Researchers at the Kemmy Business School, University of Limerick are playing key roles in a major new project investigating tax and evasion in the European Union.
The Horizon 2020 COFFERS project (Combating Fiscal Fraud and Empowering Regulators) is one of the world’s largest research projects on tax and inequality and aims to discover how much tax revenue is being lost through avoidance and evasion. The €5 million project will involve researchers in Ireland, UK, Netherlands, Germany, Denmark, Turkey and the Czech Republic.
The team at the Kemmy Business School are focusing on the role of expert professional networks, tax advisors, wealth managers and the factors which can lead them to take ethical or aggressive approaches to their tax work. This builds on a considerable body of already published work by UL team members Professor Sheila Killian and Dr Philip O’Regan.
Professor Sheila Killian of UL Kemmy Business School explains: “Tax avoidance is a huge problem for the European Union, and creates inequality on many levels. Most obviously, when governments lose out on the revenue they should get from avoiders, they are less able to address issues like homelessness, educational advantage, and other basic elements of equality.
“Since tax avoidance is easier for multinational firms than it is for domestic companies, this creates inequality within industries, where start-ups and local firms struggle to compete with larger multinational firms which have more options to manage their tax. Tax rules and behaviours in Europe can have a devastating spill-over impact on developing countries, who annually lose badly-needed tax revenue due to the complex tax arrangements of Europe-based firms.”
“Researchers have in the past sought to address this problem in various single jurisdictions, but rarely in a large-scale internationally coordinated work plan. Previous research has focused on policy, or corporate behaviour, or spill-over effects, but rarely have all of these issues been tackled in a single harmonised project. The COFFERS Horizon 2020 funding gives us an unprecedented opportunity to address this in a really holistic way.”
Prof Killian added: “In this research we want to better understand the work of professionals, and how the public interest mandate of the professions translates to tax work, especially when it comes to the blurred line between avoidance and evasion. We are interested in what drives that behaviour, and how it varies in different cultures and situations. This issue is also of great interest to accounting and law firms, and many of the largest accounting firms have offered their support to our work. Together with the other partners in our work, we aim to offer comprehensive policy options to address this problem. ”
COFFERS – Combating Fiscal Fraud and Empowering Regulators is a EU Horizon 2020 Project involving Utrecht University, Copenhagen Business School, City University London, Tax Justice Network, University of Limerick, University of Bamberg, Charles University, University of Leicester, Istanbul Kemerburgaz Universitesi, Warwick Business School.