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Article
Publication date: 16 November 2021

Mahdi Salehi, Hassan Mohammadzadeh Moghadam and Zohreh Hajiha

The present study aims to investigate the relationship between intellectual capital and the readability of financial statements with the mediating role of management…

Abstract

Purpose

The present study aims to investigate the relationship between intellectual capital and the readability of financial statements with the mediating role of management characteristics of companies listed on the Tehran Stock Exchange. In other words, this research tries to find the answer to whether intellectual capital can positively affect the readability of financial statements.

Design/methodology/approach

A multivariate regression model was used to test the hypotheses for this purpose. The research hypotheses were tested using a sample of 1,309 observations listed on the Tehran Stock Exchange from 2012 to 2018 and a multiple regression model based on panel data and fixed-effects models.

Findings

The results indicate that intellectual capital has a positive and significant relationship with the readability of financial statements, which means that with increasing intellectual capital in companies, financial statements’ readability also increases. Based on the hypothesis test results, it has been determined that narcissism, accrual and real earnings management have a negative effect on the relationship between intellectual capital and the readability of financial statements.

Originality/value

Since the present study examines such an issue in emerging markets, it provides users, analysts and legal entities with useful information about management’s inherent and acquired characteristics that significantly impact the purchase of audit opinion. This study’s results also contribute to developing science and knowledge in this field and close the literature gap.

Details

Journal of Facilities Management , vol. ahead-of-print no. ahead-of-print
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1472-5967

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Article
Publication date: 20 September 2021

Mai Mohammed Alm El-Din, Atef Mohammed El-Awam, Farid Moharram Ibrahim and Ahmed Hassanein

The study explores the relationship between information overloading and the complexity of reporting. In particular, it investigates whether voluntary information in a firm…

Abstract

Purpose

The study explores the relationship between information overloading and the complexity of reporting. In particular, it investigates whether voluntary information in a firm annual report is associated with its readability. Likewise, it examines how a firm's profitability and earnings management practices impact the nexus of voluntary disclosure and readability.

Design/methodology/approach

It uses the annual reports of the Egyptian nonfinancial firms listed in the EGX 100 index from 2010 to 2018. The readability of the annual report is measured automatically using the LIX index, and a predeveloped voluntary disclosure index is used to measure the level of voluntary disclosure in the annual reports.

Findings

The results reveal that the readability of annual reports is a negative function of voluntary disclosure, suggesting that Egyptian firms with more voluntary disclosure are likely to have more complex (i.e. less readable) annual reports. Likewise, less profitable firms and firms with earning management practices increase voluntary information in their annual reports, resulting in an adverse impact on their reporting readability.

Research limitations/implications

It focuses only on the annual reports of Egyptian firms and considers a firm’s overall voluntary information rather than a particular area of voluntary disclosure. It introduces a code to measure the readability of Arabic-written texts, which can be applied to different areas of disclosure.

Practical implications

Policymakers in Egypt are encouraged to develop enforceable regulations to control voluntary disclosure in annual reports. Egyptian investors should view the practice of higher voluntary disclosure skeptically as its aim may be to divert attention from a firm's poor performance and earnings management practice.

Originality/value

The study is the first evidence from Egypt on the effect of information overloading, proxied by voluntary disclosure, on the readability of reporting. Likewise, it contributes to methodological development in measuring the readability of Arabic-written annual reports.

Details

Journal of Applied Accounting Research, vol. ahead-of-print no. ahead-of-print
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0967-5426

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Article
Publication date: 16 August 2021

Minyoung Noh

This study aims to examine the effect of state culture on the readability of narrative disclosures in annual reports based on firms located in all 50 states of the USA.

Abstract

Purpose

This study aims to examine the effect of state culture on the readability of narrative disclosures in annual reports based on firms located in all 50 states of the USA.

Design/methodology/approach

The author uses the cultural tightness and looseness (Harrington and Gelfand 2014) index at the state level and the BOG index (Bonsall and Miller, 2017) as the primary measures of annual report readability.

Findings

Using US data from 1994 to 2019, this study finds that the state level of cultural tightness in which firms are located positively affects firms’ annual report readability. In addition, the study finds that the positive effect of cultural tightness on annual report readability is pronounced in subgroups with high litigation risk while the result does not hold with subgroups that have low litigation risk. The results are robust when alternative proxies for annual report readability are used and historical location and the states in which firms are incorporated are considered.

Originality/value

This study contributes to the growing literature on the determinants of readability in annual report because firms’ narrative disclosure in annual report varies depending on the information environment, litigation risk, embedded in each state culture where firms are located.

