Why do not all firms engage in tax avoidance?

Abstract

Empirical evidence suggests that there is substantial cross-firm variation in tax avoidance. However, this variation is not well understood. This paper provides a theoretical background for testing, and thus explaining, cross-firm differences in tax avoidance. We develop a formal model with two agents to analyze the incentives that lead firms to engage in tax avoidance. The tax avoidance decision is a function of moral hazard, tax-planning costs, and the potential to increase earnings. If the potential to increase earnings is low, the tax-planning decision is determined by moral hazard problems. In contrast, when this potential is high, the tax-planning decision is mainly driven by tax-planning costs, such as reputational and political costs. One implication of our model is that moral hazard can (partly) explain why some firms do not engage in tax avoidance: Severe problems of moral hazard make tax avoidance less likely. Our model can be a basis for testing differences in tax avoidance between different types of firms.

Participating Institutions

TRR 266‘s main locations are Paderborn University (Coordinating University), HU Berlin, and University of Mannheim. All three locations have been centers for accounting and tax research for many years. They are joined by researchers from LMU Munich, Frankfurt School of Finance and Management, WHU – Otto Beisheim School of Management, ESMT Berlin and Goethe University Frankfurt who share the same research agenda.