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Legal Enforcement and Corporate Behavior: An Analysis of Tax Aggressiveness after an Audit

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  • Jason DeBacker
  • Bradley T. Heim
  • Anh Tran
  • Alexander Yuskavage

Abstract

Contrary to common expectations, legal enforcement may increase subsequent corporate misbehavior. Using Internal Revenue Service and financial statement data, we find that corporations gradually increase their tax aggressiveness for a few years following an audit and then reduce it sharply. We show that this U-shaped impact is consistent with strategic responses on the part of firms and with Bayesian updating of audit risk. This adverse effect on corporate behavior calls for a reexamination of both the theory and policy of legal enforcement.

Suggested Citation

  • Jason DeBacker & Bradley T. Heim & Anh Tran & Alexander Yuskavage, 2015. "Legal Enforcement and Corporate Behavior: An Analysis of Tax Aggressiveness after an Audit," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 58(2), pages 291-324.
  • Handle: RePEc:ucp:jlawec:doi:10.1086/684037
    DOI: 10.1086/684037
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Marie Bjørneby & Annette Alstadsæter & Kjetil Telle, 2018. "Collusive tax evasion by employers and employees. Evidence from a randomized fi eld experiment in Norway," Discussion Papers 891, Statistics Norway, Research Department.
    2. Pomeranz, Dina D. & Vila-Belda, José, 2019. "Taking State-Capacity Research to the Field: Insights from Collaborations with Tax Authorities," CEPR Discussion Papers 13688, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    3. Marie Bjørneby & Annette Alstadsæter & Kjetil Telle, 2018. "Collusive Tax Evasion by Employers and Employees: Evidence from a Randomized Field Experiment in Norway," CESifo Working Paper Series 7381, CESifo Group Munich.
    4. Knut Løyland & Oddbjørn Raaum & Gaute Torsvik & Arnstein Øvrum, 2019. "Compliance effects of risk-based tax audits," CESifo Working Paper Series 7616, CESifo Group Munich.
    5. Mittone, Luigi & Panebianco, Fabrizio & Santoro, Alessandro, 2017. "The bomb-crater effect of tax audits: Beyond the misperception of chance," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 61(C), pages 225-243.
    6. Gerardino, Maria Paula & Litschig, Stephan & Pomeranz, Dina, 2017. "Can Audits Backfire? Evidence from Public Procurement in Chile," CEPR Discussion Papers 12529, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    7. Gabriele, Mazzolini & Laura, Pagani & Alessandro, Santoro, 2017. "The deterrence effect of real-world operational tax audits," Working Papers 359, University of Milano-Bicocca, Department of Economics, revised 03 Feb 2017.
    8. James Alm, 2019. "What Motivates Tax Compliance?," Journal of Economic Surveys, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 33(2), pages 353-388, April.
    9. Andrew R. Finley, 2019. "The impact of large tax settlement favorability on firms’ subsequent tax avoidance," Review of Accounting Studies, Springer, vol. 24(1), pages 156-187, March.
    10. Knut Løyland & Oddbjørn Raaum & Gaute Torsvik & Arnstein Øvrum, 2019. "Compliance effects of risk-based tax audits," CESifo Working Paper Series 7616, CESifo Group Munich.
    11. Zareh Asatryan & Andreas Peichl, 2017. "Responses of Firms to Tax, Administrative and Accounting Rules: Evidence from Armenia," CESifo Working Paper Series 6754, CESifo Group Munich.
    12. Brushwood, James D. & Johnston, Derek M. & Lusch, Stephen J., 2018. "The effect of tax audit outcomes on the reporting and valuation of unrecognized tax benefits," Advances in accounting, Elsevier, vol. 42(C), pages 1-11.
    13. Lopez-Luzuriaga, Andrea & Scartascini, Carlos, 2019. "Compliance spillovers across taxes: The role of penalties and detection," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 164(C), pages 518-534.
    14. Asatryan, Zareh & Peichl, Andreas, 2016. "Responses of firms to tax, administrative and accounting rules: Evidence from Armenia," ZEW Discussion Papers 16-065, ZEW - Leibniz Centre for European Economic Research.

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