February 2021: Prof. Dr. Jens Müller

Jens Müller, Professor for Business Administration, esp. Tax Accounting at Paderborn University, conducts research in two projects within the TRR 266. In B07, he investigates the question of how mandatory and voluntary tax reporting affects tax transparency and companies. In project B04, he researches the impact of transparency regulation on investment and product markets as well as on entrepreneurial decisions.

 

Tax research: something that is relevant to all of us

For me, tax research is an incredibly exciting field with great social relevance. After all, taxes affect everyone. They have an impact on us and our decisions in many areas of life – consciously or unconsciously. Especially entrepreneurial decisions. Entrepreneurial decisions are also decisions that are made by people. People with varying knowledge, experiences, and backgrounds. People who are constantly exposed to new situations of decision making. Since both tax frameworks and tax rules change frequently. Not only in Germany, but also in other countries and in reaction thereof. How do people encounter these new rules, interpret them and how do they impact their decisions? – I find these questions incredibly exciting. And I hope that my research in this area can contribute to better entrepreneurial and political decisions. Since these lead to greater prosperity and better coexistence in our society.

Crossing borders: tax and accounting research

My decision to pursue an academic career in business administration was significantly influenced by two very special people. Two of my academic teachers who managed to inspire me – for business administration and for research. Each in their own way. One was at the very end of his academic career and had a wealth of life experience, business contacts, and a high level of dedication to teaching. The other was at the beginning of her academic career – with a fresh and new understanding of science and research. She gave me access to a research world that was state of the art at that time. She placed great value on networking, international research, and exchange at international conferences. In other words, exactly the elements that we live by today. These two mentors had a lasting impact on me and laid the foundation for my academic work: crossing the borders between tax and accounting research.

We can help companies make informed, thoughtful transparency decisions.

Research: Interaction between people

Interdisciplinarity is very important to me personally. That’s why I’m happy to be able to live it in my TRR 266 projects and expand my profile. In addition to taxation and accounting, we are also taking a closer look at management literature, for example. Through the TRR 266, I can investigate research questions that I would not be able to take on my own. The decisive factor here is the wealth of knowledge, perspectives, and expertise that the various TRR 266 researchers contribute. I myself see research as a great interaction between people. Since individual knowledge and skills are limited, it is simply important to exchange ideas with others.

TRR 266 also helps us researchers acquire greater visibility. As a research network, for example, we have completely different opportunities to exchange ideas with politicians, companies, or data providers than as an individual researcher. For me, this ultimately means being able to implement projects that inform and reach professionals, politics, and the public even better. Especially since the findings of the individual projects within TRR 266 will be aggregated into one large bundle of information. With this bundle of information, we can support evidence-based discussions about tax adjustments or reforms. And we can help companies make informed, thoughtful transparency decisions.

After all, people make decisions within the framework of their own experience.

International Insights: Beyond the German Horizon

I think it’s important to regularly expand one’s own horizon. I myself have experienced how international experience can advance one’s research. In particular through my research stays. First in Dublin, at that time still as a student, and then later as a doctoral researcher in Madison (USA), Tilburg (Netherlands) und Graz (Austria). During these stays, I was able to learn from and with many people and take a lot with me: both professionally and methodologically. But also culturally. I repeatedly encountered other life and university cultures, other ways of thinking, and other interpretations of university teaching and research. This has given me many nice anecdotes that I also like to use in my teaching. And it has expanded my view of how the world is viewed beyond the German horizon. Of course, this has also had an influence on my research – and my fascination with cultural approaches. After all, people make decisions within the framework of their own experience. I witnessed this for myself during these stays, in my research.

How do accounting standards influence entrepreneurial decisions?

In the TRR 266 project B04, we investigate the influence of accounting standards on corporate decisions – intentional or unintentional. For example, on the choice of location for a subsidiary, because annual accounts information may have to be disclosed there to a lesser extent than at other locations. It may also apply to the amendments of corporate pension plans because accounting rules have changed. We already collected anecdotal evidence: we conducted qualitative interviews with decision-makers. However, we would like to make these observations generalizable to as many companies as possible. We are therefore working on a reliable method of extracting this information from the annual reports. We are currently testing various databases and machine reading techniques to achieve this.

In recent years, companies have been required to disclose significantly more information. […] We investigate how companies respond to these new rules.

Costs and benefits of tax transparency

In project B07, we examine the costs and benefits of tax transparency. In recent years, companies have been required to disclose significantly more information. They have to report in which countries they pay which amount of tax, and how these taxes paid relate to their profits and the number of employees. We investigate how companies respond to these new rules – and how stakeholders in turn respond to the information provided by companies. Moreover, there are areas where companies voluntarily disclose more information about their tax situation because they expect to benefit from this. We explore the question of whether this increase in information is useful at all. In other words, whether the information is actually used and processed – as well as interpreted correctly. We are currently looking for a way to make the quality of tax transparency measurable. Currently there is no established scale that we could access. Therefore, we are testing different measurement constructs: their possibilities and limitations. We expect to be able to publish initial findings in 2021/2022.

Open Science is essential for the advancement of science.

Open Science: Communicating research transparently

Verifiable and reproducible research results are of great importance to me. All decisions we make in empirical research and the limits of our work should be communicated clearly and transparently. In this regard, I think the TRR 266 Open Science initiative is just fantastic. In terms of methodological implementation, I certainly have more to learn. That’s why I’m incredibly grateful for the support of our TRR 266 team of experts around Joachim Gassen. In the past few years, we have already started to take the first steps on our own. In some areas, we are already well advanced. For example, we make our data available in public repositories and write programming codes in such a way that they are easy to read and understand. This may be risky because it makes us vulnerable, but Open Science is essential for the advancement of science.

Researcher of the Month January 2021

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.