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How Do Firms Respond to Corporate Taxes?

Jeffrey Coles (), Elena Patel, Nathan Seegert and Matthew Smith

Journal of Accounting Research, 2022, vol. 60, issue 3, 965-1006

Abstract: Using a novel empirical approach and newly available administrative data on U.S. tax filings, we estimate the corporate elasticity of taxable income, decompose the elasticity into economic responses versus other tax‐motivated “accounting” transactions, and determine how responsiveness varies depending on accounting method, firm size, and interest rate. In response to a 10% increase in the expected marginal tax rate, private U.S. firms decrease taxable income by 9.1%, which indicates a discernibly more elastic response than prevailing estimates. This response reflects a decrease in taxable income of 3.0% arising from real economic responses to a firm's scale of operations and 6.1% arising from accounting transactions via (for example) revenue and expense timing. Responsiveness to the corporate tax rate is more elastic if a firm uses cash (9.9%) rather than accrual accounting (7.4%), if the firm is small (9.9%) rather than large (8.6%), and if the firm discounts future cash flows at a lower rate.

Date: 2022
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Journal of Accounting Research is currently edited by Philip G. Berger, Luzi Hail, Christian Leuz, Haresh Sapra, Douglas J. Skinner, Rodrigo Verdi and Regina Wittenberg Moerman

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