Details

International Journal of Accounting & Information Management, vol. 29 no. 4
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1834-7649

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Article
Publication date: 22 July 2021

Tamanna Dalwai, Syeeda Shafiya Mohammadi, Gaitri Chugh and Mahdi Salehi

This study examines the impact of intellectual capital efficiency and corporate governance mechanisms on the annual report readability of Oman's financial sector companies.

Abstract

Purpose

This study examines the impact of intellectual capital efficiency and corporate governance mechanisms on the annual report readability of Oman's financial sector companies.

Design/methodology/approach

The study uses a sample of 150 firm-year observations of listed financial sector companies in the Muscat Securities Market, Oman, from 2014 to 2018. Flesch Reading ease and Flesch Kinkaid Index are used as proxies for annual report readability. As part of sensitivity analysis, the study also uses the natural logarithm of annual report pages as alternative readability measures. The investigation is conducted using random effects regression analysis and supported with system GMM estimation for robustness.

Findings

The findings of this study demonstrate a decrease in intellectual capital efficiency associated with better readability of annual reports for the financial sector firms. Alternatively, banks report a positive association of intellectual capital efficiency with the Flesch Reading ease score of the annual report. The structural capital and capital employed efficiency are also found to be negatively associated with annual report readability. Corporate governance mechanisms such as dispersed ownership and audit committee size also result in easy-to-read annual reports that support agency theory.

Research limitations/implications

The research was conducted for financial firms of Oman, and thereby the findings can be generalized to the financial sector of countries with similar settings, such as the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) region.

Practical implications

The policy implications arising from this study suggest a strengthening of the intellectual capital efficiency and corporate governance mechanisms to improve the readability of the firms and thereby increase investor confidence.

Originality/value

This paper's uniqueness is in the model used to investigate the impact of intellectual capital efficiency and corporate governance mechanisms on the annual report readability of an emerging market.

Details

International Journal of Emerging Markets, vol. ahead-of-print no. ahead-of-print
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1746-8809

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Book part
Publication date: 19 October 2020

Xin Zhao, Greg Filbeck and Ashutosh Deshmukh

Prior studies document increased share repurchase activity after the temporary tax holiday under the American Jobs Creation Act (AJCA) of 2004. Our study examines the…

Abstract

Prior studies document increased share repurchase activity after the temporary tax holiday under the American Jobs Creation Act (AJCA) of 2004. Our study examines the moderating effect of financial statement readability on share repurchases in response to a temporary reduction in repatriation tax. Building on prior literature, we argue that firms with excess cash overseas, despite the lack of investment opportunities, produce less readable financial statements to hide bad news. We find that firms with less readable financial statements initiated higher levels of share repurchases after the AJCA. Our results contribute to the existing literature showing (1) firms hold excess cash overseas mainly for tax reasons rather than for nontax reasons such as precautionary motives or empire-building concerns and (2) firms return excess funds to investors rather than squander the funds once the tax cost of repatriation is reduced. Firms that suffer from the overinvestment problem using hard-to-read financial statements to hide the bad news of a lack of investment opportunities are more likely to benefit from the tax cut. Our study provides timely evidence of potential firm response to the 2017 Tax Cut and Jobs Act, which permanently removes the repatriation tax.

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Book part
Publication date: 14 July 2010

Cynthia M. Daily, Roger W. Dorsey and Gaurav Kumar

For several decades, a prominent movement within government and the legal profession has emphasized the use of “plain language” to improve readability in legal writing…

Abstract

For several decades, a prominent movement within government and the legal profession has emphasized the use of “plain language” to improve readability in legal writing. Plain language legal writing in U.S. Tax Court opinions is important for tax advisors and their clients for two primary reasons. First, clients value efficiency in the work of the tax advisor. A tax advisor can research a thorny legal issue more efficiently and cost-effectively if the related Tax Court opinions are written in a clear, logical, and easy-to-read manner. Second, if opinions are difficult to understand, they provide less certain authority. A degree of certainty in the tax law is important for taxpayers to plan and conduct their economic activities, whereas a lack of certainty creates confusion and an inefficient tax compliance and planning environment.

We examined the readability of the Tax Court opinions using the Flesch Reading Ease formula. Since we selected the opinions used in this study based on the same database search term, they contain similar technical content, improving comparability of readability scores. The analysis shows that as the plain language movement progressed over the years, the readability of these opinions has actually decreased.

Details

Advances in Taxation
Type: Book
ISBN: 978-0-85724-140-5

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Article
Publication date: 28 May 2021

Ming Liu and Zhefeng Liu

The purpose of the study is to investigate the possible role of annual report readability in accrual anomaly, shedding light on why investors fail to incorporate accruals…

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of the study is to investigate the possible role of annual report readability in accrual anomaly, shedding light on why investors fail to incorporate accruals information in a timely and unbiased manner beyond the original naive investor fixation explanation.

