We extend prior research by examining the weight applied to earnings generated by changes in ETRs (i.e., the tax component of earnings) in determining CEO and CFO compensation. We examine both bonus and total compensation and find that the predicted relationships between compensation and the tax component of earnings are largely limited to bonus compensation. This is not surprising since bonus compensation represents an unambiguous link between contemporaneous performance and compensation, while equity compensation is in part determined by agency considerations. Our evidence suggests that both CEOs and CFOs are compensated for the tax component of earnings. We find that CEOs are rewarded equally for the tax component of earnings relative to other components of earnings, while CFOs are rewarded more for the tax component of earnings relative to other components of earnings. Additionally, the weight applied to the tax component of earnings when determining CFO bonus compensation is greater when; (1) the tax component of earnings does not appear to be related to earnings management; (2) ETRs decrease rather than increase, (3) the firm pays bonus based on after-tax earnings rather than pre-tax earnings, and (4) the firm is tax aggressive rather than non-tax aggressive. The variations in the weighting of the tax component of earnings for CFO bonus compensation noted above in combination with evidence that CEO bonus compensation is indifferent to ETR-related earnings versus other components of earnings, suggests that the tax component of earnings is a contractual component of CFO bonus compensation.
Review of Quantitative Finance and Accounting – Springer Journals
Published: Mar 10, 2016
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