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Domestic Tax Policy and Foreign Investment: Some Evidence

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  • David G. Hartman
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    Abstract

    Investment abroad has come to play a major role in the total investment undertaken by U.S. firms. Despite this development, very little attention has been paid to the impacts of domestic tax policy on foreign investment. One reason has been the presumption that, since changes in domestic tax rules ordinarily also apply to foreign-source income, policy changes should affect foreign and domestic investment similarly. However, the fact that the tax on foreign-source income is deferred until the income is repatriated represents a crucial difference in the treatment of foreign and domestic income. So long as the U.S. tax is deferred, the effective U.S. tax rate on foreign-source income can be shown to be irrelevant to a firm's optimal foreign reinvestment decision. Foreign investment is now largely accomplished by firms reinvesting earnings abroad, so the reinvestment decision is of primary importance. Thus, a decrease in the effective U.S. tax rate which applies to both domestic and foreign investment income can be thought of as a cut in the tax on domestic investment income, which is encouraging to domestic investment (perhaps at the expense of foreign investment), combined with a cut in the tax on foreign investment income, which has no effect on the optimal foreign reinvestment decision. Consequently, the impacts on foreign and domestic investment of an apparently neutral policy could be very different . Another reason that the response of foreign investment has been neglected in domestic policy discussions is the lack of evidence on the magnitude of that response. This paper utilizes the theory just described to confirm that foreign investment is influenced negatively and quite strongly by the after-tax rate of return to domestic investment. A further test, in which a "gross domestic rate of return" term and a "domestic tax" term are included separately, produces coefficients virtually equal in absolute value, confirming that the net domestic rate of return is the appropriate variable. The results indicate that a tax incentive which has been found to raise net domestic investment by a dollar reduces net foreign investment by at least twenty cents. This conclusion is further reinforced by results from a forward-looking (Tobin's q) mod el. While these results do not point to the primary outcome of a domestic policy change being a domestic-foreign reallocation of the capital stock, they indicate that a significant reallocation does take place. With open economy tax analysis still in its infancy, the question of how this evidence alters the usual conclusions is largely an open one.

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    Bibliographic Info

    Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 0784.

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    Date of creation: Oct 1981
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    Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:0784

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    1. Martin Feldstein & Charles Horioka, 1979. "Domestic Savings and International Capital Flows," NBER Working Papers 0310, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. David G. Hartman, 1981. "Tax Policy and Foreign Direct Investment," NBER Working Papers 0689, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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    Cited by:
    1. Hines, James R, Jr, 1996. "Altered States: Taxes and the Location of Foreign Direct Investment in America," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 86(5), pages 1076-94, December.
    2. Hines, J.R.J. & Hubbard, R.G., 1989. "Coming Home To America - Devidend Repatriations By U.S. Multinationals," Papers 146, Princeton, Woodrow Wilson School - Public and International Affairs.
    3. David G. Hartman, 1982. "Tax Policy and Foreign Direct Investment in the United States," NBER Working Papers 0967, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. Feldstein, Martin, 1983. "Domestic saving and international capital movements in the long run and the short run," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 21(1-2), pages 129-151.
    5. James R. Hines, Jr., 1996. "Tax Policy and the Activities of Multinational Corporations," NBER Working Papers 5589, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    6. Rosanne Altshuler & Harry Grubert & T. Scott Newlon, 2000. "Has U.S. Investment Abroad Become More Sensitive to Tax Rates?," NBER Chapters, in: International Taxation and Multinational Activity, pages 9-38 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    7. Rosanne Altshuler & T. Scott Newlon, 1991. "The Effects of U.S. Tax Policy on the Income Repatriation Patterns of U.S. Multinational Corporations," NBER Working Papers 3925, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    8. Joosung Jun, 1989. "U.S. Tax Policy and Direct Investment Abroad," NBER Working Papers 3049, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    9. Jason Cummins & R. Glenn Hubbard, 1995. "The Tax Sensitivity of Foreign Direct Investment: Evidence from Firm-Level Panel Data," NBER Chapters, in: The Effects of Taxation on Multinational Corporations, pages 123-152 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    10. Céline Azémar & Paolo Gregory Corcos, . "Multinational Firms' Heterogeneity in Tax Responsiveness: the Role of Transfer Pricing," Working Papers 2008_04, Business School - Economics, University of Glasgow, revised Feb 2008.
    11. Jiming Ha & Anne Sibert,, 1996. "Strategic Capital Taxation in Large Open Economies with Mobile Capital," Archive Discussion Papers 9608, Birkbeck, Department of Economics, Mathematics & Statistics.
    12. Joosung Jun, 1990. "U.S. Tax Policy and Direct Investment Abroad," NBER Chapters, in: Taxation in the Global Economy, pages 55-78 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

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