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Tax-induced fiscal year extension and earnings management

Dennis Sundvik

Journal of Applied Accounting Research, 2017, vol. 18, issue 3, 356-374

Abstract: Purpose - The purpose of this paper is to examine three different responses to the Finnish 2005 tax reform that, among other things, reduced the corporate tax rate and hiked dividend taxation. Focus lies on the factors influencing the decision to change the fiscal year-end and whether earnings management is more prevalent when the decision is not taken. Design/methodology/approach - This study uses the financial statement data of Finnish private firms and studies 350 fiscal year-end changing firms and 700 non-changing firms with logistic and linear regression analysis. Discretionary accruals are the proxy for earnings management. Findings - The results suggest that firms seize the window of opportunity and extend fiscal years depending on the magnitude of the expected tax savings. Firms that do not change their fiscal year-end engage in more tax-induced earnings management. In terms of economic consequences, the earnings management approach is less economically significant. Research limitations/implications - This study only examines a limited number of firms that change their fiscal year-end, hence, care has been exercised in generalising the findings. Practical implications - The findings may be considered when structuring future tax reforms, particularly when considering transition rules relating to changes in fiscal year-ends. The study may also have implications beyond tax reforms since the evidence of opportunistic changes in the fiscal year-end can be informative for tax authorities, independent auditors and creditors. Originality/value - This study contributes to the relatively scarce literature on private firm responses to tax policy changes by analysing both upward and downward earnings management, as well as changes in the fiscal year-end. This is in contrast to previous research that mainly focusses on listed firms and absolute earnings management or earnings management in one direction.

Keywords: Finland; Earnings management; Tax planning; Tax reform; Private firms; Fiscal year-end (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2017
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