The Impact of Task Interruption on Tax Accountants’ Professional Judgment

Posted: 5 Aug 2011 Last revised: 11 Nov 2016

See all articles by James H. Long

James H. Long

Auburn University - School of Accountancy

Kamile Basoglu

University of Delaware - Accounting & MIS

Date Written: August 3, 2016


Accounting professionals are frequently interrupted, and prior research suggests that task interruption could compromise the quality of their professional judgments. This paper adopts the Goal-Based Choice Model to predict conditions under which task interruption will: (1) exacerbate accountants' motivated reasoning, introducing bias into their professional judgments, and (2) reduce performance on the interrupting task. We validate the model by conducting an experiment using experienced tax professionals as participants. Consistent with the expanded model's predictions, we find that when tax professionals are highly committed to a directional goal (minimize the client's tax liability), task interruption exacerbates their motivated reasoning, increases their perceptions of the level of support for an aggressive tax compliance position, bolsters their confidence in its defensibility, and compromises their ability to objectively evaluate the risks associated with the position. These factors cascade to increase the likelihood that they will recommend an aggressive tax compliance position. Furthermore, we find that the impact of task interruption cascades to inhibit interrupting task performance. Our results suggest that task interruption can create costly inefficiencies when these issues must be addressed during the review process, and that severe consequences for firms and their clients can arise when the review process fails to identify these deficiencies. In addition, our results suggest that task interruption's costs may outweigh its benefits in the context of professional judgment.

Keywords: task interruption, goal-based choice model, professional judgment, directional processing, motivated reasoning, goal commitment

Suggested Citation

Long, James H. and Basoglu, Kamile, The Impact of Task Interruption on Tax Accountants’ Professional Judgment (August 3, 2016). Accounting, Organizations and Society, Vol. 55 (November):96-113, 2016 , Available at SSRN:

James H. Long (Contact Author)

Auburn University - School of Accountancy ( email )

301 Lowder Hall
Auburn University, AL 36849
United States
(334) 844-6214 (Phone)


Kamile Basoglu

University of Delaware - Accounting & MIS ( email )

Alfred Lerner College of Business and Economics
Newark, DE 19716
United States

Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics