Political Costs and Corporate Tax Avoidance: Evidence from Sin Firms
46 Pages Posted: 9 Sep 2017 Last revised: 21 Aug 2019
Date Written: August 19, 2019
The products and services of firms operating in sin industries (alcohol, tobacco, gaming, and firearms) run contrary to social norms and can produce significant negative externalities for society. As such, sin firms are at greater risk of incurring political costs in the form of additional regulation, higher taxes, or capital market intervention if they come under scrutiny for their tax avoidance practices. Because of the nature of their products, regulators and policymakers are likely to face less pushback imposing new regulations or taxes on these firms. Consequently, we hypothesize and find that sin firms exhibit less tax avoidance than non-sin firms, particularly through uncertain and more risky tax avoidance strategies. The negative relationship between the sin firm status and tax avoidance is less pronounced in U.S. firms that accumulate political capital via intensive lobbying activities, or face more financial constraints, and less pronounced in countries where people are more receptive to “sin” products. Exploiting changes in partisan control of the Congress and the White House, difference-in-differences tests show that firearm firms engage in less (more) tax avoidance when the Democrats (Republican) control both the Congress and White House. Overall, we conclude that greater exposure to political costs leads to less tax avoidance for sin firms.
Keywords: political capital, political cost, tax avoidance, sin firms
JEL Classification: H26
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation