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A Study on Tax Avoidance Decisions of Quoted Consumer Goods Manufacturing Companies in Nigeria: A View from Gender Diversity and CEO Duality

This article is published by the Zamfara International Journal of Humanities.

1 Ismail Abdul-khadir Musa, 2 Ahmadu Noel Donald ,

 Ramalan, Muhammed Murtala &    4 Ahmed Salisu Iyal

1 & 4 Dept. of Business Admin, & Mgt.,
 2 Dept. of Humanity & Social Sciences,
 3 Dept. of Accountancy,
Federal Polytechnic, Nasarawa
Nasarawa - Nigeria
abdulkhadrismail257@gmail.com
Phone No: 09035221972

Abstract

This study determined the extent to which gender diversity and CEO duality influences tax avoidance decisions of quoted consumer goods manufacturing companies in Nigeria. Fifteen (15) quoted consumer goods manufacturing companies on the Nigeria Stock Exchange as at 2021 were selected for this study. Both Ex-post- facto and Causal Research Designs were adopted in the study. Panel data obtained from the annual reports of the selected firms for the period of 7 years (2015 to 2021) was used to examine the relationship between the variables. The output of multiple regression model employed to test the hypothesis indicated among other things that gender diversity had significant negative effect on tax avoidance decisions of the studied firms, but CEO duality has significant positive effect on tax avoidance decisions of the firms. Thus, the study recommends that the management of quoted consumer goods manufacturing companies in Nigeria; should reduce the dominance of female participation on the board of their companies because their inclusion is creating negative consequences on the company tax liabilities and that the companies should continue with the policy of CEO duality because it leads to higher levels of tax efficiency.                                                                                            

Keywords: Board diversity, tax avoidance, gender diversity, CEO duality

Introduction

Tax avoidance represents a firm’s deliberate efforts to reduce its tax liabilities through the use of some strategies (Lee, et al., 2015). Several studies have looked into why firms engaged in tax avoidance. For example, Armstrong et al. (2011) concluded that corporations engage in tax avoidance as it is seen as a relatively inexpensive source of financing. The owners of corporations, most times link management’s pay to after-tax returns or stock price. This action results to managers engaging in all activities they believe will maximize the shareholders wealth including tax avoidance activities. Desai et al. (2007) proposed a situation where self-interested managers structure the firm in a complex manner in order to facilitate transactions that reduce corporate taxes and divert corporate resources for private use. They are likely to do this through the structure of their boards. This is because board members influence the firm’s financial decisions. Corporate tax avoidance is therefore seen as an opportunistic behavior of firms’ managers. The majority of managers might be persuaded to use any tax avoidance techniques in order to boost company profits and dividends given to shareholders. This may be the result of the variety of business board members, who may have comparable opinions. The gender balance and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) duality concepts are perhaps the most important aspects of board diversity that influence decisions on tax avoidance in corporate boards of listed consumer goods manufacturing businesses in Nigeria. It is a fact that corporate strategies are planned by the board of directors which is an expression of a company values (Vacca et al., 2020).

Following several corporate scandals, governments and policy makers of countries around the globe are promoting the representation of women on decision making segments of firms. The European Commission issued a special directive 2012/0290/EC that seeks to support long term gender diversity within the governance structure of listed firms, plus making board of directors up to 40% women (Lanis, et al., 2017). In September 2015, the United Nations (UN) approved Agenda 2030 for sustainable development policy document which comprises of 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) with sub-targets for combating social and economic inequality (UNESCO, 2015). Of particular interest, the UN policy framework aims to reach gender equality as enshrined in the 5.5 sub-target which promotes the equality and the participation of women in the political and managerial decision making processes of governments and firms.

Guarded by these international calls and campaign for gender inclusiveness in the corporate world, many Nigeria firms are integrating female directors into their corporate boards. This has attracted several researchers to study the impact such corporate boards have on tax policies of these firms. But empirical investigations and findings of studies on the influence of gender diversity on tax avoidance decisions of firms are inconsistent and incomplete. For example, studies by Ogbodo (2021); Uniakogbo et al. (2019); Jaboui et al.(2019); Riguen, et al. (2019) found a positive effect of gender board diversity an tax avoidance, but other researchers such as  Vacca et al. (2020) found a negative effect of gender board diversity an tax avoidance.  There is a need to further find out how the inclusion of women in board influences firms’ tax decisions in Nigeria.

CEO duality is regarded as the practice of one person acting as firm’s CEO and board chair of a company. Supporters of duality concept posit that duality leads to increase tax efficiency and effectiveness which can be seen from the firm’s performance; while opponents of CEO duality argue that CEO duality could be compromised by managers for their selfish interest. Exponents (Bosner, 2007; Otuedon, 2021) of this thoughts supported independent board, and argued for the separation of the position of the CEO from the board chair. Feng and Kao (2020) posited that the higher the comprehensive power of the CEOs, the more tax avoidance is mitigated in general. According Feng and Kao, this is because CEO has structural and ownership power to control tax avoidance by lowering permanent book to -tax differences.

Corporate regulators in Nigeria have recommended that firms should dismantle the practice of CEO duality (Nigeria Stock Exchange, 2021; Central Bank of Nigeria, 2020). This is because the regulators think that separating the roles of CEO and the chair of the board of directors is considered best practice. But should this be? Virtually all quoted consumer goods manufacturing firms in the country yielded to these calls. But the question is whether CEO duality or separation influences these firms’ tax avoidance decisions or not is probably one of the contentious and unsettled questions in corporate governance researches and practices.

Researches into the effect of CEO duality on corporate tax avoidance did not produce consistent results. For instance, studies by Aburajab, et al. (2019); Purba (2018) etc. established positive effect of CEO on tax avoidance while results of researches by Egbunike et al. (2021; Ezejiofor and Ezenwafor (2020) etc. were in the negative. This inconsistent finding shows that there is the need to further explore the effect of CEO duality/separation on firms’ tax avoidance across the world, especially in Nigeria.

Objectives of the Study

From the foregoing, the primary goal of this study is to:

1.      Find out the extent to which gender diversity influences tax avoidance decisions of quoted consumer goods manufacturing firms in Nigeria; and

2.      Examine the influence of CEO duality/separation on tax avoidance decisions of quoted consumer goods manufacturing firms in Nigeria.

 

Literature Review and Conceptual Clarifications

Tax Avoidance

The term "tax avoidance" has both a wide and specific definition in accounting literature. In general, the capacity to pay little or no tax in comparison to stated pre-tax financial accounting income is referred to as tax avoidance (Jahromi, 2012). According to this concept, there is no distinction between genuine activities and tax utility on the one hand, and tax avoidance activities and lobbying for tax benefits on the other. Therefore, a "plan or arrangement created for the single or major aim of avoiding tax" is considered tax avoidance (Braithwaite, 2005). Recent managerial conduct in the industrial sector of Nigeria tends to suggest that they are completely focused on reducing taxes by building tax avoidance activities, which are becoming increasingly common in all enterprises globally.

 

