Earnings Management to Avoid Earnings Boosts

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The purpose of this study is to investigate whether earnings boosts before the year end trigger earnings management. It examines whether firms that substantially outperformed their last year earnings during the first three quarters push their earnings down to avoid reporting earnings boosts.

Regression analysis is used to compare earnings management of firms with earnings boosts and other firms.

The results indicate that firms outperforming their last year results by the end of the third quarter manipulate their earnings downwards by means of real activities manipulation, while they do not indicate income-decreasing accruals management. It is also found that consistent with the prominent shift from accruals management to real activities manipulation, accruals management is less costly which justifies why it is used for downward manipulation.

Research limitations/implications
The results are limited to one single earnings benchmark i.e. last year earnings. Further research may individually or collectively examine other benchmarks including analysts' forecasts.

Practical implications
The findings suggest that users should be more vigilant of firms exceeding their last year interim results, as they could be involved in downward earnings management.

This study documents earnings management in a new setting where earnings boosts before the year end trigger downward manipulation of real activities.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)657-676
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Applied Accounting Research
Issue number4
Early online date28 Sept 2020
Publication statusPublished - 14 Oct 2020

Bibliographical note

The authors are thankful to Professor Frank Hong Liu for suggestions that improved the original draft of the article. The authors also appreciate the comments by two anonymous reviewers.


  • Earnings Management
  • Real Activities Manipulation
  • Accruals Management
  • Quarterly Earnings
  • M41


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