Tax Avoidance and the Implications of Weak Internal Controls

60 Pages Posted: 5 Aug 2011 Last revised: 19 May 2017

See all articles by Andrew M. Bauer

Andrew M. Bauer

University of Waterloo - School of Accounting and Finance

Date Written: August 27, 2014


I examine whether corporate tax avoidance is associated with internal control weaknesses (ICWs) disclosed under the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX). ICWs disclosed under SOX are frequently related to a firm’s tax function. When pervasive ICWs exist, the likelihood increases that these frequent tax-related ICWs spill over from financial reporting issues to tax avoidance objectives. Thus my research helps corporate stakeholders understand the implications of internal controls beyond simply financial reporting objectives. Results indicate that, on average, firms with a tax-related ICW have a 4% higher three-year cash effective tax rate relative to firms without any such weaknesses. Further estimates reveal that this negative relation stems from pervasive, company-level tax ICWs. Analysis of remediation suggests a causal link. I find that after remediating tax-related ICWs, firms report higher levels of tax avoidance in the future. Broadly, these findings support that internal control quality represents a proxy for internal governance, and thus the strength of alignment between managers and shareholders. Furthermore, tax-related internal controls represent an important underlying determinant of tax avoidance with significant cash flow effects, and implications beyond financial reporting.

Keywords: tax avoidance, cash tax, internal control weaknesses, internal governance, remediation

JEL Classification: H2, M4

Suggested Citation

Bauer, Andrew M., Tax Avoidance and the Implications of Weak Internal Controls (August 27, 2014). Contemporary Accounting Research, Vol. 33, No. 2, 2016, pp. 449-486, Available at SSRN: or

Andrew M. Bauer (Contact Author)

University of Waterloo - School of Accounting and Finance ( email )

200 University Ave W
Waterloo, Ontario N2L 3G1

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