Gender Diversity and Tax Avoidance

According to Fabian et al. (2022) “diversity in its most basic form means variety”. They believed that diversity is influenced by factors including age, gender, role or job experience, handicap, customs, culture, personal taste, physical appearance, and religious affiliation. As a result, diversity refers to a large range of people who are unique from one another (ACCA, 2015). Diversity, according to Raharjanti (2019) “is a situation where men and women share similar rights and obligations in top management positions”. However, studies have shown that the influence of women in the boardroom has been shifting. In their study, Cumming et al. (2015) demonstrated that the amount of tax avoidance in their sampled firms decreased as the proportion of women on boards rose. This is because female managers often have more favorable attitudes about the implementation of an ethical code in their firm, according to research by Ibrahim et al. (2009). Using data from more than 2000 international corporations, Curtis et al. (2012) discovered that female presence on boards was linked to improved performance and share prices, including less volatility in profits and share prices due to taxes. Sesilia and Wiwiek (2021) affirmed that female directors performed better than their male counterpart because they are able to avoid risks. Additionally, gender disparities in risk attitudes between men and women are documented in the literature. According to academics, female CEOs' corporate judgments are very different from those of their male colleagues (Francis, et al., 2013). Faccio et al. (2016) discovered that employing more female CEOs reduces company risk-taking, leverage, and profits volatility. Francis et al. (2014) also posited that female CEOs are more cautious when making decisions on financial reporting. Female CEOs were less likely to undertake big acquisitions and issue debt, according to Huang and Kisgen's (2013) research. Whether or not a board contains at least one female director, according to Abbott et al. (2012) hypothesis is associated with a decreased chance of tax avoidance or not is still debatable. There are limited and inconsistent empirical researches on how female leaders affect companies' tax evasion techniques. For example, in a sample of 270 United Kingdom (UK) companies from 2005 to 2017, Riguen, et al. (2019) investigated whether women on boards of directors are associated with lower levels of corporate tax avoidance. The information gathered from the company's websites was analyzed using regression analysis. The study's findings demonstrated that those businesses' tax-avoidance strategies were positively influenced by board gender diversity. The study was carried out in UK, which means that findings are not applicable to Nigeria business environment due to differences in socio- economic environment.

 

Hoseini and Gerayli (2018) performed research to determine how Iranian companies' tax avoidance strategies are influenced by the number of women on their corporate boards. Ex-post facto and descriptive research designs were employed in the study. The study used secondary data from the Tehran Stock Exchange and individual company websites for the years 2011 to 2015 and covered 97 firms, or 97 organizations in all for the analysis. With the use of panel regression models, the hypothesis was examined. The findings showed that the presence of women on corporate boards of the companies had a considerable negative impact on tax avoidance (measured in terms of book tax differences and the effective tax rate). Though their study was carried in Iran which is considered a developing economy -though more advanced than Nigeria, the study failed to show the extent to which the involvement of women in boards influences tax avoidance. 

Sunday and Osasu (2018) looked at the impact of gender diversity on listed consumer goods companies’ tax aggressiveness and gender diversity. Eighty-five (85) listed non-financial businesses were chosen, and information was gathered from 2012 to 2016. The data analysis employed inferential statistics and the General Method of Moment. The findings demonstrated that gender diversity had a notable favorable impact on the tax-aggressiveness of the Nigerian enterprises under study. Though the study was carried out in Nigeria, the population of the study was not specified in the study. More so, how the sampled firms were chosen was doubtful and that means that the findings cannot be generalized.

Vacca et al. (2020) examined the moderating role of gender diversity on tax aggressiveness of listed Italian firms between 2011 and 2018. Logit regression model was used to analyses the data obtained from the financial records of the studied firms. The result shows that there exist negative impacts of gender diversity on the tax aggressiveness of the Italian firms. The authors of this study did not state the population and sample size of the study which means that the findings cannot be generalized to an undisclosed population.

CEO Duality and Tax Avoidance

According to Ogbodo et al. (2021) CEO duality is a situation where the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) simultaneously chairs the board. Costa and Matrins (2019) argued that the duality of CEO positions represents a conflict of interests between ownership and management of which agency theory contends. This is because it is thought that separating the board chairman from the CEO will provide the crucial checks and balances of power on organizational performance (Chapra & Ahmed in Ogbodo, 2021). It is argued that the inability of corporations to separate the two roles (CEO and board Chair) creates a barrier which might results in management entrenchment (Minnick & Noga, 2010). Several studies on the effect of CEO duality on tax avoidance decisions of corporate firms were carried out around the globe but their findings are not conclusive. In Greece for instance, Geogios and Koumanako (2022) examined the effect of combining or dividing the CEO and chairman of the board (COB) posts on corporate tax evasion using a special dataset with matched tax returns and CEO attributes at the business level. In contrast to the factual findings presented by recent finance research, the opinions of policymakers, and anecdotal data from all around the world, they asserted that CEO duality has a detrimental impact on businesses' ability to evade paying corporate taxes in the Greek economic climate. They made the case that their findings support what conventional agency theory and psychology have to say about the function and influence of groups in risk-taking behaviors and general decision-making processes.

