The Practice of Tax in Canada: Understanding the Community, the Work and Structural Initiatives of an Emergent Profession
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Considering it as a distinct occupation, I investigate the practice of tax in Canada through three separate studies. My first study examines the community of tax practitioners. Using a mixed-method approach, I integrate the insights obtained from in-depth interviews with 38 professionals and the results of a survey of 116 individuals working in the tax area. The notion of collective identity is used to confirm the existence of a distinct occupational community and to elaborate the suggested boundaries. I introduce the concepts of boundary erasure and boundary emergence into the literature as variants of boundary blurring and boundary making to suggest how the boundaries of a field can be reconfigured. Analyzing the work of tax practitioners, my second study maps the sets of tasks that characterize the tax field. Drawing on Abbott’s (1988) theorization on professional work, I explore the nature of the specific expertise involved in tax and explain how it differs from the expertise associated with the work that accountants and lawyers more traditionally perform. The framework I develop offers a more integrated understanding of tax work, which can be used to explain why neither the accounting nor the legal profession have come to dominate the core of the field. My third study considers the aspect of structure in the Canadian tax field. Relying on a review of archival material, as well as in-depth interviews with 29 closely associated individuals, I examine the most far-reaching effort to accredit tax specialists in Canada, an initiative by the CICA, which occurred between 1997 and 2002. Finding that the professional associations, the national firms, and the rest of the membership were each driven by different interests, ranging from narrower individual concerns to broader professional ideals, I suggest that the conflicts between the different segments contributed to the ultimate demise of the initiative. Developing a more integrated understanding of the field, my studies have implications for future research on tax professionals. They should also assist those charged with training practitioners, and be of interest to the profession more widely, particularly those wishing to recognize or govern tax work more formally.