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Earnings management in response to a windfall-tax in the water and sewerage utility companies in England and Wales

Research output: Working paper

Published
Publication date2003
Place of PublicationLancaster University
PublisherThe Department of Accounting and Finance
Original languageEnglish

Publication series

NameAccounting and Finance Working Paper Series

Abstract

This study examines whether the ten Water and Sewerage group Companies (WaSCs) in England and Wales used accounting accruals to decrease earnings and in turn reduce political costs in response to the Windfall Tax. In particular, this study encompasses a sample period when there was widespread speculation about a potential Windfall Tax and the monopolistic level of utility company profits. Therefore considerable incentives existed for managers to use the accounting discretion available to them to reduce potential political costs. The results show that WaSCs did not use income-decreasing earnings management in response to the Windfall Tax in the year prior to the 1992 or the 1997 General Election. In contrast the evidence obtained in this study suggests that income-increasing accruals were adopted. The results suggest other pressures were more important to these large group plcs than the threat of politically imposed wealth transfers.