An overwhelming majority of senior financial executives say their tax department’s top priority is not tax savings or their effective rate, but timely and accurate tax return and financial reporting, according to a new survey of CFOs and senior comptrollers by Grant Thornton LLP.

“The survey confirms what we’ve known for a long time,” said Randy Robason, Grant Thornton’s national partner in charge of tax accounting and risk advisory services, in a statement. “Businesses don’t want to pay any more than they have to, but their first priority is always getting it right.”

Both Congress and the IRS have recently taken far-reaching steps to beef up compliance tools for what they see as too much aggressive tax planning. The IRS is currently developing a tax return schedule that will force large corporations to list and disclose detailed information on any tax position that meets the IRS definition of “uncertain.” And Congress just passed legislation that changes the rules and dramatically increases penalties for transactions that “lack economic substance.”

But Grant Thornton’s survey found that financial executives want their tax departments focused on compliance, not aggressive tax planning. Nearly two-thirds (62 percent) said their top priority is either timely and accurate financial reporting, or timely and accurate tax return preparation and compliance. Another 10 percent listed accurate tax risk assessment and appropriate management as the top priority. Just 12 percent ranked overall effective tax rate as the top priority and just 16 percent said it was actual tax savings or deferrals.

“We’d like to see Congress and regulators put as much focus on helping scrupulous businesses navigate an increasingly tricky Tax Code as they do on so-called aggressive tax planning,” said Robason.

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