SYNOPSIS

U.S. corporations have the ability to avoid paying domestic taxes to achieve an effective tax rate that is much lower than the statutory federal tax rate. This study evaluates the extent that individuals differ in their attitudes about the ethicality of corporations avoiding domestic taxes to achieve low effective tax rates. We also examine the extent to which the specific tax avoidance method used by corporations to access a low effective tax rate affects perceived ethicality. Eighty-two members of the general public and 112 accountants participated in an experiment with two participant groups and three tax avoidance methods manipulated randomly between subjects. The results indicate a significant interaction between participant group and tax avoidance method, with the general public considering shifting profits out of the country to achieve a low effective tax rate to be highly unethical, while the accountants find tax avoidance from carrying forward prior operating losses to be highly ethical. Further, mediation analysis indicates that perceived fairness and legality mediate the effects of participant type on perceived ethicality. Mediation analysis also reveals that sense of fairness and legality mediate the link between tax avoidance method and perceived ethicality. We conclude by considering the study's policy, practice, and research implications.

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