The Silent Majority: Private U.S. Firms and Financial Reporting Choices
75 Pages Posted: 9 Jan 2014 Last revised: 2 Apr 2020
Date Written: April 2020
This study uses a comprehensive panel of tax returns to examine the financial reporting choices of medium-to-large private U.S. firms, a setting which controls over $9 trillion in capital, vastly out-numbers public U.S. firms across all industries, yet has no financial reporting mandates. We find that nearly two-thirds of these firms do not produce audited GAAP financial statements. Guided by an agency theory framework, we find that size, ownership dispersion, external debt, and trade credit are positively associated with the choice to produce audited GAAP financial statements, while asset tangibility, age, and internal debt are generally negatively related to this choice. Our findings reveal that (1) equity capital and trade credit exhibit significant explanatory power, suggesting that the primary focus in the literature on debt is too narrow; (2) firm youth, growth, and R&D are positively associated with audited GAAP reporting, reflecting important monitoring roles of financial reporting; and (3) many firms violate standard explanations for financial reporting choices and substantial unexplained heterogeneity in financial reporting remains. We conclude by identifying opportunities for future research.
Keywords: audit, private firms, accounting choice, financial reporting, capital formation
JEL Classification: M41, M44, M49
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation