Morality of Tax Avoidance as a Question of Sociopolitical Legitimacy and CSR

Kirsi Eräranta, Johanna Moisander, Visa Penttilä

Research output: Contribution to journalConference articleScientificpeer-review


While much of the existing research has focused on articulating philosophical and theoretical arguments about whether or not tax avoidance is the right thing to do, this paper explores and examines how the sociopolitical legitimacy of tax avoidance and tax avoiding organizations is discursively constructed and contested by corporate and civil society actors as part of a broader political discussion on corporate social performance and CSR. Drawing on frame analysis, as it is theorized in the literature on social movements, the authors analyze a public framing debate about the legitimacy of corporate tax avoidance in the context of ‘post-welfare state’ private healthcare business. The analysis shows that while both of the two main camps of the debate discuss the issue of tax avoidance as a question of sociopolitical legitimacy, the cultural building blocks and ethico- political assumptions of their collective action frames vary in interesting ways. While the challengers of the legitimacy of tax avoidance invoke an ethical conception of CSR to problematize tax avoidance as a question of moral legitimacy, the defenders shift attention to and highlight the pragmatic legitimacy of their activities based on an economic conception of CSR. In building their collective action frames, however, both of the camps weave a hybrid of the welfare state capitalist and the neoliberal master frame to interpret and re-interpret the notion of ‘good corporate citizenship’ in their legitimating accounts. The study advances knowledge by unpacking the cultural building blocks and ethico-political assumptions that underpin conflicting legitimacy assessments about corporate tax avoidance.
Original languageEnglish
ProceedingAcademy of Management Proceedings
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2016
MoE publication typeA4 Article in conference proceedings


  • 512 Business and Management
  • business ethics
  • framing
  • legitimacy


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