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Book–Tax Conformity: Implications for Multinational Firms

  • Hanlon, Michelle
  • Maydew, Edward L.
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    This paper examines the implications for multinational firms of recent proposals to conform tax and financial reporting (i.e., book–tax conformity). Proponents of book–tax conformity argue that the current dual system in the U.S. allows firms to simultaneously manage their taxable income downward while managing their book income upward. By requiring book–tax conformity, they contend that firms will be forced to trade off reporting high earnings numbers to shareholders and reporting low earnings to the taxing authority, resulting in improved financial reporting and less tax avoidance. Reduced compliance costs and easier auditing have also been cited as potential benefits of book–tax conformity. However, before one can evaluate the costs and benefits of book–tax conformity it is necessary to understand international implications of conformity, particularly regarding the foreign operations of U.S. multinationals. We describe several possible approaches to implementing book–tax conformity for firms that have both domestic and foreign operations. We discuss issues likely to arise with each approach and conjecture at the behavioral responses to each. Using firm–level financial data from Compustat, we simulate the effects of book–tax conformity on publicly traded U.S. firms. Specifically, we simulate the effects of book–tax conformity on the level and variability of tax payments/collections.

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    Article provided by National Tax Association in its journal National Tax Journal.

    Volume (Year): 62 (2009)
    Issue (Month): 1 (March)
    Pages: 127-53

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    Handle: RePEc:ntj:journl:v:62:y:2009:i:1:p:127-53
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