Study Finds that Companies with Republican-Leaning Leaders Pay More in Taxes

A study by researchers Dane Christensen and Dan Dhaliwal found that companies with conservative-leaning CEO’s pay more in taxes than companies with liberal-leaning CEO’s.
The Washington Post reported:

Take a guess: Who do you think pays more in corporate taxes, companies with CEOs who favor the Republican party, or those with CEOs who tend toward the Democrats?

If you guessed the latter, you’re wrong, according to a paper that will be presented Aug. 7 at the annual meeting of the American Accounting Association in Washington, D.C. The study, which was led by researchers at the University of Arizona, finds that companies helmed by executives who lean Republican each pay an average of $12 million more in annual taxes than companies headed by Democratic-leaning managers. With a mean pretax income of $541 million for companies in the sample, the difference results in an extra 2.22 percent in taxes paid.

Yet why would these companies, the ones run by leaders who support a political party that is currently refusing to consider higher taxes, be the very ones to pay more? Because they tend to be more conservative, the researchers say, and “[p]sychology research shows that conservative individuals tend to be more risk-averse, fear losses, value financial security, and try to avoid uncertainty.” As a result, the researchers Dane Christensen and Dan Dhaliwal found, conservative nature trumps political ideology.

To perform their study, Christensen and Dhaliwal looked at all executives listed in the ExecuComp database between 1992 and 2008, used personal political contributions data from the Federal Election Commission to determine those executives’ political persuasion, and examined two common measures of tax avoidance over the years: each company’s effective tax rate (GAAP ETR) and cash effective tax rate (Cash ETR). “We find that when the top executive team’s political preferences lean toward the Republican party, their firms have significantly higher GAAP ETRs and Cash ETRs,” the two summarize in their paper.

Christensen and Dhaliwal make a convincing case that it is the conservative nature of managers, rather than any number of alternate interpretations, that explain their findings. Many skeptics, for example, are likely to question whether CEOs’ campaign contributions might have to do more with trying to influence legislation or corporate interests than their true political leanings. But by averaging contributions over a number of years, they say, motive-driven financial donations don’t have an effect on the results.

Hat Tip Robert Mayer

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