I have no ethical problem with my actions as a chartered accountant

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Someone who reveals themselves to be both American and at the same time from the seriously far right of the political spectrum (from other comments made) mailed me this weekend asking:

As a chartered accountant do you feel that it is appropriate that you are calling for a social unrest program?

What a very odd question was my first response. After all, as far as I know I’m not promoting a program of social unrest. I am without a shadow of doubt opposed to the policies promoted by the government and I absolutely and always will uphold the right of any person to protest peacefully about such sentiments – this being a fundamental human right in according to the UN Charter. I will never condone violence but peaceful non-violent demonstration is as fundamental to the strength of our democracy as free elections.So the first response that this question was bizarre if posed by a democrat was justified.

My second reaction was – who is creating the social unrest here? I would have thought that a government deliberately putting more than a million people out of work was the party causing the social unrest. The idea that to raise objection to such destruction of well being is somehow wrong is again very strange indeed. To put it another way, I think the question was asked of the wrong person.

Then there’s the obvious implication that as a chartered accountant I must be an agent for oppression, or at the very least for maintaining the status quo on society. And yet again the response is that the question is bizarre. When so much that is so bad for our society has been created by the misdirected reforming zeal of chartered accountants – including the promotion of tax havens, the sale of tax avoidance, the promotion of regressive taxation that shifts the burden from capital to labour,PFI, the dismantling of regulation, the accounting for off balance sheet mechanisms and so much more besides – the idea that somehow it is wrong for an accountant to promote social change is odd. More strange still is the idea that an accountant standing up for openness, transparency, broader accountability, the end of illicit financial flows, the upholding of the rule of law, the proper amount of tax paid at the right time in the right place and ethical conduct by accountants so that they do not spend their time getting round the law is somehow the accountant who has to justify their actions is so very odd that the questioner really is showing their true colours in posing the issue to me.

I have no problem justifying what I do.

But I think a great many in my profession would face considerable difficulties if put on this spot and asked how they could justify that their actions were in the public interest. And yet it is that interest in which we are supposed to act.