Egbunike et al. (2021) looked at how CEO duality affected the tax evasion of listed industrial enterprises in Nigeria. The study used an ex post facto research design. All manufacturing enterprises listed on the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE) made up the population. Utilizing quartile regression, the hypothesis was evaluated. The results showed that at the 25th, 50th, and 75th quantiles, CEO duality was not significant. CEO duality exhibited a negative coefficient, indicating that it has a detrimental impact on businesses in emerging and developing nations that use tax evasion strategies.

Ezeala and Okerekeoti (2021) studied the impact of CEO duality on tax avoidance among Nigeria’s publicly traded food and beverage companies on the Nigeria Stock Exchange from 2013 to 2019. The study adopted the ex post -facto research design. A purposively non-random sampling technique was employed to select 9 firms from the population. Secondary data were collected from the selected companies’ annual financial reports and accounts. The collected data were analyzed using regression model to examine the link between the two variables. The result shows that CEO duality had a positive and significant impact on tax avoidance of publicly traded food and beverage companies. The impact of CEO duality on the tax avoidance (effective tax rate) of listed food and beverage firms in Nigeria was examined by Ezejiofor and Ezenwafor (2020). The study design used ex post facto research design. During the data gathering phase, nine (9) firms were chosen using a purposive sample approach. Data were gathered from the sampled firms' 2013–2019 annual reports and financial statements. With the use of the e-view, descriptive statistics and regression were utilized to assess the study's data, and the results had a 95% confidence level at five degrees of freedom (df). The findings demonstrated that CEO duality was substantial and had a favorable correlation with tax planning for food and beverage industries in Nigeria. The research thus indicated that in order to guarantee that proper monitoring functions are separated; the CEO and chairman of the board should be separated. Failure to do so may result in more tax planning and a chance for managers to collect rent.

Theoretical Framework: the agency theory

Many studies viewed tax avoidance by management as an element of agency theory. Jensen and Meckling created the notion of agency theory in 1976. They proposed a theory explaining how a company's governance is built on conflicts of interest between its management, large debt financiers, the owners of the business and the shareholders, who are represented by the board of directors. These theorists contend that when a company's stock is widely owned and the board of directors is made up of individuals with limited knowledge of the company, the top management of the company has more clout. According to this notion, a company's top management should possess a sizable portion of the company in order to ensure a favorable correlation between corporate governance and the share of stock held by the top management (Mallin, 2004). Hunger and Wheelen (2002) argued that problems arise in corporations because agents (top management) are not willing to bear responsibility for their decisions unless they own a substantial amount of stock in the corporation.

The idea focuses on a certain kind of agency connection that exists between shareholders and a company's directors or management. The executives are chosen by the shareholders, the actual owners of the organization, to act and make decisions on their behalf. The goal is to reflect the owners' opinions and run the business in their best interest. Despite this obvious justification for choosing the board of directors, there are several occasions when complex situations arise and the executives, whether deliberately or innocently, make decisions that are not in the best interests of shareholders. According to the notion of agency, companies represent their shareholders. In other words, shareholders who participate in corporate ownership entrust the corporation's directors and officers with the administration of their resources. The short- and long-term interests of officials and stockholders can sharply differ in larger organizations. This is largely due to the short-term need for profits and the knowledge asymmetry between officers and directors and shareholders. The conflict of interest between an officer, director, and shareholder is regarded to have an impact on the decisions and actions taken by officers and directors, who could start to disregard the interests of shareholders.

The reason why the agency theory is adopted in this study was based on the rationale that the composition of board of directors represent different interests in corporate businesses, and do have an impact on the tax avoidance actions made by these organizations. This hypothesis is connected to the current study.

