An empirical analysis of book-tax reporting difference and tax noncompliance behavior in China

  • Feng TANG

Student thesis: MPhil Thesis (Lingnan)


The traditional accounting system in China was directly linked to the tax assessment. The close linkage between the two sets of reporting rules has substantially weakened, as China promulgated a series of accounting standards and regulations in the late 1990s. As a result, accounting for financial reporting purposes does not have to conform to accounting for tax reporting purposes. This divergence between the two measures of income will inevitably cause accounting book income to differ from taxable income. This is because the more the excess of book income over taxable income, the more the magnitude of tax audit adjustments. Mills (1998) suggests that book tax difference is an indicator of a firm’s tax noncompliance. This implies that additional tax-related costs may arise when accounting book income is higher than taxable income, and these costs may have an impact on the tradeoff between tax incentives and financial reporting incentives.

Based on data from the Chinese stock market, this study tests empirically whether book tax differences due to the tradeoff between tax and non-tax cost results in tax audit adjustments. I hypothesize that the magnitude of tax noncompliance increases as book tax differences increase, and this relationship is stronger after the departure of financial reporting from tax rules in China. The results provide evidence in support of the hypothesis. This study extends prior research and contributes to the understanding of tax and non-tax tradeoffs in a different context. The results have rich implications for corporate managers and policymakers in other developing countries experiencing a similar transition from a tax-based accounting system to a system that gives corporate managers considerable discretion over the choice of accounting methods. One implication is that although book tax delinking may improve the usefulness of financial reports, it could weaken the perceived equity of the tax system and increase corporate tax avoidance behavior. Therefore, when setting accounting standards, policy makers should not only look at the impact of information relevance on the capital market, but also consider the consequence of these standards on government revenue.
Date of Award2005
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Department of Accountancy
SupervisorZhenpin Kenny LIN (Supervisor) & Koon Hung CHAN (Supervisor)

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