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- 1. Is Aggressive Financial and Tax Reporting Related to the Organization and Orientation of the Corporate TaxFunction? John R. Robinson The University of Texas at Austin (512) 471-5315 John.Robinson@mccombs.utexas.eduStephanie A. SikesThe University of Texas at Austin (512) 471- 5215Stephanie.Sikes@phd.mccombs.utexas.edu and Connie D. Weaver Texas A&M University(979) 845-7934CWeaver@mays.tamu.eduAugust 18, 2006 _______________ The authors gratefully acknowledge research support provided by their respective institutions: Robinson (Red McCombs School of Business and C. Aubrey Smith Professorship) and Weaver (Deloitte & Touche Centennial Faculty Fellowship). The authors would also like to thank Ernst & Young for providing data necessary to complete this project.
2. Is Aggressive Financial and Tax Reporting Related to the Organization and Orientation of the Corporate Tax Function?ABSTRACTRegulators and researchers alike have speculated whether the growing difference between corporate book income and taxable income (the book-tax gap) is accelerating because of more aggressive financial reporting or more aggressive tax reporting. This study investigates whether the organization and orientation of the corporate tax function are related to the magnitude of the book-tax gap and contribute to aggressive reporting behavior. We begin by testing whether the recent tendency of corporations to organize their tax functions as profit centers, rather than as cost centers, and orient their corporate tax functions toward planning (rather than compliance) is associated with the book-tax gap. We find, as expected, that the organization of corporate tax functions as a profit centers and orientation of tax function budgets to planning are both associated with larger book-tax gaps. We then test if the organization and orientation of tax functions also contribute to aggressive financial and/or aggressive tax reporting. We find, as expected, that organizing a tax function as a profit center contributes to more aggressive tax reporting. Surprisingly, we find that orienting the tax function toward planning is associated with less aggressive financial reporting. Keywords: Data Availability: Survey data are confidential, but other data were collectedfrom public sources identified in the paper. A copy of the survey is available upon request. 3. Is Aggressive Financial and Tax Reporting Related to the Organization andOrientation of the Corporate Tax Function? 1. INTRODUCTION During the 1990s the growing disparity between income reported for financial statementsand income reported to tax authorities caught the attention of legislators and regulators. Thegrowing divide between financial income and taxable income (the book-tax gap) may havereinforced instances of outrageous corporate misbehavior to help motivate regulatory legislationincluding Sarbanes-Oxley and tax shelter restrictions. Despite the increased attention, however,little is known about the extent of aggressive financial and tax reporting among financially soundcorporations. Moreover, there is only speculation about the factors that contribute to aggressivereporting behaviors. Recent research has focused on corporate tax avoidance and earnings management aspotential sources for the book-tax gap (Plesko 2002; Manzon and Plesko 2002; Desai 2003;Dhaliwal, Gleason, and Mills 2004; McGill and Outslay 2004). In general, the research isdivided into two lines: one linking the growing divide between tax and financial reporting toaggressive tax management and/or tax shelter use (Mills 1998; Desai 2003) and the other linkingdifferences between tax and financial reporting to more aggressive earnings management(Phillips, Pincus, and Rego 2003; Phillips, Pincus, Rego, and Wan 2004; Hanlon 2005). Onestudy, Frank, Lynch, and Rego (2006), ties aggressive financial reporting to aggressive taxreporting, but fails to relate these constructs to the growing book-tax gap. In addition, severalstudies allude to the notion that designating the tax department as a profit center increasesaggressive reporting, yet no data have been available to empirically test this conjecture. 4. We investigate two features of the corporate tax function that evolved during the 1990s,organization of the function as a profit center and orientation of the function toward planning.We conduct our investigation in two stages. In the first stage, we investigate whether theorganization and orientation of the tax function contributes to the magnitude of the book-tax gap.Specifically, we test whether firms whose tax function is designated as a profit center are morelikely to engage in reporting activities that increase reported earnings on the financial statementsthrough the reported income tax expense. We expect that managements choice to organize itstax function as a profit center rather than a cost center will motivate employees in the taxfunction to reduce reported income tax