Ethical Reasoning in an Equitable Relief Innocent Spouse Context

Sean Valentine, Gary Fleischman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


This study assessed the relationship between ethical reasoning and the decision to grant equitable relief using an innocent spouse vignette where a wife had partial knowledge of her husband's tax fraud. A path model derived from various ethics theories was tested using a sample of 357 accounting, legal, and human resource professionals, and after careful examination of the measurement and structural relationships in the path model, the results, provided partial support for the study's hypotheses. Moral intensity was marginally associated with an increased recognition of an ethical issue and positively related ethical judgments made in an innocent spouse situation, and moral intensity was also negatively related to the decision to grant relief. The ethical judgment variable was positively related to the decision to grant relief, while ethical issue awareness was marginally associated with the decision to deny relief, The implications of these findings are discussed, along with the limitations of the study and suggestions for future research.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)325-339
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Business Ethics
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 2003


  • Equitable relief
  • Innocent spouse rules
  • Tax fraud


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