The role of accountants in the federal tax process: an empirical investigation

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Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University


The purpose of this research was to examine the role of accountants as information providers in the federal tax process. The concepts of role theory were used as a theoretical basis for the study.

A review of the literature revealed that the primary recipients of accountants' input are the staff of the tax-writing committees, the personal staff of the members of these committees, and personnel in the Treasury Department. These groups together with accounting practitioners and accounting educators were the target population of the study.

A questionnaire was designed to obtain respondents' perceptions regarding the actual (what is) and desired (what should be) input of the accounting profession in the federal tax process. Questionnaires were mailed to a sample of the aforementioned groups, and, in addition, the researcher interviewed sixteen respondents.

Hypotheses regarding differences among groups and satisfaction within groups were formulated and tested using the Kruskal-Wallis One Way Analysis of Variance, Mann-Whitney U, and Wilcoxon Matched Pairs tests. The results of the tests indicate that all three groups (government personnel, practitioners, and educators) desire a greater frequency of participation by the accounting profession in all segments (formulative, legislative, and interpretative) of the federal tax process. Government personnel indicate a desire for a lower level of participation than that desired by practitioners and academicians. However, each group is dissatisfied with the current frequency of input. Both government personnel and practitioners believe the interpretative segment should be the area of greatest emphasis by accountants. Academicians expressed the opinion that the formulative segment should receive primary emphasis. The data clearly show the AICPA is the accounting body that each group believes should provide the bulk of the input in every segment of the federal tax process.

Informational qualities of the accountants' presentation were also examined. Accountants' input was perceived to be deficient in fourteen of the fifteen traits tested. Comments made on the returned questionnaires and in the personal interviews support the conclusions drawn from the statistical analysis.