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Imperfect tax competition for profits, asymmetric equilibrium and beneficial tax havens

  • Johannesen, Niels

We present a model of tax competition for real investment and profits and show that the presence of tax havens in some cases increases the tax revenue of countries. In the first part of the paper, we argue that tax competition for profits is likely to be imperfect in the sense that the jurisdiction with the lowest tax rate does not necessarily attract all shifted profits. Under this assumption, tax competition between a large number of identical countries may lead to either a symmetric equilibrium with no profit shifting or an asymmetric equilibrium where firms shift profits from high-tax to low-tax countries. In the second part of the paper, we introduce tax havens. Starting from a symmetric equilibrium, tax havens unambiguously reduce the tax revenue of countries due to a 'leakage effect' -- tax havens attract tax base from countries -- and a 'competition effect' -- the optimal response to the increased tax sensitivity of tax bases involves a reduction of tax rates. Starting from an asymmetric equilibrium, however, tax havens also raise the tax revenue of countries through a 'crowding effect' -- tax havens make it less attractive to compete for profits and thus induce low-tax countries to become high-tax countries. We demonstrate that the latter effect may dominate the former effects so that countries, on balance, benefit from the presence of tax havens.

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Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Journal of International Economics.

Volume (Year): 81 (2010)
Issue (Month): 2 (July)
Pages: 253-264

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Handle: RePEc:eee:inecon:v:81:y:2010:i:2:p:253-264
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  1. Keen, Michael, 2001. "Preferential Regimes Can Make Tax Competition Less Harmful," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association, vol. 54(n. 4), pages 757-62, December.
  2. Joel Slemrod & John D. Wilson, 2006. "Tax Competition With Parasitic Tax Havens," NBER Working Papers 12225, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  16. Hong, Qing & Smart, Michael, 2010. "In praise of tax havens: International tax planning and foreign direct investment," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 54(1), pages 82-95, January.
  17. 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.
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  19. Wilson, John Douglas, 1987. "Trade in a Tiebout Economy," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 77(3), pages 431-41, June.
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