GreenLeft party calls for study on dual role of tax scholars
Too often, tax scholars have a dual role: advising the government on legislation, while at the same time helping companies to pay as little tax as possible. This needs to change according to Bart Snels, a member of parliament for Dutch GreenLeft party.
Snels has presented a study entitled 'Wetenschappers in dienst van de Zuidas' (scholars in the service of the Zuidas financial district), in which he found that 72 per cent of professors of tax law and business law also conduct ancillary activities in the legal profession. In their role as scholars, they can influence political decision-making since they are often members of ministerial advisory committees. Snels claims that these committees are used by consultancy firms, to which the professors also have ties, to advise on legislation that would be to their benefit.
In autumn 2020, Professor of Tax Law Jan Vleggeert’s inaugural lecture dealt with this type of conflict of interest. On Dutch current affairs television programme EenVandaag, he says he did have doubts about this theme for his lecture. And it turned out that there was good reason for these doubts since many of his colleagues did not thank him for it. 'But to me this is as a real issue that needs to be raised. If we continue along this path, our scholarly expertise might not be taken seriously later.'
Vleggeert believes that the independence of tax scholars is under pressure. 'As an adviser, you serve the interests of your customer. If you then have to consider tax issues in an independent way at the university, it will be difficult not to take the interests of the customer into account.'