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The Impact of Introducing an Interest Barrier: Evidence from the German Corporation Tax Reform 2008

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  • Hermann Buslei
  • Martin Simmler
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    Abstract

    In this study we investigate the impact of the thin capitalization rule (TCR), introduced in Germany in 2008, on firms' capital structure, investment and profitability. The identification of the causal effects is based on the escape clauses in the regulation using a difference-in-difference approach. Our results present evidence that firms strongly react in order to avoid the limited deductibility of interest expenses: They either decrease their debt ratio or split their assets to use the exemption limit. The latter is especially used by firms with an interest result around the exemption limit of the interest barrier. In case the debt ratio is reduced, our results present evidence for a proportional increase of firms' tax base. In general, in the short term, no negative investment effects are caused by the TCR. This suggests that a part of the firms is able to substitute equity for debt at low costs or expects to be able to circumvent the regulation. However, investment might also be fixed in the short-run for example due to long-lasting contracts.

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    File URL: http://www.diw.de/documents/publikationen/73/diw_01.c.402715.de/dp1215.pdf
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    Bibliographic Info

    Paper provided by DIW Berlin, German Institute for Economic Research in its series Discussion Papers of DIW Berlin with number 1215.

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    Length: 38 p.
    Date of creation: 2012
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    Handle: RePEc:diw:diwwpp:dp1215

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    Keywords: Thin capitalization; earnings stripping rule; debt ratio; profitability; investment;

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    1. Fossen, Frank & Simmler, Martin, 2012. "Differential taxation and firms' financial leverage: Evidence from the introduction of a flat tax on interest income," Discussion Papers 2012/4, Free University Berlin, School of Business & Economics.
    2. Thiess Buettner & Georg Wamser, 2009. "Internal Debt and Multinationals' Profit Shifting - Empirical Evidence from Firm-Level Panel Data," Working Papers 0918, Oxford University Centre for Business Taxation.
    3. Clemens Fuest & Thomas Hemmelgarn, 2003. "Corporate Tax Policy, Foreign Firm Ownership and Thin Capitalization," CESifo Working Paper Series 1096, CESifo Group Munich.
    4. Haufler, Andreas & Runkel, Marco, 2012. "Firms' financial choices and thin capitalization rules under corporate tax competition," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 56(6), pages 1087-1103.
    5. Alfons Weichenrieder, 2009. "Profit shifting in the EU: evidence from Germany," International Tax and Public Finance, Springer, vol. 16(3), pages 281-297, June.
    6. Buettner, Thiess & Overesch, Michael & Schreiber, Ulrich & Wamser, Georg, 2012. "The impact of thin-capitalization rules on the capital structure of multinational firms," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 96(11), pages 930-938.
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