EUR professors are not always transparent about external funding

Nieuwsuur asked tax law departments at various universities about external funding over the past five years. Five chairs emerged in the department. Although the professors are transparent about their additional positions, it is not stated that their chairs were fully or partially funded by the external institutions.

Free loans

These include Arnaud de Graaf, a specially appointed professor of international and European tax law at the Erasmus School of Law (ESL). The Ministry of Finance sponsored the PhD research and borrowed it for free for EUR one day a week. When he was hired, the ministry also had a say in the application procedure, whereby the choice fell on its own employee. Later, the tax authorities took over the financing of his salary. De Graaf no longer works for the tax authorities or the ministry.

From 2013 to 2021, the tax advisory EY has also paid for two chairs in tax law. This involved professors Walter de Wit and Reinout Kok. They got their pay from their employer EY and worked one day a week at the university without pay. In addition, the auditing firm paid a total of 100,000 euros per year, intended for research by PhD students.

EY was part of the so-called employment advisory committee, which judges future professors, but did not have the right to vote. The company was allowed to advise on the best candidate. Twice, the choice fell on an EY employee. According to EUR, it was not certain in advance that candidates affiliated with EY would hold the chairs. Since their chairmanship expired, De Wit and Kok have become full professors at ESL.

Money for research

In addition, the research into Arjen Schep’s taxes on municipal chairs is funded by a number of municipalities and partnerships between municipalities. These five partners each contribute 20,000 euros to research in local taxes, Erasmus University informs Nieuwsuur.

The fifth chair named by EUR is Madeleine Merkx. She is a professor of indirect taxation. The financing of this chair is in the hands of the European Fiscal Studies Foundation, which will be transformed into a company under EUR Holding from 2022. EUR is a full shareholder in this. The fund is funded by offering post-academic education and has no underlying funders or donors.

‘Opaque’

MPs Jasper van Dijk (SP) and Pieter Omtzigt have asked parliamentary questions about the research carried out by Nieuwsuur, in which several universities were mentioned. Van Dijk would like to know from Minister Dijkgraaf how ‘opaque financing can be prevented’. Omtzigt calls state-paid professors ‘top notch’, but would like it to happen over the Ministry of Education’s budget instead of Finance or Tax. “In tax law, there are far too many professors by special appointment, paid by the business community. Therefore, there is a lot of research into corporation tax and almost no research into allowances. So I would like to see the complete list of sponsored chairs, ”Omtzigt wrote on twitter.

The Umbrella Association of Universities of the Netherlands (UNL) informs Nieuwsuur that Erasmus University and the other universities have met the applicable transparency standards. However, UNL wants better agreements. “We will discuss standards and duties of care regarding independence and transparency from the Code of Conduct for Scientific Integrity with Minister Dijkgraaf. There can be no room for ambiguity.”

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