General Counsel Prominence and Corporate Tax Policy

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Prior research provides evidence that individual executives have a significant effect on firm-level tax policy. Further research has shown that having a corporate general counsel (GC) in a firm's top management team (top five highest paid executives) significantly affects a firm's accounting and disclosure practices. In this paper, we examine the role of the GC in corporate tax policy. Specifically, we use the ascension of the corporate GC to top management as the identifying event in which the role and influence of the corporate GC becomes more salient. We find strong evidence that GC ascension to top management is associated with an increase in tax aggressiveness, as evidenced by greater book-tax differences and a higher likelihood of engaging in tax shelter activities.