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Prof. Ma – Real World Research at Kogod

By Carrie Giddins Pergram

Professor Ma

Kogod is at the forefront of important research being done across the business community. Our professors focus on imparting their experience and knowledge to our students, but at the same time, they are doing important work in the business community, outside the school. One great example is by Professor Mark (Shuai) Ma, Assistant Professor, Department of Accounting and Taxation. Prof. Ma just completed a study on whether a strong legal environment reduces corporate tax avoidance behavior.

Professor Ma explains his work in the following manner, "I studied how to reduce tax avoidance problems as most governments are trying to figure out what penalties to implement – one way is to impose a penalty on shareholders another way is on the manager. Research suggests only penalties on managers matter because they are the decision makers."

Professor Ma's findings suggest that a penalty on managers and officers is more effective at preventing aggressive tax avoidance than a penalty on shareholders. From a policy perspective the implication is that if the costs of implementing the two penalties are equal, the authorities should favor criminal penalties imposed on officers over civil penalties imposed on shareholders. Corporate tax avoidance is becoming a big problem for governments all around the world. The effectiveness of legal penalties in deterring tax avoidance has been discussed by major international political parties and news media, such as The Guardian Newspaper, The BBC and The Financial Times. Professor Ma's work adds to the global debate over solutions to aggressive corporate tax avoidance. This study is a great way for Kogod students to learn from real world examples. "I plan to share this research with students and let them know that the penalty on shareholders sometimes will not work – as in the recent case of Volkswagen – some people say fine the company, the shareholders; but the more efficient way is to penalize the managers – because they know what is going on in the business. But the vast majority of individual shareholders had no clue about the scandal before it was reported by the news media. Penalties on these innocent shareholders would not be an effective way to prevent similar scandals in the future."