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The number and importance of private companies in the United States indicates that reliable quality of financial accounting reports (QFAR) of private companies that are useful for decision making is likely to be important for economic growth. Most previous research examining QFAR addressed earnings management among publicly-traded companies. This study extends prior literature by examining whether abnormal production of public and private companies is impacted by (i) assurance type (PCAOB-audit, GAAS-audit, and SSARS-Review), (ii) tax status (separately taxed versus pass-through entity) of private companies, and (iii) relative size. An audit of financial statements provides a high degree of assurance, whereas a review provides limited assurance. Due to data limitations with our private company sample, this study focuses on earnings management through abnormal production by manufacturing companies. When examining companies that just met the benchmark of prior years' earnings or zero earnings we found positive abnormal production for publicly traded companies and privately held audited-taxable companies, but not for other privately held companies. Not identified in previous studies, we find that abnormal production of similarly sized public companies and private companies differ. Our findings provide evidence relevant to the Big GAAP/Little GAAP debate and that one set of accounting standards may not satisfy all public and private company financial statement users. Also, results of this study support the recommendations of the Financial Accounting Foundation’s Blue Ribbon Panel’s Report for establishing a separate private company standards board to help ensure appropriate modifications to GAAP.


This article was originally published in the Journal of Accounting, Ethics, and Public Policy in August 2016.

Original Publication Information

Foster, Benjamin P., John M. Mueller, and Trimbak Shastri. "Impact of Assurance Level and Tax Status on the Tendency of Relatively Small Manufacturers to Manage Production and Earnings." 2016 Journal of Accounting, Ethics and Public Policy, 17(3): 625-643.