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Does family ownership reduce corporate tax avoidance? The moderating effect of audit quality

Safa Gaaya (ISCAE, Université de la Manouba, Manouba, Tunisia)
Nadia Lakhal (ISG, Université de Sousse, Sousse, Tunisia)
Faten Lakhal (Institut de Recherche en Gestion; Université Paris-Est, Creteil, France and ISG, Université de Sousse, Sousse, Tunisia)

Managerial Auditing Journal

ISSN: 0268-6902

Article publication date: 18 August 2017

Issue publication date: 25 September 2017

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to shed light on the effect of family ownership on corporate tax avoidance. It also investigates whether audit quality affects tax avoidance practices by family firms.

Design/methodology/approach

Based on a sample of 55 Tunisian listed companies from 2008 to 2013, the authors use GLS regression models estimated with robust standard errors, clustered at the firm level.

Findings

The results show that family ownership is positively associated with corporate tax avoidance practices, suggesting that families expropriate minority interests by extracting rents from tax-saving positions. These practices are less prominent after the 2011 Tunisian revolution, suggesting that the pressure from governments and non-governmental organizations against corruption and unethical behavior has increased after the revolution. However, the findings show that audit quality curbs the incentives of family firms to engage in aggressive tax positions, supporting the moderating effect of audit quality on the relation between family ownership and tax avoidance.

Research limitations/implications

These findings suggest that Tunisian family firms are likely to expropriate minority interests by extracting rents from tax-saving positions. However, in presence of high-quality audit, the relation turns negative, suggesting that external audit quality is an efficient corporate governance device that is likely to monitor family corporate decisions.

Originality/value

This paper extends previous research by investigating the moderating effect of external audit quality on the relation between tax avoidance and family ownership. It also examines tax avoidance by family firms in a unique setting: Tunisia, a transitioning economy subsequently to the 2011 revolution, where investors’ rights are weakly protected and the financial market is not well-developed as in more developed countries.

Keywords

Citation

Gaaya, S., Lakhal, N. and Lakhal, F. (2019), "Does family ownership reduce corporate tax avoidance? The moderating effect of audit quality", Managerial Auditing Journal, Vol. 32 No. 7, pp. 731-744. https://doi.org/10.1108/MAJ-02-2017-1530

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2017, Emerald Publishing Limited