Do Socially Responsible Corporations pay Taxes? CSR and effective Tax Rates
Bruce Carruthers, Northwestern University
Abstract: The social responsibilities of for-profit corporations have gained importance recently, and CSR has become both a goal and a set of guidelines for various corporate activities. CSR encompasses a number of dimension, typically including environmental impacts, treatment of employees, and relations to local communities. Here we consider the relationship between CSR and corporate taxes: do firms that are “good citizens” also pay higher taxes? Is it the social responsibility of firms to help pay for public services? Focusing on the percentile rank of effective tax rates, and using random effects panel regression of a data set of publicly-traded U.S. firms that includes measures of CSR and many financial variables, we find that the relationship between CSR and taxation is a complicated one that warrants further investigation. However, strong corporate governance, a typical component of CSR, is associated with lower tax rates, suggesting that responsibility to shareholders conflicts with broader social responsibilities.
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