We examine whether U.K. managers use the flexibility provided under the partial method for deferred taxes to measure unrecognized deferred taxes opportunistically. We first test whether firm‐specific operational and opportunistic factors are associated with the level of unrecognized deferred taxes. The tests provide evidence certain U.K. managers opportunistically measure deferred taxes to manage leverage, consistent with arguments by commentators that deferred taxes heavily influence leverage indicators that play a prominent role in the U.K. contracting framework. Because the proper identification and measurement of both operational and opportunistic determinants of unrecognized deferred taxes influence our tests, we additionally investigate whether unrecognized taxes relate to future deferred tax reversals and future operating profitability of the firm. These tests show the components of deferred taxes predict both future deferred tax reversals and indicators of future profitability of the firm as predicted. Taken together, our results indicate that, on average, the existence of balance sheet management does not nullify the predictive power of (unrecognized) deferred taxes for future deferred tax reversals and for profitability measures. One implication of the results is that the recent U.K. standard change eliminating the partial provision method for deferred taxes potentially has reduced the usefulness of deferred tax disclosures.

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