CEO Narcissism and Corporate Tax Sheltering

Posted: 6 Jun 2014 Last revised: 8 Jul 2020

See all articles by Kari Olsen

Kari Olsen

Utah Valley University

James Stekelberg

Colorado State University, Fort Collins - Department of Accounting

Date Written: March 31, 2016


We examine the effect of CEO narcissism on an especially aggressive form of corporate tax avoidance: tax sheltering. Narcissism is a multifaceted personality trait associated with a sense of superiority and a propensity to engage in questionable behavior. Narcissists feel that they are above the law and are aggressive in pursuing what they believe is theirs. Narcissists also possess heightened motivations to pursue rewards or desirable outcomes while only being weakly motivated to avoid negative outcomes. Consistent with these behavioral tendencies of narcissistic individuals, we document statistically and economically significant effects of CEO narcissism on the likelihood that the CEO's firm engages in corporate tax shelters. Our study contributes to the literature by documenting a mechanism through which the individual personality characteristics of the CEO can affect firm-level tax policies.

Keywords: Corporate Tax Sheltering; Corporate Tax Avoidance; Uncertain Tax Positions; Executive Personality Traits; Narcissism

JEL Classification: M41, H25, H26

Suggested Citation

Olsen, Kari and Stekelberg, James, CEO Narcissism and Corporate Tax Sheltering (March 31, 2016). Journal of American Taxation Association, Vol. 38, Issue 1, pp. 1-22, 2016. DOI: 10.2308/atax-51251, Available at SSRN: or

Kari Olsen

Utah Valley University ( email )

800 West University Parkway
Orem, UT 84058
United States

James Stekelberg (Contact Author)

Colorado State University, Fort Collins - Department of Accounting ( email )

256 Rockwell Hall
Fort Collins, CO 80523
United States

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