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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, 2015. "Sharing Risk with the Government: How Taxes Affect Corporate Risk Taking," NBER Working Papers 21834, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:21834
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. 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.
    2. Bao, Yangming & Goetz, Martin, 2018. "Local peer effects and corporate investment," SAFE Working Paper Series 220, Research Center SAFE - Sustainable Architecture for Finance in Europe, Goethe University Frankfurt.
    3. 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.

    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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