Jan Vleggeert and Jan van de Streek on ethics and tax law
If we want tax evasion to become a thing of the past then there has to be more balance in how tax advisers are educated, according to tax professors Jan Vleggeert and Jan van de Streek.
Appearing on the Dutch NPO Radio 1 programme Spraakmakers, Vleggeert and Van de Streek call for a better balance in the teaching of future tax professionals. 'Students who study tax law have to learn about and be able to apply the rules’, Vleggeert says. 'More and more rules are being introduced, and as a law professor you tend to want to explain all these rules to students. That takes lots of time, and everything is geared towards that. But there’s also an academic side to this: you have to be able to discuss with students what kind of rules we should have, and what a good tax law looks like. We do that, but in recent decades there has been less and less time available for this. We want to bring back the balance. More attention is needed for the social perspective: what should a good tax law look like?'
If you look at recent developments like the Pandora Papers, it seems like tax law is all about finding loopholes. How did that happen? 'Money always flows to the place with the least tax resistance, that’s a kind of natural law’, Jan van de Streek says. 'The legislature needs to make good laws and hold a public debate on them. But this debate should not just be open to the technical experts, but to everyone. Now there’s a lot of wheeling and dealing, and lobbying going on in the background which leads to gaps in the tax laws – that’s no surprise to me. In the classroom, we look at the effectiveness of laws. If legislation appears to be flawed, we should ask ourselves how it can be repaired or where the ethical boundary lies. Just because there are loopholes in legislation, doesn’t mean they are there to be taken advantage of.'