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The Dark Side of Professions: The Big Four and Tax Avoidance

Addison, S.; Mueller, F.

The Dark Side of Professions: The Big Four and Tax Avoidance Thumbnail


S. Addison


Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to discuss the rhetorical framings that can be discerned by applying discourse analysis to a publicly available transcript of a Public Accounts Committee (PAC) inquiry in the UK. Design/methodology/approach: In particular, the authors examine the discursive tactics used during the 2013 investigation by the House of Commons PAC, “Tax Avoidance: The Role of Large Accountancy Firms”. Findings: Two opposing rhetorical framings of “tax avoidance” are analysed which the authors see developing incrementally and directly opposing each other. Metaphors are used by the PAC to exemplify the dark side of professions, including potentially transgressing the boundaries of what constitutes “tax avoidance”. This is counteracted by the Big Four portraying an alternative market-oriented/neo-liberal view of professions pursuing a societal good through dedication to promoting market competition. Originality/value: Whilst one rhetorical framing is predicated on being able to draw a clear distinction between tax evasion and tax avoidance, the alternative rhetorical framing contests this distinction and contributes to an existing cultural account that paints the dark side of some of the professions. Extending the work of Creed et al. (2002) and Alexander (2011), the authors demonstrate the bridging between micro-level discursive acts and broader cultural accounts, at the macro level. As such the authors discuss the pertinence of this multi-level discursive contest, within post-inquiry sensemaking, for understanding the “dark side” of professions.


Addison, S., & Mueller, F. (2015). The Dark Side of Professions: The Big Four and Tax Avoidance. Accounting, Auditing and Accountability Journal, 28(8), 1263-1290.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date May 29, 2015
Online Publication Date Oct 19, 2015
Publication Date 2015
Deposit Date Jun 23, 2020
Publicly Available Date Jun 23, 2020
Journal Accounting Auditing and Accountability
Print ISSN 0951-3574
Publisher Emerald
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 28
Issue 8
Pages 1263-1290
Public URL


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Copyright Statement
This article is made available under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial International Licence 4.0 (CC BY-NC 4.0) and any reuse must be in accordance with the terms outlined by the licence.

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