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Mihir A. Desai & Dhammika Dharmapala, Corporate Tax Avoidance and High-Powered Incentives, 79 J. Fin. Econ. 145 (2006).

Abstract: This paper analyzes the links between corporate tax avoidance and the growth of high-powered incentives for managers. A simple model demonstrates the role of feedback effects between tax sheltering and managerial diversion in determining how high-powered incentives influence tax sheltering decisions. A novel measure of corporate tax avoidance (the component of the book-tax gap not attributable to accounting accruals) allows for an investigation of the link between tax avoidance and incentive compensation. Increases in incentive compensation tend to reduce the level of tax sheltering, in a manner consistent with a complementary relationship between diversion and sheltering. In addition, this negative effect is driven primarily by firms with relatively weak governance arrangements, confirming a central prediction of the model. These results can help explain the growing cross-sectional variation among firms in their levels of tax avoidance, the undersheltering puzzle, and why large book-tax gaps are associated with subsequent negative abnormal returns.