Sell-in versus Sell-through Revenue Recognition: An Examination of Firm Characteristics and Financial Information Quality
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This study examines revenue recognition methods used by high technology firms for sales to distributors. Revenue is either recognized when products are delivered to distributors (sell-in) or when distributors resell products to end-users (sell-through). This is the first empirical study to examine the firms that use these revenue recognition methods and the quality of financial information reported under the methods. I use a logistic regression to compare 479 firm-year observations in the computer and electronic equipment industries that use either the sell-in method or the sell-through method. I find that firms with higher growth opportunities and strong corporate governance are less likely to use the sell-in method. In addition, corporate governance strength moderates the association between use of the sell-in method and both capital requirements and management incentive compensation. Using ordinary least squares regression, I also examine two proxies for financial information quality: the ability of accounting information to predict future cash flows and the association between accounting information and stock returns. Results of these regressions suggest that financial information quality is higher under a deferred revenue recognition method (sell-through). Specifically, the ability of accounting information to predict future cash flows and the association between accounting information and returns are both higher for sell-through firms than for sell-in firms. The results of this study suggest that systematic differences exist between sell-in firms and sell-through firms and financial information quality differs between the two revenue recognition methods.
high technology firms
sales to distributors
Rasmussen, Stephanie Jean Binger (2009). Sell-in versus Sell-through Revenue Recognition: An Examination of Firm Characteristics and Financial Information Quality. Doctoral dissertation, Texas A&M University. Available electronically from