Do Taxes Explain Why Firms Rarely Use Performance-Based Malus Contracts?

Rainer Niemann, Mariana Sailer*

*Corresponding author for this work

Publication: Scientific journalJournal articlepeer-review


Performance-based bonus contracts trigger financial rewards in the case of goal attainment, while performance-based malus contracts punish target failure by means of financial deductions. Recommended and demanded by various stakeholders, malus contracts can be a competitive alternative that curbs high executive remuneration—nevertheless, firms rarely implement them in executive remuneration. A reason for this may lie in the tax treatment of corporate losses and executive remuneration. We analytically examine the effects of the most common forms of corporate taxation (symmetric and asymmetric) and personal wage taxation (proportional and progressive) on a firm owner’s contract choice. Our findings show that neither symmetric corporate nor proportional wage taxation impede malus contracts. However, asymmetric corporate taxation tends to disadvantage malus contracts compared to bonus contracts. Furthermore, progressive wage taxation has the potential to make malus contracts less attractive. This insight can add to the explanation for why firms rarely use performance-based malus contracts.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of International Accounting, Auditing and Taxation
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2023

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