University of Gdansk (POLAND)
About this paper:
Appears in: ICERI2019 Proceedings
Publication year: 2019
Pages: 7151-7159
ISBN: 978-84-09-14755-7
ISSN: 2340-1095
doi: 10.21125/iceri.2019.1699
Conference name: 12th annual International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation
Dates: 11-13 November, 2019
Location: Seville, Spain
Ethical issues, in general, have long been the subject of scientific research, just as the issues involving the perception of taxation and the tax systems in particular. Great importance is attributed to both tax avoidance, understood as engagement in all the legal means available in order to reduce one’s tax burden, and tax sheltering, mainly associated with an intentional and illegal offence against the tax rules that are in force on given territory. Other problems, such as tax optimisation, tax evasion or tax heaven, nowadays are also taken under consideration. What is moral and ethical in terms of taxation depends, to some extent, on both the legal framework and the culture. Although ‘nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes’ (attributed to Benjamin Franklin), in this paper we focus on the latter, the former being rather obvious. The aim of this study is to gain an insight into what students of accounting and finance, as well as those of management think about avoidance of taxes and on the ethics underlying it.

In order to achieve the aim set in the paper, we asked our students whether:
1. tax avoidance is ethical;
2. tax avoidance is ethical, if not forbidden (allowed) by law;
3. tax avoidance is ethical, if the taxes are too high;
4. tax avoidance is ethical, if the tax system is unjust or unfair;
5. tax avoidance is ethical, if everyone does so;
6. cheating in school is ethical.

The survey research was carried out among the students of accounting and finance specialisation and management specialisation at the Faculty of Management of the University of Gdansk. The number of the students surveyed totalled 346, i.e. 85.4% of the students under possible consideration (405 studying both specialisations). The total sample included 141 undergraduate students (40.8%) and 205 (59.2%) postgraduates. The entire survey was designed to address questions concerning ethical issues and consisted of 28 questions in total, 6 of which were closed questions (yes/no questions) on the taxation matters only.

The results obtained allowed formulation of the following conclusions:
• 21.7% of the students surveyed claim that tax avoidance is ethical;
• 56.1% of them state that tax avoidance is ethical, if not forbidden (allowed) by law;
• 17.6% of them admit that tax avoidance is ethical, if the taxes are too high,
• 23.4% of them claim that tax avoidance is ethical, if the tax system is unjust or unfair;
• 8.7% of them think that tax avoidance is ethical, if a believe exists that everyone does so;
• 2.0% of the students questioned declare that cheating in school is ethical, which, hopefully, can be attributed to a statistical error.

We may also conclude that the students of finance and accounting are more eager to exploit all the possibilities offered by the tax system in order to avoid paying taxes than the students of management, since there is a significant statistical difference between the answers obtained to question number 2, namely 63.6% and 45.0% respectively.

This research provides great value as an insight into what the students of finance, accounting, and management think about avoiding taxes. The results may provide suggestions for the persons responsible for the teaching curricula on how to design the educational processes in terms of general ethics and the ethics associated with the tax system in particular.

Future research should also be carried out among the students of other study majors at the Department.
Students, taxation, avoiding taxes, tax avoidance, ethics, University of Gdansk, Poland.