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Returns on FDI. Does the U.S. Really Do Better?

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  • Barry Bosworth
  • Susan Collins
  • Gabriel Chodorow-Reich

Abstract

According to the U.S. external accounts, U.S. investors earn a significantly higher rate of return on their foreign investments than foreigners earn in the United States. This continued strong performance has produced a positive net investment income balance despite the deterioration in the U.S. net asset position in recent years. We examine the major competing explanations for the apparent differential between the rates of return. In particular, almost the entire difference occurs in FDI, where American firms operating abroad appear to earn a persistently higher return than that earned by foreign firms operating in the U.S. We first review a number of explanations in the literature for this differential. We then offer some new evidence on the role of income shifting between jurisdictions with varying rates of taxation. Using country-specific income and tax data, we find that about one-third of the excess return earned by U.S. corporations abroad can be explained by firms reporting "extra" income in low tax jurisdictions of their affiliates.

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Paper provided by Harvard University OpenScholar in its series Working Paper with number 90801.

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Handle: RePEc:qsh:wpaper:90801

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  1. Hines, J.R. & Rice, E.M., 1990. "Fiscal Paradise: Foreign Tax Havens And American Business," Papers 56, Princeton, Woodrow Wilson School - Discussion Paper.
  2. John Kitchen, 2007. "Sharecroppers or Shrewd Capitalists? Projections of the US Current Account, International Income Flows, and Net International Debt," Review of International Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 15(5), pages 1036-1061, November.
  3. Cedric Tille, 2003. "The impact of exchange rate movements on U.S. foreign debt," Current Issues in Economics and Finance, Federal Reserve Bank of New York, vol. 9(Jan).
  4. Goodspeed, T-J & White, A-D, 1996. "International taxation," Papers 96-11, Wellesley College - Department of Economics.
  5. Harry Grubert & Timothy Goodspeed & Deborah L. Swenson, 1993. "Explaining the Low Taxable Income of Foreign-Controlled Companies in the United States," NBER Chapters, in: Studies in International Taxation, pages 237-276 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Hausmann, Ricardo & Sturzenegger, Federico, 2006. "Global Imbalances or Bad Accounting? The Missing Dark Matter in the Wealth of Nations," Working Paper Series rwp06-003, Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government.
  7. Robert E. Lipsey, 2009. "Measuring International Trade in Services," NBER Chapters, in: International Trade in Services and Intangibles in the Era of Globalization, pages 27-70 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Gourinchas, Pierre-Olivier & Rey, Hélène, 2005. "From World Banker to World Venture Capitalist: US External Adjustment and The Exorbitant Privilege," CEPR Discussion Papers 5220, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  9. Andrew B. Bernard & J. Bradford Jensen & Peter K. Schott, 2006. "Transfer Pricing by U.S.-Based Multinational Firms," NBER Working Papers 12493, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. Edward Prescott & Ellen McGrattan, 2007. "Technology Capital and the U.S. Current Account," 2007 Meeting Papers 90, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  11. 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.
  12. Stephanie E. Curcuru & Tomas Dvorak & Francis E. Warnock, 2007. "The Stability of Large External Imbalances: The Role of Returns Differentials," NBER Working Papers 13074, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  13. William R. Cline, 2005. "United States as a Debtor Nation, The," Peterson Institute Press: All Books, Peterson Institute for International Economics, number 3993.
  14. Stephanie E. Curcuru & Tomas Dvorak & Francis E. Warnock, 2007. "The stability of large external imbalances: the role of returns differentials," International Finance Discussion Papers 894, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
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Cited by:
  1. Hassan, Tarek, 2012. "Country Size, Currency Unions, and International Asset Returns," CEPR Discussion Papers 8991, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  2. Habib, Maurizio Michael, 2010. "Excess returns on net foreign assets: the exorbitant privilege from a global perspective," Working Paper Series 1158, European Central Bank.
  3. repec:onb:oenbwp:y::i:154:b:1 is not listed on IDEAS
  4. Tarek Alexander Hassan, 2010. "Country Size, Currency Areas, and International Asset Returns," 2010 Meeting Papers 365, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  5. Curcuru, Stephanie E. & Thomas, Charles P. & Warnock, Francis E., 2013. "On returns differentials," Journal of International Money and Finance, Elsevier, vol. 36(C), pages 1-25.

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