Tax avoidance, corporate transparency, and firm value
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Tax avoidance that reduces transfers from shareholders to the government is traditionally viewed as value enhancing to shareholders. The agency perspective of tax avoidance, however, suggests that opportunistic managers may exploit the obfuscatory nature of tax avoidance to mask rent extraction. To shed light on these conflicting views, I use a self-constructed opacity index and multiple measures of tax avoidance to examine how corporate transparency relates to tax avoidance. I find that more transparent firms, which potentially have less severe agency problems, avoid more tax relative to their opaque counterparts. This result suggests that in a large section of the economy, tax avoidance is mainly engaged in by managers to enhance shareholder wealth. Further, I find that investors place a value premium on tax avoidance, but the price premium decreases with corporate opacity. This is consistent with the notion that corporate transparency facilitates the monitoring of managerial actions and thus alleviates outside investors’ concern with the hidden agency costs associated with tax avoidance.