DEFINITION of 'Accounting-Based Incentive'

A method for compensating corporate executives based on whether they help their companies reach certain performance levels in areas such as earnings per share and return on equity. These plans are widely used and can be divided into two types: those that reward performing executives with cash and those that reward performing executives with stock. It is common for incentive pay to make up a significant portion of an executive's compensation in firms of all sizes. Executives are also compensated with a base salary and benefits.

BREAKING DOWN 'Accounting-Based Incentive'

The Journal of Managerial Issues published a study of 175 firms that adopted accounting-based incentive plans between 1971 and 1980, which showed that these firms usually rose from performing below or at industry medians to exceeding industry medians after adopting the plans. After controlling for other variables, the improvement in performance was believed to be tied to plan adoption. Other performance measures that companies commonly use to measure executive performance include cash flow, return on assets, operating income, net income and total shareholder return.

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