Measuring Income Tax Accrual Quality

66 Pages Posted: 13 Feb 2013 Last revised: 25 Dec 2015

See all articles by Preeti Choudhary

Preeti Choudhary

University of Arizona, Eller College of Management

Allison Koester

Georgetown University

Terry J. Shevlin

University of California-Irvine

Date Written: May 5, 2015


This paper develops and validates a measure of tax accrual quality. Tax accrual quality captures variation in the extent to which the income tax accrual maps into income tax-related cash flows, with lower variation indicating a higher quality tax accrual. Low tax accrual quality arises from (1) management estimation error and (2) financial reporting standards that lead to differences between income tax expense and income tax cash flows not captured by deferred tax assets and liabilities. We validate our tax accrual quality measure by showing it is associated with firm characteristics that capture both constructs and by demonstrating it predicts future tax-related restatements and internal control material weaknesses. We also illustrate the importance of our measure by showing that investors view tax expense as more informative in firms with better tax accrual quality. Our empirical results are incremental to controlling for working capital accruals quality and measures of tax avoidance, tax risk, and tax-related earnings management. Future researchers can use tax accrual quality to address questions related to estimation error in the income tax account.

Keywords: tax accrual quality, estimation error, financial reporting of income taxes, earnings quality, accounting for income taxes

JEL Classification: M40, M41

Suggested Citation

Choudhary, Preeti and Koester, Allison and Shevlin, Terry J., Measuring Income Tax Accrual Quality (May 5, 2015). Review of Accounting Studies, Forthcoming, 2013 American Taxation Association Midyear Meeting: New Faculty/Doctoral Student Session, Georgetown McDonough School of Business Research Paper No. 2216857, Available at SSRN: or

Preeti Choudhary

University of Arizona, Eller College of Management ( email )

School of Accountancy
Tucson, AZ 85721
United States

Allison Koester (Contact Author)

Georgetown University ( email )

McDonough School of Business
Washington, DC 20057
United States
202.687.6461 (Phone)


Terry J. Shevlin

University of California-Irvine ( email )

Paul Merage School of Business
Irvine, CA California 92697-3125
United States
2065509891 (Phone)

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