Taboo or Technical Issue? An Empirical Assessment of Taxation in Sustainability Reports

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Hardeck, I., & Kirn, T. (2016). Taboo or Technical Issue? An Empirical Assessment of Taxation in Sustainability Reports. Journal of Cleaner Production, 133, 1337-1351. (ABDC_2022: A; ABS_2021: 2; VHB_3: B)

Publication type

Article in Scientific Journal


Prior literature offers mixed evidence on the existence of a link between corporate taxation and corporate social responsibility (CSR). This article contributes to this debate by examining the level of tax disclosure in sustainability reports by firms listed in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Germany from 2007 to 2012. The aim is to offer micro-level evidence of whether firms themselves perceive corporate tax payments as being part of their CSR. On the basis of a hand-collected 540-firm-year dataset of ninety publicly listed firms, the article shows that the level of tax disclosure was rather low. However, it did increase over time and was most prevalent in the United Kingdom. Moreover, the reports indicate considerable variation in attitudes toward taxation. Overall, the widespread silence on tax issues and a non-uniform treatment of taxation in sustainability reports underline the complex role of tax payments when it comes to CSR. Examination of determinants of disclosure shows that firms with lower effective tax rates, negative media coverage in tax matters, and industry-specific stakeholder pressure were generally more inclined to disclose tax information, which is in line with predictions based on stakeholder and legitimacy theory. Finally, the article discusses the importance of cultural and social norms when it comes to tax-related sustainability reporting and provides theoretical as well as regulatory implications.


Empirical evidence of tax disclosure within sustainability reporting
FFF-Förderprojekt, July 2014 until September 2016 (finished)

Tax payments by multinational enterprises are increasingly discussed within the corporate social responsibility (CSR) debate. At the beginning, mainly media, non-governmental organizations, and ... more ...


Organizational Units

  • Chair for Tax Management and the Laws of Liechtenstein and International Taxation
  • Center for Economics