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The Degradation of Reported Corporate Profits

Mihir A. Desai

Harvard Business School - Finance Unit; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

July 2005

U.S. firms are afforded the opportunity to characterize profits to capital markets and tax authorities in distinct ways. How does the latitude afforded managers influence the quality of these corporate profit reports? This paper traces the evolution of the dual reporting system and assesses its impact on corporate profit reporting. Case-based evidence suggests that managers exploit the differences between book and tax reporting opportunistically thereby reducing the quality of corporate profit reporting both to tax authorities and the capital markets. More systematic evidence provided in the paper suggests that both types of profit reporting have degraded in quality and various reasons for this degradation, and its relationship to the dual reporting system, are considered. The degradation of profit reporting brings into question the confidential nature of corporate tax returns, the rationale for two books and the nature of the corporate tax.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 31

Keywords: Accounting, Taxation, Corporate Governance

JEL Classification: H25, M41, M43

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Date posted: July 18, 2005  

Suggested Citation

Desai, Mihir A., The Degradation of Reported Corporate Profits (July 2005). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=758144 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.758144

Contact Information

Mihir A. Desai (Contact Author)
National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)
1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States
Harvard Business School - Finance Unit ( email )
Boston, MA 02163
United States
617-495-6693 (Phone)
617-496-6592 (Fax)
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