Examining the Immediate Effects of Recent Tax Law Changes on the Structure of Executive Compensation
50 Pages Posted: 17 Jun 2019 Last revised: 30 Jul 2020
Date Written: July 29, 2020
We exploit a recent law change to examine the relation between corporate taxes and executive compensation. The “Tax Cuts and Jobs Act” (TCJA) lowered the corporate tax rate from 35 to 21 percent and repealed a long-standing exception that allowed companies to deduct executives’ qualified performance-based compensation in excess of $1 million. These changes are effective for tax years beginning after December 31, 2017. Using a difference-in-differences design, we find no evidence that the average firm affected by the TCJA in their 2018 fiscal years changed compensation relative to control firms not subject to the new regime until their 2019 fiscal years. We find limited evidence of a reduction in total compensation among less than 10 percent of treated firms. We execute a battery of tests to validate these results. Overall, our findings suggest the tax benefits of executive compensation do not outweigh non-tax considerations when firms structure pay.
Keywords: taxes, executive compensation, TCJA
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