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School Hosts First Florida Accounting Symposium

September 09, 2014
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Pictured: Pietro Bianchi, assistant professor of accounting at the School of Business, explored research on auditor networking and tax avoidance at the inaugural Florida Accounting Symposium.

by Richard Westlund

When auditors work together on professional engagements, do they share tax-avoidance strategies for the benefit of a client? Do subjects in research studies put forth less effort when being paid a minimal amount for participating in online surveys? How do financial incentives and mutually shared interest affect honesty?

More than 75 accounting doctoral students and faculty from six universities had an opportunity to discuss these types of questions at the inaugural Florida Accounting Symposium, hosted by the School of Business Administration on September 5-6. 

"Our goal was to provide a forum that would showcase our research and expose our doctoral students to a wide range of accounting methodologies," said DJ Nanda, professor of accounting, who served on the symposium's six-person program committee with Diana Falsetta, associate professor of accounting.

The symposium was organized by the University of Miami, University of Florida and Florida State University, and drew attendees from those schools as well as Florida International University, Florida Atlantic University, the University of South Florida, the University of Tampa and the University of Central Florida.

"The symposium provided me with a great opportunity to meet colleagues who I normally wouldn't see," said John Barrios, a UM doctoral accounting student. "I also benefitted from seeing the high caliber of research being done around the state." 

At the symposium, doctoral students from the three organizing schools introduced faculty members from different schools to encourage peer-to-peer interactions, according to Nanda. "We had a very engaged audience and there were lots of questions and extensive discussion of the presentations," he added.

Falsetta noted that the many questions from attendees focused on the methodologies of the studies, as well as the outcomes. "Several of the studies took an archival approach, collecting data from existing resources to look for significant patterns," she said.  "Other projects took an experimental approach, changing one or two variables in the study to see how that affected the outcome. That method can provide researchers with fresh insights into the causes of trends. 

For example, one of the papers presented, authored by the School’s Pietro Bianchi, Miguel Minutti Meza, Eric Weisbrod and Falsetta, took an archival approach, looking at audit engagements in Italy. 

"We found that the transfer of knowledge occurs between individuals and not necessarily between firms," said Bianchi of the research in the paper "Auditor Networks and Tax Avoidance: Evidence from Private Firms.” "Another finding was that firms engaging better-connected auditors exhibited comparatively lower effective tax rates."

Another presentation, "Scoundrels or Stars? Theory and Evidence on the Use of Online Laborers in Accounting Research," used an experimental method to examine the impact of lower pay on subjects participating in online surveys. 

Other studies presented at the symposium included "The Relative Contributions of Value Relevance and Mispricing to the Pricing of Abnormal Accruals," and "An Experimental Investigation of the Effects of Financial Incentives and Mutual Shared Interest on Honesty." 

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