Tax and performance measurement: an inside story
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Mulligan, Emer, & Oats, Lynne. Tax and Performance Measurement: An Inside Story Advances in Taxation (pp. 59-85).
Against the background of increasing regulation and spotlight on the tax position of MNEs, this study explores the relationship between tax and performance measurement. The paper is informed by a series of in-depth semi-structured interviews conducted in 2006 with 26 senior tax executives from 15 Silicon Valley-based companies. We also draw on documentary evidence including the relevant 10K reports and take an interpretive approach to the analysis. Many of the performance measures referred to in prior literature were employed in the companies. There was no evidence to suggest the profit centre performance measurement model is being adopted by MNEs for their tax departments. Two distinct aspects particularly exercised the interviewees, that is, the effective tax rate (ETR) and post-tax versus pre-tax performance measurement. Many interviewees did not perceive the ETR as being an appropriate measure of performance, yet they recognised its importance internally and externally. Many companies worked on the basis that there is an ‘acceptable range’ of ETRs which won’t give rise to any unwanted questions. Most interviewees shared the view that a post-tax basis of measuring performance of business units might only serve to increase tax risks, preferring instead for the in-house tax executives to remain the exclusive tax knowledge experts. This study contributes to the diversification of tax research within accounting by demonstrating how qualitative work can provide unique insights. It enhances our understanding of how performance measurement of tax might influence the tax-planning behaviour of in-house tax executives and cautions against exclusive reliance on the ETR as a measure of the effect of tax planning.