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There’s No Place Like Home: The Profitability Gap between Headquarters and their Foreign Subsidiaries

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  • Matthias Dischinger

    ()
    (University of Munich)

  • Nadine Riedel

    ()
    (Oxford University Centre for Business Taxation, CESifo Munich)

Abstract

Using a large data set of European firms, this paper provides evidence that operations at multinational headquarters are significantly more profitable than operations at their foreign subsidiaries. The effect turns out to be robust and quantitatively large. Our findings suggest that the profitability gap is partly driven by agency costs which arise if value–driving functions are managed by a subsidiary that is geographically separated from the headquarters management. In line with falling communication and travel costs over the last decade, the profitability gap is shown to decline over time. Apart from that, our results indicate that a higher competitiveness of multinational firms in their home markets also contributes to the profitability gap. We discuss various implications of our findings.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Oxford University Centre for Business Taxation in its series Working Papers with number 0923.

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Date of creation: 2009
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Handle: RePEc:btx:wpaper:0923

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Keywords: profit distribution; multinational enterprise; corporate taxes;

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References

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  1. John W. Budd & Jozef Konings & Matthew J. Slaughter, 2005. "Wages and International Rent Sharing in Multinational Firms," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 87(1), pages 73-84, February.
  2. Dischinger, Matthias & Riedel, Nadine, 2011. "Corporate taxes and the location of intangible assets within multinational firms," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 95(7-8), pages 691-707, August.
  3. Zingales, Luigi, 2000. "In Search of New Foundations," CEPR Discussion Papers 2551, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  4. David Hummels & Dana Rapoport & Kei-Mu Yi, 1998. "Vertical specialization and the changing nature of world trade," Economic Policy Review, Federal Reserve Bank of New York, issue Jun, pages 79-99.
  5. Huizinga, Harry & Laeven, Luc, 2008. "International profit shifting within multinationals: A multi-country perspective," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 92(5-6), pages 1164-1182, June.
  6. Rafael La Porta & Florencio Lopez-De-Silanes & Andrei Shleifer, 1999. "Corporate Ownership Around the World," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 54(2), pages 471-517, 04.
  7. Gordon H. Hanson & Raymond J. Mataloni & Matthew J. Slaughter, 2003. "Vertical Production Networks in Multinational Firms," NBER Working Papers 9723, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Clausing, Kimberly A., 2003. "Tax-motivated transfer pricing and US intrafirm trade prices," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 87(9-10), pages 2207-2223, September.
  9. Hummels, David & Ishii, Jun & Yi, Kei-Mu, 2001. "The nature and growth of vertical specialization in world trade," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 54(1), pages 75-96, June.
  10. Gordon H. Hanson & Raymond J. Mataloni, Jr. & Matthew J. Slaughter, 2001. "Expansion Strategies of U.S. Multinational Firms," NBER Working Papers 8433, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  11. Jose Campa & Linda S. Goldberg, 1997. "The evolving external orientation of manufacturing: a profile of four countries," Economic Policy Review, Federal Reserve Bank of New York, issue Jul, pages 53-81.
  12. Marianne Bertrand & Paras Mehta & Sendhil Mullainathan, 2000. "Ferreting Out Tunneling: An Application to Indian Business Groups," NBER Working Papers 7952, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  13. Johannes Becker & Clemens Fuest, 2007. "Quality versus Quantity – The Composition Effect of Corporate Taxation on Foreign Direct Investment," CESifo Working Paper Series 2126, CESifo Group Munich.
  14. Steven Brakman & Harry Garretsen (ed.), 2008. "Foreign Direct Investment and the Multinational Enterprise," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262026457, December.
  15. Caroline Freund & Diana Weinhold, 2002. "The Internet and International Trade in Services," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 92(2), pages 236-240, May.
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Cited by:
  1. Schindler, Dirk & Møen, Jarle & Schjelderup, Guttorm & Tropina, Julia, 2013. "International Debt Shifting: Do Multinationals Shift Internal or External Debt?," Annual Conference 2013 (Duesseldorf): Competition Policy and Regulation in a Global Economic Order 79749, Verein für Socialpolitik / German Economic Association.
  2. Dischinger, Matthias & Riedel, Nadine, 2011. "Corporate taxes and the location of intangible assets within multinational firms," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 95(7-8), pages 691-707, August.

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