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Abstract

We examine whether companies voluntarily disclose additional information about tax losscarryforwards when the recoverability is more uncertain. With this study, we aim to explain part of thehuge cross-sectional variation in the tax footnote. To assess disclosure behavior, we hand-collect datafrom notes of large German firms IFRS financial statements and identify voluntarily disclosedinformation. First, our results support prior literatures evidence of a considerable cross-sectionalvariation of disclosure in the tax footnote. Second, we find that uncertainty about the usability of taxlosses has a significantly positive relation to the amount and quality of disclosure, controlling for otherdisclosure determinants derived from prior literature and for sample selection. Third, our results indicatethat the observed disclosure behavior is not simply a reflection of the firms general disclosure behaviorbut specific to the tax footnote. These findings are robust to several historic and forward-lookingindicators representing uncertainty. Our findings suggest that managers anticipate the investors needfor more private information and disclose them voluntarily to reduce information asymmetries. Thisresult indicates that part of the cross-sectional variation in the tax footnote can be explained by firmsanticipating investors demand for additional information.

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