IDEAS home Printed from https://ideas.repec.org/a/aea/jecper/v19y2005i4p171-192.html
   My bibliography  Save this article

The Degradation of Reported Corporate Profits

Author

Listed:
  • Mihir A. Desai

Abstract

Recent corporate scandals have highlighted abuses by firms overstating profits to capital markets. In a related but less noticed vein, the reporting of profits to tax authorities has come under increased scrutiny with heightened concerns over the spread of tax avoidance activities. How could firms simultaneously be inflating profits reported to the capital markets and understating profits reported to tax authorities? The practical answer is that American firms keep two sets of financial statements: a financial statement that reports "book profits" to the capital markets and a separate financial statement that reports "tax profits" to the government. These two profit reports can bear little resemblance to each other and follow distinct rules. This paper argues that the latitude afforded managers by the dual nature of corporate profit reporting has contributed to the simultaneous degradation of profit reporting to capital markets and tax authorities. The distinction between book and tax profits allows managers the ability to mischaracterize tax savings to capital markets and to mischaracterize profits to tax authorities. Examination of three high-profile cases of managerial misreporting of profits and tax avoidance—at Enron, Tyco and Xerox—reveals how the drive to improve reported book profits fosters tax avoidance and how the drive to limit taxes gives rise to the manipulation of accounting profits and managerial malfeasance.

Suggested Citation

  • Mihir A. Desai, 2005. "The Degradation of Reported Corporate Profits," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 19(4), pages 171-192, Fall.
  • Handle: RePEc:aea:jecper:v:19:y:2005:i:4:p:171-192
    Note: DOI: 10.1257/089533005775196705
    as

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL: http://www.aeaweb.org/articles.php?doi=10.1257/089533005775196705
    Download Restriction: no

    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Bergstresser, Daniel & Philippon, Thomas, 2006. "CEO incentives and earnings management," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 80(3), pages 511-529, June.
    2. Desai, Mihir A. & Dyck, Alexander & Zingales, Luigi, 2007. "Theft and taxes," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 84(3), pages 591-623, June.
    3. Mihir A. Desai, 2003. "The Divergence between Book Income and Tax Income," NBER Chapters,in: Tax Policy and the Economy, Volume 17, pages 169-208 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. Ball, Ray & Kothari, S. P. & Robin, Ashok, 2000. "The effect of international institutional factors on properties of accounting earnings," Journal of Accounting and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 29(1), pages 1-51, February.
    5. Shackelford, Douglas A. & Shevlin, Terry, 2001. "Empirical tax research in accounting," Journal of Accounting and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 31(1-3), pages 321-387, September.
    6. Joel B. Slemrod & Marsha Blumenthal, 1996. "The Income Tax Compliance Cost of Big Business," Public Finance Review, , vol. 24(4), pages 411-438, October.
    7. Lenter, David & Slemrod, Joel & Shackelford, Douglas A., 2003. "Public Disclosure of Corporate Tax Return Information: Accounting, Economics, and Legal Perspectives," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association, vol. 56(4), pages 803-830, December.
    8. Ball, Ray & Robin, Ashok & Wu, Joanna Shuang, 2003. "Incentives versus standards: properties of accounting income in four East Asian countries," Journal of Accounting and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 36(1-3), pages 235-270, December.
    9. Michelle Hanlon & Terry Shevlin, 2005. "Book-Tax Conformity for Corporate Income: An Introduction to the Issues," NBER Chapters,in: Tax Policy and the Economy, Volume 19, pages 101-134 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    10. Desai, Mihir A. & Hines, James R. Jr., 2002. "Expectations and Expatriations: Tracing the Causes and Consequences of Corporate Inversions," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association, vol. 55(3), pages 409-440, September.
    11. Hanlon, Michelle, 2003. "What Can We Infer About a Firm’s Taxable Income From Its Financial Statements?," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association, vol. 56(4), pages 831-863, December.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    More about this item

    Statistics

    Access and download statistics

    Corrections

    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:aea:jecper:v:19:y:2005:i:4:p:171-192. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Jane Voros) or (Michael P. Albert). General contact details of provider: http://edirc.repec.org/data/aeaaaea.html .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.