Design/methodology/approach

Using five proxies of annual report readability and available data over 1993–2017, we investigate whether accrual overpricing is more severe when annual reports are less readable.

Findings

We find little (substantive) evidence of accrual overpricing among high (low) readability firms. The readability effects are contingent on the level of business complexity and earnings management.

Research limitations/implications

This study extends the original naive investor fixation explanation and documents annual report complexity as a market friction in explaining the accrual anomaly, contributing to the mispricing vs risk debate and supporting the efficient market hypothesis.

Practical implications

Low readability of annual reports is a red flag to investors.

Social implications

This study provides support for regulatory initiatives aimed at enhancing readability of corporate disclosures to address market frictions and improve market efficiency.

Originality/value

Accrual anomaly has posed a challenge to the efficient market hypothesis. This study draws on and adds to the line of research indicating that annual report complexity is a friction erecting a barrier to transparency, hindering market efficiency. This study contributes to our understanding of the enigmatic accrual anomaly.

Details

Asian Review of Accounting, vol. 29 no. 3
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1321-7348

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Book part
Publication date: 18 January 2021

Gonca Güngör Göksu and Serdar Dumlupinar

In this study, various acts including regulations of public financial management, fiscal responsibility, and state budget in the selected six countries were subjected to…

Abstract

In this study, various acts including regulations of public financial management, fiscal responsibility, and state budget in the selected six countries were subjected to different readability tests, and an international comparison was made. The fiscal responsibility act of six countries – Turkey, the UK, India, Australia, Canada, and Pakistan – were included in the study and analyzed. Each country was analyzed under its official language. Since English is an official language of all of the countries except for Turkey, the authors have evaluated the fiscal responsibility acts of these countries using the following readability tests: Flesch Reading Ease, Flesch-Kincaid, Gunning-Fog, and Dale-Chall. Additionally, Public Financial Management and Control Law No. 5018 approved in Turkey was analyzed by the Ateşman Readability Test which was uniquely designed for Turkish grammar rules. The acts discussed in the study were analyzed not only as a whole but also in parts and subsections. According to the results of the study, the levels of readability of the existing laws in most of the selected countries are very difficult to understand for a university graduate. However, when the readability level of the British Budget Responsibility and National Audit Act tested as parts and subsections and a whole, it was rated at a level a university student could understand. This study analyses the readability and intelligibility of acts related to fiscal responsibility and the state budget in six selected countries, adopting Anglo-Saxon public administration model and making an inter-country evaluation. Since it is important that citizens have enough information about legislation for a citizen-oriented understanding, a legislation system that is understood by the larger part of the society is essential.

Details

Contemporary Issues in Public Sector Accounting and Auditing
Type: Book
ISBN: 978-1-83909-508-5

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Article
Publication date: 18 June 2021

Gatot Soepriyanto, Sienny Tjokroaminoto and Arfian Erma Zudana

This study aims to examine the association between annual report readability and accounting irregularities in Indonesia. Using 967 firm-year observations over the…

Abstract

Purpose

This study aims to examine the association between annual report readability and accounting irregularities in Indonesia. Using 967 firm-year observations over the 2014–2017 period, this paper unable to find evidence that annual report readability is associated with accounting irregularities. The results are robust after using alternate measurements of accounting irregularities proxies and readability indexes. This paper also finds that the corporate governance mechanism and foreign shareholder structure did not moderate the association between annual report readability and accounting irregularities.

Design/methodology/approach

The study uses an archival method with cross-sectional regression of 967 firm-year observations over the 2014–2017 period to investigate an association between annual report readability and accounting irregularities in an emerging market setting. To check the robustness of the results, this paper conducts a battery of robustness tests.

Findings

This paper finds evidence that annual report readability is not associated with accounting irregularities in Indonesia. The results are robust after using alternate measurements of accounting irregularities proxies and readability indexes. This paper also finds that the corporate governance mechanism and foreign shareholder structure did not moderate the association between annual report readability and accounting irregularities. This implies that the readability of annual reports does not have the ability to predict the likelihood of accounting irregularities in Indonesia. It is possible that firms with accounting irregularities will be inclined to voice simpler stories which can counteract the tendency of lies to be linguistically more complex. Indeed, according to the Education First English Proficiency Index, Indonesia is categorized at a low proficiency level. Furthermore, this paper also discovers that the average readability of the management discussion and analysis (MD&A) of Indonesian public listed firms is at an ideal score by having a Fog Index of 13.32. The findings provide valuable insights for stakeholders in using annual reports for their decision-making, especially in an emerging market setting and non-English speaking countries.

Research limitations/implications

It is important to interpret the findings in the context of the limitations of the readability index the authors used. It is argued that Fog Index, Flesch-Kincaid and Flesch Reading Ease have their own limitations as considered inadequate to be used in the context of business and accounting narratives that are adult-oriented and specialist in nature (Jones and Shoemaker, 1994; Loughran and McDonald, 2014). Another caveat relates to the use of proxies for accounting irregularities. The M-Score and F-Score have some limitations in which, among others, were determined without considering the normal level of accruals or period where manipulations were absent (Ball, 2013).

Practical implications

One reason underlying the result is that Indonesian firms, in general, do not consider the complexity of the annual report, particularly MD&A disclosures, as a tool to mask financial reporting irregularities. It is also possible that firms with accounting irregularities will incline to voice simpler stories because it is difficult to be untruthful (Lo et al., 2017). Indeed, according to Education First English Proficiency Index, Indonesia was categorized in low proficiency level and ranked 61st out of 100 countries being surveyed (Education First, 2019). As policymakers, locally and globally, are calling for more simplified reports including a plain English approach, the study can be insightful to their deliberations. It suggests that policymakers need to consider a country’s English proficiency, writing skills, regulatory environment and corporate policy on shaping the complexity and narrative of a firm’s communications.

Originality/value

The study contributes to a scarcity of research that investigates English-written annual reports in non-English speaking countries (Jeanjean et al., 2015; Lundholm et al., 2014). As such, the study findings provide insights related to MD&A in an under-researched area and contribute to improving MD&A not only in Indonesia but also in neighbor countries that share similar social, political and economic characteristics. Also, this study is important for foreign institutions or individuals investing on Indonesian-listed firms. According to Candra (2016), approximately 60% of companies listed in the Indonesia stock exchange are owned by foreign individuals or institutions. They rely greatly on the English texts of annual reports to understand the companies’ financial performance. Moreover, La Porta et al. (2002) asserted that firms with a majority of foreign shareholders (dominantly owned by foreign investors) are more likely to face information asymmetry, primarily due to geographical factors and language barriers.

Details

Journal of Financial Reporting and Accounting, vol. 19 no. 5
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1985-2517

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Article
Publication date: 2 February 2021

Tamanna Dalwai, Gopalakrishnan Chinnasamy and Syeeda Shafiya Mohammadi

The readability of annual reports is an important feature that determines the quality of communication between a firm and its stakeholders. Extant literature has…

Abstract

Purpose

The readability of annual reports is an important feature that determines the quality of communication between a firm and its stakeholders. Extant literature has demonstrated that readability characteristics of annual reports are crucial in facilitating the investor's ability to process and analyze information, resulting in higher firm performance and lower agency costs. This study examines the relationship between annual report readability, agency costs and the firm performance of listed financial sector companies in Oman.

Design/methodology/approach

Using a sample of 150 firm-year observations of listed financial sector companies on the Muscat Securities Market (MSM) over the period 2014 to 2018, a panel regression analysis is used, along with the system generalized method of moments (GMM) estimation to address endogeneity concerns. The readability of annual reports is proxied by the length of the annual report, the Flesch reading ease and the Flesch–Kincaid index.

Findings

The ordinary least squares (OLS) results suggest that readability proxied by the length of the annual report has no significant relationship with agency cost, return on assets (ROA) or stock returns. The OLS results are confirmed through the system GMM estimation model for agency costs, Tobin's Q and stock returns. Easier-to-read annual reports measured by the Flesch reading ease demonstrate high asset utilization ratio and Tobin's Q. These results emphasize Flesch reading ease measure in explaining the economic significance of agency cost and Tobin's Q. In contrast, difficult-to-read annual reports are observed for firms with high ROA.

Research limitations/implications

The study is limited to the financial sector. Its generalizability could be extended to a similar sector or countries with features similar to Oman. Future studies on readability could be extended to other sectors of Oman, and financial firms with easier-to-read annual reports show a high Tobin's Q, which reflects the confidence of investors in the stock market. These findings may encourage policymakers to regulate the readability features of annual reports and influence the reporting quality of financials and disclosures also including cross-country comparisons.

Practical implications

Financial firms with easier-to-read annual reports show a high Tobin's Q, which reflects the confidence of investors in the stock market. These findings may encourage policymakers to regulate the readability features of annual reports and influence the reporting quality of financials and disclosures.

Originality/value

While the study extends prior literature on readability, agency costs and firm performance, it is also one of the first to examine the financial sector of an emerging country, namely, Oman. The study supports the obfuscation hypothesis through the association of readability measure with agency cost. Unlike prior research that has focused on common computational linguistic literature, this study uses three proxies for readability to assess information quality.

Details

Journal of Accounting in Emerging Economies, vol. 11 no. 2
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 2042-1168

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