expense thereby increasing the likelihood of aggressivetax reporting. In addition, we examine whether the level of resources devoted to planning (ascompared to tax compliance) is related to the book-tax gap. We expect that the proportion of thetax department budget committed to planning (rather than tax compliance) will reflect theintegration of the tax function in the strategic planning process and will be positively associatedwith the book-tax gap. In addition to tax reporting aggressiveness, financial reporting aggressiveness may alsocontribute to the widening book-tax gap. In the second stage of the study, we investigatewhether the profit center designation and the planning orientation are contributing to themounting book-tax gap due to their effect on tax reporting aggressiveness, financial reportingaggressiveness, or both. In examining the effect of the profit center designation and the planningorientation on a firms tax and financial aggressiveness, we estimate a modified version of thesimultaneous equation model developed in Frank et al. (2006) to control for the possibility thattax aggressiveness and financial aggressiveness may be interrelated and simultaneouslydetermined.Page 2 5. We base our investigation on a unique data set constructed from confidential surveyresponses from over 200 Chief Financial Officers (CFOs) of Fortune 1000 companies. Theconfidential survey, conducted in 1999 at the behest of Ernst and Young, asked CFOs to identifywhether their firms manage and evaluate their tax departments as profit centers or as cost centers.In addition, the CFOs were asked to specify the percentage of the tax budget spent on taxplanning and to characterize the extent to which their firm views taxes as an important tool tomeet earnings expectations. In the first stage of our study we analyze a sample of 69 surveyresponses from CFOs of firms with 309 firm-years of financial data from the period 1999through 2004. We use Manzon and Pleskos (2002) book-tax spread variable to represent thegap between reported financial and taxable income, and we test our predictions using theestablished regression model in Manzon and Plesko (2002). We find that the organization of thetax function as a profit center and the orientation of the tax function toward planning are bothpositively associated with the book-tax gap suggesting that book-tax differences derive, at leastin part, from tax departments incentive to contribute to the bottom line. Supplemental testsusing a subset of firms that changed designation from cost center to profit center and vice versaalso find a positive association between the book-tax gap and the choice to change from a costcenter to a profit center.In the second stage of our study we adopt the definitions of reporting aggressiveness fromFrank et al. (2006). We define tax reporting aggressiveness as engaging in transactions and/orreporting behaviors that reduce taxable income and financial reporting aggressiveness asengaging in transactions or reporting behaviors that increase financial income. Our proxy for taxreporting aggressiveness is discretionary permanent book-tax differences, and our proxy forfinancial reporting aggressiveness is performance-matched discretionary accruals. In this stage ofPage 3 6. our study we analyze a sample of 106 survey responses from CFOs of firms with 467 firm-yearsof financial data from the period 1999 through 2004. Specifically, we estimate the Frank el al(2006) model to simultaneously test whether the tax function organization (as a profit center) andorientation (toward planning) contribute to aggressive tax reporting and/or to aggressivefinancial reporting. We find that, as expected, firms organizing their tax departments as profitcenters are associated with more aggressive tax reporting as reflected in larger discretionarypermanent book-tax differences. Supplemental tests based upon a subset of firms changing theirtax function organization are consistent with this finding. Finally, contrary to our expectations,we find that firms that orient tax budgets toward planning exhibit less aggressive financialreporting, as reflected in significantly lower levels of performance-matched discretionaryaccruals. We conclude that organizing tax functions as profit centers is consistent with aligningincentives to aggressively report taxable income. In contrast, while orienting the resources of thetax function toward tax planning is associated with the book-tax gap, this orientation reducesaggressive financial reporting. Overall, the results corroborate the assumption that managing thetax department as a profit center encourages managers to generate tax savings to reduce theeffective tax rate and possibly to increase book earnings as well. The surprising result thatplanning orientation reduces financial reporting aggressiveness may represent the inherentconflict between aggressive tax reporting, which seeks to reduce taxable income, and aggressivefinancial reporting, whose ob