hong Kong, China and Department of Business Law and Taxation and TLPRI, Monash University, Melbourne, Australia)

Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal

ISSN: 0951-3574

Publication date: 21 June 2011

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to examine the impact of organizational ethical culture on the ethical decisions of tax practitioners in mainland China.

Design/methodology/approach

The study is based on a field survey of practicing public accountants.

Findings

As hypothesized, certain dimensions of ethical culture had highly significant effects on intentions to engage in aggressive tax minimization strategies. Cultures characterized by strong ethical norms and incentives for ethical behavior significantly reduced the reported likelihood of engaging in unethical behavior in a high moral intensity case. In a low moral intensity case, intentions to engage in questionable behavior were significantly higher when participants felt that top managers in their firm were unethical and rewarded unethical behavior. Relativism judgments (judgments of what is traditionally or culturally acceptable or acceptable to one's family) emerged as the strongest determinant of behavioral intentions across both cases. Participants also appeared highly sensitive to questions regarding what is traditionally or culturally acceptable in Chinese tax practice.

Originality/value

This is the first study of ethical decision making among tax practitioners in mainland China, and the findings add to a growing body of literature documenting the significant effects of organizational ethical context on public accountants' decision making processes. This has important implications for CPA firms, suggesting that proactive steps should be taken to promote supportive ethical contexts. The findings for the effects of relativism judgments raise concerns regarding the ethical decisions of Chinese tax practitioners, implying they are likely to engage in unethical behavior if they feel such behavior is common in their cultural environment.

Keywords

Citation

Shafer, W.E. and Simmons, R.S. (2011), "Effects of organizational ethical culture on the ethical decisions of tax practitioners in mainland China", Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, Vol. 24 No. 5, pp. 647-668. https://doi.org/10.1108/09513571111139139

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Publisher

:

Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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