We investigate (1) how well a machine learning algorithm can predict one-year ahead effective tax rates (ETRs) and (2) which items in the financial statements and notes are most useful for these predictions. We compare our machine-generated ETR predictions with those from ETRs implied by analysts’ earnings forecasts and find the algorithm’s predictions are less biased, more precise, and explain more of the variance in future ETRs. We then use Explainable AI (based on Shapley values) to measure the usefulness of each disclosure item in the algorithm’s predictions. We find that while some tax-related items are useful, others offer minimal value. Using the machine learning algorithm’s use of information as a benchmark, we then further use Shapley values to examine which information is underweighted or overweighted by analysts. Overall, our results help inform standard setters on the relevance of certain tax disclosures in achieving the objective of predicting future ETRs.
JEL Classifications: G17.