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Firms' Responses to Anticipated Reductions in Tax Rates: The Tax Reform Act of 1986

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  • Myron S. Scholes
  • G. Peter Wilson
  • Mark A. Wolfson

Abstract

The 1986 Tax Act in the U.S. gradually reduced corporate tax rates from 46 percent prior to the Act to 34 percent by the middle of 1988. This reduction gave firms an incentive, in 1986 and 1987, to shift taxable income to future years when tax rates would be lower. There are substantial impediments, however, to shifting taxable income across periods (notably, offsetting tax consequences to other contracting parties and a host of nontax costs), and it becomes an empirical question as to whether the benefits of shifting taxable income are sufficient to overcome the impediments. This paper examines whether firms deferred income recognition and/or accelerated expense recognition in anticipation of these declining tax rates. We find statistically significant evidence that firms shifted gross margin from the quarter immediately preceding and anticipated decrease in tax rates to the next quarter. We estimate that, on average, the 812 firms in our sample saved approximately five hundred thousand dollars in taxes by deferring sales. At a gross margin rate of one-third, this amounts to nearly twenty billion dollars of shifted sales for our sample firms.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 4171.

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Date of creation: Sep 1992
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Publication status: published as JAR, Vol. 30 (Supp) (1992): 161-187.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:4171

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Cited by:
  1. Frédéric Demerens & Dorra Najar & Jean-Louis Paré & Jean Redis, 2014. "Typology of stock market offenses in France- An analysis of sanctions by the AMF since 2006," Working Papers 2014-072, Department of Research, Ipag Business School.
  2. Graham, John R., 1996. "Proxies for the corporate marginal tax rate," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 42(2), pages 187-221, October.
  3. Hanlon, Michelle & Heitzman, Shane, 2010. "A review of tax research," Journal of Accounting and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 50(2-3), pages 127-178, December.
  4. Conover, Teresa L. & Nichols, Nancy B., 2000. "A Further Examination of Income Shifting Through Transfer Pricing Considering Firm Size and/or Distress," The International Journal of Accounting, Elsevier, vol. 35(2), pages 189-211, 07.
  5. Wojciech Kopczuk & Joel Slemrod, 2003. "Dying to Save Taxes: Evidence from Estate-Tax Returns on the Death Elasticity," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 85(2), pages 256-265, May.
  6. Iatridis, George, 2010. "International Financial Reporting Standards and the quality of financial statement information," International Review of Financial Analysis, Elsevier, vol. 19(3), pages 193-204, June.
  7. Beuselinck, Christof & Deloof, Marc, 2014. "Earnings Management in Business Groups: Tax Incentives or Expropriation Concealment?," The International Journal of Accounting, Elsevier, vol. 49(1), pages 27-52.
  8. Karampinis, Nikolaos I. & Hevas, Dimosthenis L., 2013. "Effects of IFRS Adoption on Tax-induced Incentives for Financial Earnings Management: Evidence from Greece," The International Journal of Accounting, Elsevier, vol. 48(2), pages 218-247.
  9. Poterba, James M. & Rao, Nirupama S. & Seidman, Jeri K., 2011. "Deferred Tax Positions And Incentives For Corporate Behavior Around Corporate Tax Changes," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association, vol. 64(1), pages 27-57, March.
  10. Kim, Myung-Sun & Kross, William, 1998. "The impact of the 1989 change in bank capital standards on loan loss provisions and loan write-offs," Journal of Accounting and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 25(1), pages 69-99, February.
  11. Lin, Kenny Z., 2006. "The impact of tax holidays on earnings management: An empirical study of corporate reporting behavior in a developing-economy framework," The International Journal of Accounting, Elsevier, vol. 41(2), pages 163-175.
  12. Hunt, Alister & Moyer, Susan E. & Shevlin, Terry, 1996. "Managing interacting accounting measures to meet multiple objectives: A study of LIFO firms," Journal of Accounting and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 21(3), pages 339-374, June.
  13. Guenther, David A. & Maydew, Edward L. & Nutter, Sarah E., 1997. "Financial reporting, tax costs, and book-tax conformity," Journal of Accounting and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 23(3), pages 225-248, November.

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