Methodology

This study applied both ex-post facto and causal research designs. The study used cross sectional time series (panel) data for the period of 7 years spanning through 2015 to 2021 to examine the effect of board gender diversity and CEO duality on tax avoidance decisions of 19 quoted consumer goods manufacturing as at 2021. However, only 15 of the firms were considered in this study. The following criterion was used to arrive at the sample size:

Companies must have complete financial statements for the last seven financial years under considerations;

Companies must not have tax refunds or operating loss due to distortions in measuring their tax obligations;

Companies must not have measures greater than 1 (so as to forestall model estimation errors (Ibrahim et al., 2013).

Hence, only 15 firms met the requirements (i.e. Cadbury Nig., Dangote Flour Mills, Dangote Sugar, Flour Mills Of Nigeria, Honywell Flour Mill, Unilever Nig., Nigerian Northern Flour Mill, Nigeria Breweries, Nascon Allied, International Breweries, Mcnichols Consolidated, Nestle Nig., Nigerian Enamelware, PZ Cussons, Vitafoam Nig.). Secondary data were extracted from the annual reports of the selected firms. The data from the annual report was used because it is considered as legitimate since publicly listed companies' annual reports and accounts are submitted to an independent external audit by auditors in accordance with Companies and Allied Matters Act (CAMA) in order to offer a real and fair view of the company's state. Accordingly, the study's data is considered authentic because it was based on the findings of the external audit of each company's financial accounts. Multiple regression models were employed to evaluate the hypothesis. The model's equation is given below:

Panel Regression Model:

TXAVOID = f (BD, BM) ……………………..…...                  i

TAXAGGR it = β0 + β1 GD it + β2  CD it + εit …         ii

Where:

TXAVOID         =          Tax Avoidance

GD                   =          Gender Diversity

CD                    =          CEO Duality

The variables and proxies employed in this study were adopted from prior studies and are presented in the tables that follow:

Table 1: Variables Measurements

S/N

Variable

Coded

Measurements

Prior Studies

1

Tax Avoidance 

TAXAVOID

Current ETR = Current income tax expense / Pre- tax accounting    income

Sesilia & Wiwiek (2021);

Otuendon (2021); Ibrahim et al. (2013); Huseynov & Klamn (2012; Hope et al. (2012); Hanlon & Heitzman (2010); Chen et al. (2010)

2

Gender Diversity

GD

GD = The number of women directors on the board / the number of board of directors

Ogbodo & Omonigho (2021);

Sesilia & Wiwiek (2021)

3

CEO Duality

CD

CD it    =  Takes the value of 1 if CEO and the chairperson positions are   held by the same individual, 0 otherwise in the period (t)

Ogbodo & Omonigho (2021)

 

Source: Researcher’s Compilation (2022)

 

Data Analysis and Results

i.                    Descriptive Statistics

Table 2: Descriptive Statistics for TAXAVOID, GD and CD

 

TAXAVOID

GD

CD

Mean

18.4321

53.3454

18.5959

Median

14.3254

60.0000

12.0000

Maximum

75.1650

76.3454

17.1935

Minimum

- 405.321

18.1800

5.7801

Std. Dev.

91.8766

15.4321

3.7689

Skewness

0.85027

- 0.5838

0.3427

Kurtosis

70.2025

5.1342

3.6552

 

 

 

 

Jarque-Bera

15802.73

9.7715

4.73219

Probability

0.00000

0.0075

0.00384

 

 

 

 

Sum

2980.540

11534.88

1763.000

Sum Sq. Dev.

1412940

42433.99

1607.653

 

 

 

 

Observations

170

170

170

Source: Researcher’s Computation (2022)

Table 2 provided descriptions of the study's variables in terms of tax avoidance (measured by current ETR), board diversity (BD), and CEO duality (CD). There are no outliers, according to the average/mean scores for the corresponding variables of 18.43, 53.34, and 18.59. The median

scores for tax avoidance (TAXAVOID), gender diversity (GD), and CEO duality (CD is 14.32, 60.00, and 12.00 in that order. The maximum and minimum value of TAXAVOID among the sampled firms was 75.16 and - 405.32 respectively. The standard deviation was found to be 91.87 from the mean value and there were 170 observations. The maximum and minimum value of GD among the sampled firm was 76.34 and 18.18 respectively. The standard deviation was found to be 15.43 from the mean value and there were 170 observations. The maximum and minimum value of CD among the sampled firm was 17.19 and 5.00 respectively. The standard deviation was found to be 3.76 from the mean value and there were 170 observations.


