ABSTRACT

Due to the proprietary nature of tax returns, the tax footnote is the primary source of information for stakeholders about a firm's tax position. However, studies suggest the tax authority acquires information in tax disclosures, creating a trade-off for managers on whether to provide decision-useful information for stakeholders or conceal information from the tax authority. We investigate this trade-off by examining the readability of tax footnotes. We find a positive association between tax avoidance and tax footnote readability for firms with tax avoidance below the industry-year median, consistent with managers highlighting good performance in the form of tax savings with straightforward disclosures. In contrast, we find a negative association between tax avoidance and tax footnote readability for firms with levels of tax avoidance above the industry-year median, consistent with managers concealing tax avoidance from the tax authority. Reinforcing these results, we find that investors place a premium (discount) on tax avoidance when the tax footnote is straightforward in firms with tax avoidance below (above) the industry-year median.

You do not currently have access to this content.