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Multinational Firms' Heterogeneity in Tax Responsiveness: The Role of Transfer Pricing

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  • Céline Azémar
  • Gregory Corcos

Abstract

Abstract In this paper we show that the ability of multinational firms to manipulate transfer prices affects the tax sensitivity of foreign direct investment (FDI). We offer a model of international capital allocation where firms are heterogeneous in their ability to manipulate transfer prices. Perhaps paradoxically, we show that the ability to shift profits can make parent companies' investment more sensitive to host-country tax rates, as long as investors expect fiscal authorities to use price and profit detection methods. We then offer a comprehensive empirical study to test our predictions in the case of Japanese FDI. We exploit the finding that the unobservable ability to manipulate transfer prices is correlated with whole ownership of affiliates and R&D expenditure. Based on country, parent firm and sector characteristics, we estimate an investment equation on a sample of 3,614 Japanese affiliates in 49 emerging countries. We obtain a greater semi-elasticity of investment to the statutory tax rate in affiliates that are wholly-owned and that have R&D-intensive parents. We interpret these results as indirect evidence that abusive transfer pricing is one of the determinants of FDI activity. Copyright 2009 The Authors. Journal compilation 2009 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.

Suggested Citation

  • Céline Azémar & Gregory Corcos, 2009. "Multinational Firms' Heterogeneity in Tax Responsiveness: The Role of Transfer Pricing," The World Economy, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 32(9), pages 1291-1318, September.
  • Handle: RePEc:bla:worlde:v:32:y:2009:i:9:p:1291-1318
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Asongu, Simplice, 2015. "Rational Asymmetric Development: Transfer Mispricing and Sub-Saharan Africa’s Extreme Poverty Tragedy," MPRA Paper 71175, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    2. Azemar, Celine, 2008. "International Corporate Taxation and U.S. Multinationals Behavior: an Integrated Approach," SIRE Discussion Papers 2008-40, Scottish Institute for Research in Economics (SIRE).
    3. Joakim Gullstrand & Karin Olofsdotter & Susanna Thede, 2016. "Importers, Exporters and Multinationals: Exploring the Hierarchy of International Linkages," Open Economies Review, Springer, vol. 27(3), pages 495-514, July.
    4. Simplice Asongu, 2015. "Rational Asymmetric Development: Transfer Pricing and Sub-Saharan Africa’s Extreme Poverty Tragedy," Working Papers 15/017, African Governance and Development Institute..
    5. Igor Gurkov, 2015. "Russian Manufacturing Subsidiaries of Western Multinational Corporations: Support from Parents and Cooperation with Sister-Subsidiaries," HSE Working papers WP BRP 37/MAN/2015, National Research University Higher School of Economics.
    6. Céline Azémar, 2010. "International corporate taxation and U.S. multinationals' behaviour: an integrated approach," Canadian Journal of Economics, Canadian Economics Association, vol. 43(1), pages 232-253, February.
    7. Joel Slemrod, 2010. "Old George Orwell Got It Backward: Some Thoughts on Behavioral Tax Economics," FinanzArchiv: Public Finance Analysis, Mohr Siebeck, Tübingen, vol. 66(1), pages 15-33, March.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • F23 - International Economics - - International Factor Movements and International Business - - - Multinational Firms; International Business
    • H25 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - Business Taxes and Subsidies
    • H32 - Public Economics - - Fiscal Policies and Behavior of Economic Agents - - - Firm

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