Table 3:     Multi-Collinearity Test

 

Coefficient

Uncentered

Centered

Variable

Variance

VIF

VIF

C

1373.911

42.05572

NA

GD

0.183959

12.36173

1.07132

CD

6.122331

17.23458

1.08344

Source: Researcher’s Computation (2022)

Table 3 is a multi-collinearity test result that shows whether the explanatory or independent variables are highly correlated. These variables can only be highly correlated if the Variance Inflation Factor (VIF) is greater than 10. However, since the respective VIFs are less than 10 (i.e. 0.18, 6.12), this means that there is absence of autocorrelation.


Table 4: Model Summary

Model

R

R-Square

Adjusted R-Square

Std. Error of Estimate

1

.4132

.6954

.4354

.34333

a.      Dependent Variable: TAXAVOID

b.      Predictors (Constant): GD, CD

 From table 4, the R-square indicates .69 which means that about 69% of variance in tax avoidance (as measured by effective tax rate) of quoted consumer goods manufacturing firms in Nigeria is explained by gender diversity and CEO duality. This suggests that the model is fit for this study.

 

ii.                  Test of Hypothesis

 

Table 5:           Regression Analysis

Variable

Coefficient

Std. Error

t-Statistics

Prob.

C

54.8031

8.9911

6.0952

0.0018

BD

5.4346

.6813

7.9768

0.0083

CD

19.5335

3.713

5.2608

0.0006

Source: Researcher’s Computation (2022)


Table 5 is the regression result. Thus, the regression line of TAXAVOID (ETR) = 54.80 - 5.43 GD + 19.53 CD indicates that, tax avoidance as measured by the firms (i.e. quoted consumer goods companies in Nigeria effective tax rate of, decreases by 5.43 units for every 1 unit increase in gender diversity (GD) while tax avoidance increases by 19.53 units for every 1 unit increase in CEO duality (CD). In the absence of gender diversity and CEO duality (i.e. if all variables are 0) the average effective tax rate remains at 54.80. The t-values test the hypothesis that the coefficient is different from 0. To reject this, a t-value greater than 1.96 (at 0.05 confidences) is required. The t- values of the coefficient as shown in this result are all important in the model. The p-values indicate significant effects of GD and CD on tax aggressiveness at 5% level of significance.

The co-efficient of - 5.43 with the p-value of 0.0083 indicates a significant negative effect of gender diversity on tax avoidance activities of quoted consumer goods companies in Nigeria. This finding is consistent with the findings of Hoseini & Gerayli (2018) and that of Francis et al (2014) but inconsistent with that of Sunday and Osasu (2018); the co-efficient of 19.53 with the p-value of 0.006 indicates a significant positive effect of CEO duality on tax avoidance activities of quoted consumer goods companies in Nigeria and the finding is related to the findings of Ezejiofor & Ezenwafor (2020) inconsistent with that of Geogios & Koumanako (2022) and Egbunike et al (2021). The study aligns with the principle of the agency theories.

 

Conclusion and Recommendations 

Based on the findings of this study, we therefore concludes that gender diversity has a significant negative effect on tax avoidance activities of quoted consumer goods manufacturing companies in Nigeria; while CEO duality has significant positive effect on tax avoidance activities of quoted consumer goods companies in Nigeria.

It is therefore, recommended that the management of quoted consumer goods companies in Nigeria should;

a.      Make efforts towards reducing the dominance of female participation in the board of their companies. This is because their involvement in the board decision had negative consequences on the companies tax liabilities and that;

b.      Continue with the policy of CEO duality because it led to higher levels of tax planning.


 

 

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