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Sharing Risk with the Government: How Taxes Affect Corporate Risk Taking

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  • ALEXANDER LJUNGQVIST
  • LIANDONG ZHANG
  • LUO ZUO

Abstract

Using 113 staggered changes in corporate income tax rates across U.S. states, we provide evidence on how taxes affect corporate risk‐taking decisions. Higher taxes reduce expected profits more for risky projects than for safe ones, as the government shares in a firm's upside but not in its downside. Consistent with this prediction, we find that risk taking is sensitive to taxes, albeit asymmetrically: the average firm reduces risk in response to a tax increase (primarily by changing its operating cycle and reducing R&D risk) but does not respond to a tax cut. We trace the asymmetry back to constraints on risk taking imposed by creditors. Finally, tax loss‐offset rules moderate firms’ sensitivity to taxes by allowing firms to partly share downside risk with the government.

Suggested Citation

  • Alexander Ljungqvist & Liandong Zhang & Luo Zuo, 2017. "Sharing Risk with the Government: How Taxes Affect Corporate Risk Taking," Journal of Accounting Research, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 55(3), pages 669-707, June.
  • Handle: RePEc:bla:joares:v:55:y:2017:i:3:p:669-707
    DOI: 10.1111/1475-679X.12157
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    Cited by:

    1. Dominika Langenmayr & Rebecca Lester, 2013. "Taxation and corporate risk-taking," Working Papers 1316, Oxford University Centre for Business Taxation.
    2. Becker, Johannes & Johannesen, Niels & Riedel, Nadine, 2020. "Taxation and the allocation of risk inside the multinational firm," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 183(C).
    3. Mehrmann, Annika & Sureth-Sloane, Caren, 2017. "Tax loss offset restrictions and biased perception of risky investments," arqus Discussion Papers in Quantitative Tax Research 222, arqus - Arbeitskreis Quantitative Steuerlehre.
    4. Albertus, James F. & Glover, Brent & Levine, Oliver, 2019. "Heads I win, tails you lose: Asymmetric taxes, risk taking, and innovation," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 105(C), pages 24-40.
    5. José Alves, 2019. "The impact of tax structure on investment: an empirical assessment for OECD countries," Public Sector Economics, Institute of Public Finance, vol. 43(3), pages 291-309.
    6. Roychowdhury, Sugata & Shroff, Nemit & Verdi, Rodrigo S., 2019. "The effects of financial reporting and disclosure on corporate investment: A review," Journal of Accounting and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 68(2).
    7. Cen, Ling & Maydew, Edward L. & Zhang, Liandong & Zuo, Luo, 2017. "Customer–supplier relationships and corporate tax avoidance," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 123(2), pages 377-394.
    8. Bao, Yangming & Goetz, Martin, 2018. "Local peer effects and corporate investment," SAFE Working Paper Series 220, Leibniz Institute for Financial Research SAFE.
    9. Osswald, Benjamin & Sureth, Caren, 2018. "Do country risk factors attenuate the effect of taxes on corporate risk-taking?," arqus Discussion Papers in Quantitative Tax Research 235, arqus - Arbeitskreis Quantitative Steuerlehre.
    10. Glaeser, Stephen, 2018. "The effects of proprietary information on corporate disclosure and transparency: Evidence from trade secrets," Journal of Accounting and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 66(1), pages 163-193.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • G32 - Financial Economics - - Corporate Finance and Governance - - - Financing Policy; Financial Risk and Risk Management; Capital and Ownership Structure; Value of Firms; Goodwill
    • H32 - Public Economics - - Fiscal Policies and Behavior of Economic Agents - - - Firm

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