Do Auditor-Provided Tax Services Improve the Estimate of Tax Reserves?
Gleason, Cristi A.; Mills, Lillian F.
Contemporary Accounting Research - Winter 2011, Vol. 28 Issue 5, p1484-1509
We investigate whether auditor-provided tax services (ATS) improve the estimate of tax reserves. ATS could provide auditors with superior knowledge that would improve the quality of the audited financial reports, or they could impair auditor independence.1 A threat to auditor independence arises from any situation that increases the probability the auditor will fail to report the results of his audit and will conceal bad news from shareholders (Simunic 1984: 680).2 Academic research finds limited evidence that general nonaudit services impair auditor independence and, by implication, financial reporting.3 Specific to tax services, Cook, Huston, and Omer (2008) observe no differential management of tax expense to achieve analysts’ forecasts when corporations use ATS, although higher amounts of ATS are associated with greater reductions in effective tax rates. Collectively, prior research finds little evidence that nonaudit services generally, or tax services specifically, are associated with impaired independence.
Indeed, auditor-provided nonaudit services might improve financial reporting. If ATS generate knowledge spillover, then information gained from providing tax services can improve the audit and, hence, financial reporting (Simunic 1984; Beck, Frecka, and Solomon 1988; Panel on Audit Effectiveness 2000).4 For the largest corporations, Kinney, Palmrose, and Scholz (2004) observe ATS are associated with fewer restatements. Although their paper does not speculate about why this result might occur, the result is consistent with theory concerning knowledge spillover.5 Based on this evidence, we predict that ATS improve the estimation of tax expense by increasing the adequacy of tax reserves.