The Big Four and Corporate Tax Avoidance. The Role of Tax Avoidance Merchants in Fixing the System

Watch the recording of the debate

Presentation Picciotto
Presentation Shah

Tuesday 29 October 2019 , from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.
University of Antwerp - City Campus  
Rodestraat 14 - R.002 - 2000 Antwerpen (how to reach the city campus?)

The Global Financial Crisis drew attention to the spread of illicit financial flows within our economy and the adverse role of these illegitimate financial practices on development. One clear example of these, at times legal but mostly unethical, financial flows are the structures set up by transnational enterprises (TNCs) to avoid corporate taxation. In fact, TNCs and their tax advisors successfully avoid taxation by using the complexity and the loopholes within the international regime of taxation to their own advantage. However, as Prof. Sol Picciotto will highlight in this debate, the complexity and inadequacy of these rules is not accidental and TNCs, with the help of their tax advisors, historically shaped these rules in their favor. Thus, the tax advisory industry plays a contested role in global tax avoidance, and Prof. Atul Shah will shed light on how the Big Four accountancy firms effectively reduced the costs of tax avoidance for TNCs. Thereby, this debate puts the recent tax avoidance scandals within a more global problem of corporate governance.

Prof. Sol Picciotto (keynote speaker) is an emeritus professor at Lancaster University and researches taxation of transnational corporations with special reference to developing countries. Originally, Prof. Picciotto is professor of Law but throughout his career he continuously connected the legal study of the regulation of the global firm with economic, social and political discussions on transnational enterprises. This way, his research focuses on corporate tax avoidance and the role of complexity within the regime, the historical development of the international tax regime and the inadequacy of the tax regime for development countries. Further, as an editor and a founder of interdisciplinary journals such as the International Journal of the Sociology of Law and Social and Legal Studies he opened up the debate on international tax law. Finally, he actively communicates his research to a wider audience and to policy-makers, and is a senior advisor for the Tax Justice Network, coordinator of the BEPS Monitoring Group and Chair of the Advisory Group of the International Centre for Tax and Development.

Prof. Atul K. Shah (discussant) is a qualified Chartered Accountant and a visiting professor at the department of Accounting and Finance at the City University London. Prof. Shah obtained a PhD from London School of Economics where he researched professional enablers of creative accounting in the 1990’s, and is passionate about the incorporation of ethics, culture and diversity in Accounting Education.His research focuses among others on the role of ethics within accounting and finance education, the internal governance of the financial industry and the transformation of the role of the accountants.

He is a member of the Advisory Board of Tax Justice Network and his work has been profiled in Forbes, Guardian, Financial Times, Economia and on BBC Radio.
Professor Shah has taught at the London School of Economics; University of Bristol; University of Maryland; University of Essex; University of Suffolk; and Middlesex University.

The debate will be moderated by Cassandra Vet, teaching assistant at the Institute for Development Policy (IOB) at the University of Antwerp, whose PhD research is on everyday governance of tax avoidance in Sub-Saharan Africa from an International Political Economy Perspective. She holds a Master of Political Science and an advanced Master of Globalisation and Development.