The final large non-operating item is the tax expense. This is often a large amount that affects profit substantially. Differences in tax rates can be an important driver of value. Generally, there are three types of tax rates:
The statutory tax rate, which is the tax rate applying to what is considered to be a company’s domestic tax base.
The effective tax rate, which is calculated as the reported tax amount on the income statement divided by the pre-tax income.
The cash tax rate, which is the tax actually paid (cash tax) divided by pre-tax income.
Differences between cash taxes and reported taxes typically result from timing differences between accounting and tax calculations and are reflected as a deferred tax asset or a deferred tax liability.
In forecasting tax expense and cash taxes, respectively, the effective tax rate and cash tax rate are key. A good understanding of their operational drivers and the financial structure of a company is useful in forecasting these tax rates.
Differences between the statutory tax rate and the effective tax rate can arise for many reasons. Tax credits, withholding tax on dividends, adjustments to previous years, and expenses not deductible for tax purposes are among the reasons for differences. Effective tax rates can differ when companies are active outside the country in which they are domiciled. The effective tax rate becomes a blend of the different tax rates of the countries in which the activities take place in relation to the profit generated in each country. If a company reports a high profit in a country with a high tax rate and a low profit in a country with a low tax rate, the effective tax rate will be the weighted average of the rates, and higher than the simple average tax rate of both countries. In some cases, companies have also been able to minimize their taxes by using special purposes entities. For example, some companies create specialized financing and holding companies to minimize the amount of taxable profit reported in high tax rate countries. Although such actions could reduce the effective tax rate substantially, they also create risks if, for example, tax laws change. In general, an effective tax rate that is consistently lower than statutory rates or the effective tax rates reported by competitors may warrant additional attention when forecasting future tax expenses. The notes on the financial statements should disclose other types of items, some of which could contribute to a temporarily high or low effective tax rate. The cash tax rate is used for forecasting cash flows and the effective tax rate is relevant for projecting earnings on the income statement. In developing an estimated tax rate for forecasts, analysts should adjust for any one-time events. If the income from equity method investees is a substantial part of pre-tax income and also a volatile component of it, the effective tax rate excluding this amount is likely to be a better estimate for the future tax costs for a company. The tax impact from income from participations is disclosed in the notes on the financial statements.
Often, a good starting point for estimating future tax expense is a tax rate based on normalized operating income, before the results from associates and special items. This normalized tax rate should be a good indication of the future tax expense, adjusted for special items, in an analyst’s earnings model.
By building a model, the effective tax amount can be found in the profit and loss projections and the cash tax amount on the cash flow statement.3 The reconciliation between the profit and loss tax amount and the cash flow tax figures should be the change in the deferred tax asset or liability. (Institute 128-129)
Source: Institute, CFA. 2018 CFA Program Level II Volume 4 Equity. CFA Institute, 07/2017. VitalBook file.