Information Processing Costs and Corporate Tax Avoidance: Evidence from the SEC's XBRL Mandate
49 Pages Posted: 26 Mar 2016 Last revised: 16 Mar 2021
Date Written: January 11, 2021
The IRS uses information contained in financial statements as well as tax returns to detect tax avoidance behavior. We examine the impact on corporate tax avoidance behavior of reductions in the IRS’s information processing costs resulting from the mandatory adoption of XBRL for financial reporting. Motivated by the recent debate in the U.S. Congress over the cost-benefit of mandatory XBRL reporting for small firms, we pay particular attention to small firms, which inherently have relatively high information frictions. We find that the adoption of XBRL for financial reporting results in a significant decrease in tax avoidance. We further find that the negative relation between XBRL reporting and tax avoidance is less prominent for firms subject to more intense IRS monitoring in the pre-XBRL-reporting period. Overall, our results suggest that XBRL reporting reduces the cost of IRS monitoring in terms of information processing, which dampens managerial incentives to engage in tax avoidance behavior.
Keywords: XBRL reporting; tax avoidance; information processing costs; IRS monitoring; tax audit risk; tax accrual
JEL Classification: H26, M41
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation