Tax-induced earnings management, auditor conservatism, and tax enforement

  • Yongbo LI

Student thesis: MPhil Thesis (Lingnan)


Prompted by the recent statutory corporate income tax-rate reduction in China, in this study I investigate whether the constraining effect that quality auditors have on tax-related discretionary current accruals (DCA) differs for two sub-groups of listed firms with tax incentives to manage earnings upward versus downward. I also explore whether the effectiveness of tax authority scrutiny (i.e. tax enforcement) on DCA differs for the same two groups.

I find that the firms’ two external monitors are sensitive to the direction of managerial incentives for earnings management. Specifically, higher-quality auditors are associated with smaller amounts of reported DCA and this association is stronger for firms with incentives to manage earnings upward and weaker for those with incentives to manage earnings downward, although the accrual decisions for all of the firms are driven by the same tax reporting incentives. The results are consistent with the notion that due to concerns with legal liability and reputation loss, auditors have incentives to ensure that firms report earnings conservatively. I also find a significantly positive association between tax enforcement and reported DCA for firms with incentives to manage earnings downward. This suggests that tax authorities constrain corporate accruals management that is likely to result in tax revenue loss. Taken together, my results suggest that a spillover effect exists between auditors and tax authorities, such that the two monitoring bodies compensate for each other’s lack of monitoring in one direction of accruals management. My results are robust to a set of sensitivity tests and have implications for academic researchers, policy makers, and capital market investors.
Date of Award2014
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Department of Accountancy
SupervisorZhenpin Kenny LIN (Supervisor)

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