In recent years, criticism of “double hats” in science and business has increased. Commercial assistance situations will affect independence, and as a result sensitive topics will not be adequately investigated.
Of the 61 tax professors who have an appointment at a Dutch university, eighteen are affiliated with four major accounting firms: PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), Deloitte, EY, KPMG Meijburg & Co. These companies are considered important architects of tax evasion methods by multinational corporations. Debate about this flared up again recently with the publication of the Pandora Papers. They revealed that widespread tax evasion still occurs around the world.
In addition, 22 professors work for law firms or other firms that provide tax advice. More than 65 percent of tax law and financial economics professors work together on a business (secondary) job. At least two professors occupy a chair paid by another employer: PwC and Aegon Advis. The University of Amsterdam has the most dual functions. Ten of the twelve professors hold a position at a tax consulting firm. At Erasmus University there are eight out of ten.
In addition to part-time jobs in the business world, five professors also work for institutions such as the tax authorities, the Amsterdam municipality, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the Central Planning Office. Sixteen professors hold an adjunct position in the judiciary, as a deputy judge or deputy judge, twelve of whom are also associated with business tax consulting. Three full-time professors work in the judiciary in addition to their university assignments.
The Big Four
Five years ago I did de Volkskrant Also research the auxiliary activities for tax professors. At the time, nearly three-quarters of them were still working in a trading office. More than a third of the tax professors at that time were associated with the “Big Four”.
In recent years, the political view of dual business functions has changed. In response to parliamentary questions, the then Secretary of State, Eric Webbs, said five years ago: “From the point of view of the circulation of knowledge, it is desirable for professors to have additional positions in law firms or accounting firms.” He acknowledged that the “risk of conflict of interest” could not be completely ruled out.
His successor, Hans Felpreefe, announced at the end of last year that tax professionals who serve as tax professors and advisors were no longer welcome on government advisory committees on tax evasion and other tax issues. The Minister of State indicated that he saw a “mixing of some professions” with some surprises. From now on, he wants to form committees with people “not of color with their backgrounds”. Villebrew described the direct interest as “undesirable”. Although he later said he didn’t want to rule out professors with a double job forever: “Then you cut off all that experience for the sake of the future.”
A few days ago, on November 3, 2020, Jan Flegert, professor of tax law in Leiden, gave the discussion a good shake. “Are tax scholars working at the same time in a commercial office still independent?” , asked the professor without additional positions during his opening lecture. His conclusion: no.
Certain topics are seldom discussed in the academic world, “Perhaps because from a business perspective it is more appropriate to leave them alone,” Flegert told his audience. Vleggeert sees the mixture of different caps as a problem. “One cap, his university hat, would be more than enough for a future tax professor.”
In June, Steve van Weigel (University of Amsterdam and PricewaterhouseCoopers), one of the “dual researchers” in Amsterdam, responded forcefully during a debate by the Association for Tax Science. The statement concluded that Vleggeert’s inaugural lecture contained no evidence that research and education structurally serve the interests of a particular audience. Financial Times from his mouth. There are no indications of a reliance on double hats, according to Van Weigel.
“Travel enthusiast. Alcohol lover. Friendly entrepreneur. Coffeeaholic. Award-winning writer.”