Survival of the Tax Fittest: Path Dependence in Corporate Tax Planning

32 Pages Posted: 25 Feb 2021

See all articles by Jesse van der Geest

Jesse van der Geest

Tilburg University

Martin Jacob

University of Navarra, IESE Business School

Christian Peters

Nanyang Technological University

Date Written: February 24, 2021


We investigate the potential of path dependence in explaining cross-sectional variation and persistence in efficient corporate tax planning. Variation in corporate tax planning among firms is far from fully understood. We propose that corporate tax planning strategies are path dependent. This implies that, once a business strategy is adopted, the range of tax strategies available to the firm is narrowed. If a more efficient tax planning strategy emerges, path dependence hampers firms from adopting that option, potentially resulting in tax planning inefficiencies. We compare new entrants to a market with incumbent firms and find that new entrants have an entrant’s tax edge; that is, new entrants are more efficient in tax planning compared to incumbent firms. Consistent with our predictions and path dependence theory, we find that the entrant’s tax edge is amplified when incumbent firms in the market are relatively inflexible. Finally, we explore whether new entrants use their tax edge as a competitive mechanism. We find new entrants only outperform incumbents in tax planning efficiency when competition is strong, and not when competition is weak.

Keywords: Path dependence, corporate taxation, flexibility, competition, strategy

Suggested Citation

van der Geest, Jesse and Jacob, Martin and Peters, Christian P. H., Survival of the Tax Fittest: Path Dependence in Corporate Tax Planning (February 24, 2021). Available at SSRN: or

Jesse Van der Geest

Tilburg University ( email )

P.O. Box 90153
Tilburg, DC Noord-Brabant 5000 LE

Martin Jacob (Contact Author)

University of Navarra, IESE Business School ( email )

Avenida Pearson 21
Barcelona, 08034

Christian P. H. Peters

Nanyang Technological University ( email )

Nanyang Business School
91 Nanyang Avenue #05-094
Singapore, 639956
+65 6790 4656 (Phone)

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