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Increasing public concern over the ethical behaviour of accounting professionals, including those involved in providing tax services, has focused attention on the effectiveness of educational responses to the problem. Accordingly, this study investigates whether a tax ethics intervention imbedded in an undergraduate taxation course influences the attitudes towards tax avoidance and evasion of accounting major business students at a university in Hong Kong. The research also considers whether the intervention changes students' attitudes towards the importance of corporate ethics and social responsibility (CESR).

The study adopts a survey approach incorporating a pre-test/post-test data collection methodology. The surveys include case studies and an established ethics scale to which students respond. A matched-response sample of approximately 40 students was gathered during classes in an advanced taxation course in 2009 and 2010.

The results show that after the intervention the students judged both tax avoidance and tax evasion as less ethical and socially responsible. Following the intervention the students also attached more importance to CESR, but this change was not statistically significant.

The study therefore provides empirical evidence that a focused ethics intervention can encourage a more ethical and socially responsible viewpoint amongst students in a specific context. However, no conclusions can be drawn from the findings on the impact of such interventions on students' broader ethical attitudes.

The results of this research add to the debate on whether space should be found for ethics instruction in taxation courses and courses in other functional areas of business, and also on the effectiveness of the "pervasive method" of ethics education in enhancing students' ethics.


HKIBS Working Paper Series 067-1011

Recommended Citation

Simmons, R. S.. (2010). Effects of a taxation ethics intervention on Hong Kong undergraduates' attitude towards tax avoidance and evasion (HKIBS Working Paper Series 067-1011). Retrieved from Lingnan University website: