Taxation is in many respects similar to other forms of regulation in requiring an identifiable set of rules. However, unlike most regulatory systems, taxation is also designed to direct flows of resources from and between those being regulated. This direct influence on resources gives tax systems and their associated regulations a greater salience within society than with many other regulatory systems.
Research on the effects of taxation and its administration draws on a widening range of disciplines including accounting, economics, law, organisational behaviour, public administration, and psychology. This wide range reflects a relatively recent broadening of research perspectives. Arguably, two events have prompted this change. Firstly, the work the European Union (EU) in 1997 and the Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in 1998 exposed inequities with the international tax system to new audiences. Secondly, the Banking Crisis of 2007 – 2009 and resulting economic responses resulted in reductions in the levels of tax revenues.
The research reviewed in the thesis cover four areas, asset pricing, firm level decision making, investor responses to companies’ tax policies, and taxation systems – administration and compliance. These four areas are connected by an overarching question on how decision makers become informed about the taxation system(s) in which they are operating. Taxation systems are typically complex and constantly evolving thereby imposing costs of becoming and remaining informed.
Two broad contributions flow from the above work and are therefore relevant to future research. Firstly, the importance of considering the setting within which tax related decisions are made. As a result of the complexity and uncertainty involved in taxation, decisions are often made in conjunction with a range of parties. Hence, predicting the effects of taxation policy requires an understanding of the likely behaviour of a range of interested parties. Secondly, tax data reported in financial statements often represents aggregated summaries of potentially conflicting or contrasting effects. Further insights about tax decision making in a corporate setting requires an appreciation of how these contrasting effects can be identified using publically available information.
A challenge for tax researchers is to couple expertise from the field of public administration with the necessary understanding of the context in which tax systems operate and tax decisions are made. Such research will have the potential to contribute to real change in society by for example, increased compliance rates, lower administration costs, more effective tax based policy incentives. A better informed society can also improve control, scrutiny and direction of tax systems.