What Does Tax Aggressiveness Signal? Evidence from Stock Price Reactions to News About Tax Aggressiveness
54 Pages Posted: 26 Mar 2007
Date Written: January 23, 2007
We study the stock price reaction to news about tax aggressiveness. We find that, on average, a company's stock price declines when there is news about its involvement in tax shelters, but the reaction is small relative to reactions to other corporate misdeeds. We find some limited evidence for cross-sectional variation in the reaction. For example, the stock price decline is smaller for firms that have good governance which is consistent with the idea that for these firms the news is less likely to trigger concerns about insiders' aggressiveness toward the investors themselves. The reaction is more negative for firms in the retail sector, suggesting that part of the reaction may be a consumer/taxpayer backlash. We also test whether the reaction varies with the market's perception of how tax-aggressive the firm is, using the firm's current effective tax rate as a proxy for the market's beliefs, and find mixed results.
We also explore the stock price reaction to reports of current effective tax rate calculations released by Citizens for Tax Justice. We hypothesize that these reports signal tax aggressiveness without the implications for tax penalties or illegal behavior that tax shelter news carries, and therefore any market reaction represents a pure reputation effect. We find no statistically significant stock price reaction to the reports, suggesting that the negative reaction to tax shelter news is not predominantly a reputation effect.
All in all, our analysis suggests that tax shelter news is viewed as a negative event by the market, although the stock price reaction is much smaller than the reaction to major accounting mishaps.
Keywords: tax shelter, market reaction
JEL Classification: M41, H25, H20, G12, G34
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation