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Unobserved tax avoidance and the tax elasticity of FDI

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  • Egger, Peter H.
  • Merlo, Valeria
  • Wamser, Georg

Abstract

This paper investigates the tax responsiveness of multinational firms’ investment decisions in foreign countries, distinguishing firms that are able to avoid taxes (avoiders) from those that are not (non-avoiders). From a theoretical point of view, the tax responsiveness of firms crucially depends on this distinction. Empirically, however, a firm's ability to avoid profit taxes is inherently unobservable to the researcher. To address this problem, we use a finite mixture modeling approach which allows us to distinguish avoiders from non-avoiders stochastically from a mixture of distributions of the two types of firms. Using panel data on the universe of foreign affiliates of German multinational firms over the years 1999–2010, we find that investments of tax avoiders do not respond to host-country profit taxes at all, while those of non-avoiders do. About 11% of the affiliates are estimated to be able to avoid taxes. These investments account for about 58% of the stock of foreign fixed assets held by German multinational firms abroad. A one-percentage-point increase in the statutory corporate profit tax rate of a host country is found to reduce the fixed assets of non-avoiders in that host country by 0.81%.

Suggested Citation

  • Egger, Peter H. & Merlo, Valeria & Wamser, Georg, 2014. "Unobserved tax avoidance and the tax elasticity of FDI," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 108(C), pages 1-18.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:jeborg:v:108:y:2014:i:c:p:1-18
    DOI: 10.1016/j.jebo.2014.09.014
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    Cited by:

    1. Qian, Xuefeng & Tian, Bifei & Reed, W. Robert & Chen, Ziruo, 2018. "Searching for profit-shifting in China," Economics - The Open-Access, Open-Assessment E-Journal (2007-2020), Kiel Institute for the World Economy (IfW Kiel), vol. 12, pages 1-25.
    2. Julia Merz & Michael Overesch & Georg Wamser, 2015. "Tax vs. Regulation Policy and the Location of Financial Sector FDI," CESifo Working Paper Series 5500, CESifo.
    3. Amendolagine, Vito & De Pascale, Gianluigi & Faccilongo, Nicola, 2021. "International capital mobility and corporate tax revenues: How do controlled foreign company rules and innovation shape this relationship?," Economic Modelling, Elsevier, vol. 101(C).
    4. Martin Simmler, 2014. "Do multinational firms invest more? On the impact of internal debt financing on capital accumulation," Working Papers 1424, Oxford University Centre for Business Taxation.
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    6. Arulampalam, Wiji & Devereux, Michael P. & Liberini, Federica, 2019. "Taxes and the location of targets," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 176(C), pages 161-178.
    7. Egger, Peter H. & Erhardt, Katharina & Keuschnigg, Christian, 2020. "Heterogeneous tax sensitivity of firm-level investments," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 176(C), pages 512-538.
    8. Elias Steinmüller & Georg U. Thunecke & Georg Wamser, 2019. "Corporate income taxes around the world: a survey on forward-looking tax measures and two applications," International Tax and Public Finance, Springer;International Institute of Public Finance, vol. 26(2), pages 418-456, April.
    9. Mr. Alexander D Klemm & Ms. Thornton Matheson & Sebastian Beer, 2018. "Tax Spillovers from US Corporate Income Tax Reform," IMF Working Papers 2018/166, International Monetary Fund.
    10. Pascal Saint-Amans & Clemens Fuest & Joachim Englisch & Deborah Schanz & Andreas Oestreicher & Nadine Riedel & Pola Schneemelcher & Wolfgang Schön & Luzius Cavelti & Christian Jaag, 2020. "Die OECD-Vorschläge zur Reform der Unternehmensteuer – ein Plan mit unerwünschten Nebenwirkungen?," ifo Schnelldienst, ifo Institute - Leibniz Institute for Economic Research at the University of Munich, vol. 73(03), pages 03-32, March.
    11. Goldbach, Stefan & Nagengast, Arne J. & Steinmüller, Elias & Wamser, Georg, 2019. "The effect of investing abroad on investment at home: On the role of technology, tax savings, and internal capital markets," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 116(C), pages 58-73.
    12. Merz, Julia & Overesch, Michael & Wamser, Georg, 2017. "The location of financial sector FDI: Tax and regulation policy," Journal of Banking & Finance, Elsevier, vol. 78(C), pages 14-26.
    13. Bodo Knoll & Nadine Riedel, 2020. "Patent Shifing and Anti-Tax Avoidance Legislation," ifo DICE Report, ifo Institute - Leibniz Institute for Economic Research at the University of Munich, vol. 17(04), pages 25-29, January.
    14. Simon Behrendt & Georg Wamser, 2018. "Tax-Response Heterogeneity and the Effects of Double Taxation Treaties on the Location Choices of Multinational Firms," CESifo Working Paper Series 6869, CESifo.
    15. Overesch Michael, 2016. "Steuervermeidung multinationaler Unternehmen," Perspektiven der Wirtschaftspolitik, De Gruyter, vol. 17(2), pages 129-143, July.
    16. Xuefeng Qian & Bifei Tian & W. Robert Reed & Zirou Chen, 2016. "Under Cover: Estimating the Existence of Profit-Shifting by MNCs in China," Working Papers in Economics 16/36, University of Canterbury, Department of Economics and Finance.
    17. Marques, Mário & Pinho, Carlos & Montenegro, Tânia Menezes, 2019. "The effect of international income shifting on the link between real investment and corporate taxation," Journal of International Accounting, Auditing and Taxation, Elsevier, vol. 36(C), pages 1-1.
    18. Maria Delgado Coelho & Sebastian Beer & Sebastien Leduc, 2019. "Hidden Treasure: The Impact of Automatic Exchange of Information on Cross-Border Tax Evasion," IMF Working Papers 2019/286, International Monetary Fund.

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Corporate profit taxation; Multinational firms; Profit shifting; Tax avoidance; Tax elasticity; Finite-mixture model;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • C35 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Multiple or Simultaneous Equation Models; Multiple Variables - - - Discrete Regression and Qualitative Choice Models; Discrete Regressors; Proportions
    • C38 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Multiple or Simultaneous Equation Models; Multiple Variables - - - Classification Methdos; Cluster Analysis; Principal Components; Factor Analysis
    • F23 - International Economics - - International Factor Movements and International Business - - - Multinational Firms; International Business
    • H32 - Public Economics - - Fiscal Policies and Behavior of Economic Agents - - - Firm

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