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Profit shifting: drivers of transfer (mis)pricing and the potential of countermeasures

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  • Sebastian Beer

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  • Jan Loeprick

Abstract

In trying to explain the drivers of global profit shifting by multinational enterprises (MNEs), we investigate firm-specific determinants and their variation across major industries. Using the ORBIS database, we show that intangible asset endowment of subsidiaries and the supply-chain complexity of MNE groups explain aggregate profit-shifting trends. According to our estimates, subsidiaries with no intangibles react to an incremental increase of the tax rate by reducing reported profits by 0.76 %, while subsidiaries with above median intangible endowment decrease their profits by 1.2 %. This difference is significant at the 5 % level. We find an even more pronounced difference in the observed semi-elasticities comparing affiliates belonging to simple ( $$-$$ - 0.52) and more complex MNEs ( $$-$$ - 1.92), suggesting a significantly larger sensitivity to CIT rate changes of the latter group. Moreover, we incorporate country-specific transfer pricing mitigation measures (documentation requirements) into our analysis. We find significant mitigation effects, which vary depending on the drivers identified in our analysis. On average, estimated profit shifting among MNE subsidiaries in our sample is reduced by 52 % 2 years after the introduction of mandatory documentation requirements. We do, however, not find a significant effect on affiliates with high intangible endowments, whereas documentation reduces profit shifting of subsidiaries within complex MNE groups. Our analysis suggests that complexity poses less of a challenge to effective domestic enforcement than the appropriate pricing of intangible assets. These findings thus provide additional insights on profit-shifting risks and mitigation effects conditional on firm attributes, which may support the design of anti-avoidance approaches and help guide the allocation of scarce analytical and enforcement resources. Copyright Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Suggested Citation

  • Sebastian Beer & Jan Loeprick, 2015. "Profit shifting: drivers of transfer (mis)pricing and the potential of countermeasures," International Tax and Public Finance, Springer;International Institute of Public Finance, vol. 22(3), pages 426-451, June.
  • Handle: RePEc:kap:itaxpf:v:22:y:2015:i:3:p:426-451
    DOI: 10.1007/s10797-014-9323-2
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Tran Quoc H. & Croson Rachel T. A. & Seldon Barry J., 2016. "Experimental Evidence on Transfer Pricing," International Journal of Management and Economics, Warsaw School of Economics, Collegium of World Economy, vol. 50(1), pages 27-48, June.
    2. Robert Philipowski, 2016. "Should profit shifting be prohibited? The importance of timing," Economics Bulletin, AccessEcon, vol. 36(4), pages 2365-2367.
    3. Valeria Merlo & Nadine Riedel & Georg Wamser, 2015. "The Impact of Thin Capitalization Rules on the Location of Multinational Firms' Foreign Affiliates," CESifo Working Paper Series 5449, CESifo Group Munich.
    4. Cyril Chalendard, 2016. "Shifting-Profits through Tax Loopholes. Evidence from Ecuador," CESifo Working Paper Series 6240, CESifo Group Munich.
    5. Joel Cooper & Randall Fox & Jan Loeprick & Komal Mohindra, 2016. "Transfer Pricing and Developing Economies," World Bank Publications, The World Bank, number 25095, August.
    6. Diego d’Andria & Dimitris Pontikakis & Agnieszka Skonieczna, 2017. "Towards a European R&D Incentive? An assessment of R&D Provisions under a Common Corporate Tax Base," Taxation Papers 69, Directorate General Taxation and Customs Union, European Commission.
    7. Shafik Hebous & Alfons J. Weichenrieder, 2015. "What Do We Know about the Tax Planning of German-based Multinational Firms?," ifo DICE Report, ifo Institute - Leibniz Institute for Economic Research at the University of Munich, vol. 12(4), pages 15-21, 01.
    8. Rathke, Alex Augusto Timm & Rezende, Amaury José, 2016. "Exploring the characteristics of transfer pricing systems across countries," EconStor Preprints 130141, ZBW - German National Library of Economics.
    9. Beer, Sebastian & Loeprick, Jan, 2017. "Taxing income in the oil and gas sector — Challenges of international and domestic profit shifting," Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 61(C), pages 186-198.
    10. Kari Seppo, 2015. "Corporate tax in an international environment – Problems and possible remedies," Nordic Tax Journal, Sciendo, vol. 2015(1), pages 1-16, September.
    11. Wolfram F. Richter, 2017. "Taxing Intellectual Property in the Global Economy: A Plea for Regulated and Internationally Coordinated Profit Splitting," CESifo Working Paper Series 6564, CESifo Group Munich.
    12. repec:ces:ifodic:v:12:y:2015:i:4:p:19149984 is not listed on IDEAS
    13. Nicolay, Katharina & Nusser, Hannah & Pfeiffer, Olena, 2017. "On the interdependency of profit shifting channels and the effectiveness of anti-avoidance legislation," ZEW Discussion Papers 17-066, ZEW - Zentrum für Europäische Wirtschaftsforschung / Center for European Economic Research.
    14. Dekker, Vincent & Strohmaier, Kristina, 2017. "The effect of transfer pricing regulations on intra-industry trade," Hohenheim Discussion Papers in Business, Economics and Social Sciences 32-2017, University of Hohenheim, Faculty of Business, Economics and Social Sciences.
    15. Richter, Wolfram F. & Breuer, Markus, 2016. "Pricing the Transfer of Intellectual Property: A Plea for Regulated and Internationally Coordinated Profit Splitting," Annual Conference 2016 (Augsburg): Demographic Change 145621, Verein für Socialpolitik / German Economic Association.
    16. repec:ces:ifodic:v:12:y:2015:i:4:p:19149986 is not listed on IDEAS
    17. Evers, Maria Theresia & Meier, Ina & Spengel, Christoph, 2017. "Country-by-country reporting: Tension between transparency and tax planning," ZEW Discussion Papers 17-008, ZEW - Zentrum für Europäische Wirtschaftsforschung / Center for European Economic Research.
    18. Bodo Knoll & Nadine Riedel, 2015. "Transfer Pricing Laws," ifo DICE Report, ifo Institute - Leibniz Institute for Economic Research at the University of Munich, vol. 12(4), pages 22-26, 01.
    19. Rathke, Alex Augusto Timm & Rezende, Amaury José, 2016. "Exploring the characteristics of transfer pricing systems across countries," MPRA Paper 70437, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    20. Alex Augusto Timm Rathke, 2015. "Transfer pricing manipulation, tax penalty cost and the impact of foreign profit taxation," Papers 1508.03853, arXiv.org.
    21. Salvador Barrios & Diego d'Andria, 2016. "Estimating corporate profit shifting with firm-level panel data: time trends and industrial heterogeneity," JRC Working Papers on Taxation & Structural Reforms 2016-07, Joint Research Centre (Seville site).
    22. Rathke, Alex, 2015. "Transfer pricing manipulation, tax penalty cost and the impact of foreign profit taxation," MPRA Paper 66133, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    23. Todtenhaupt, Maximilian & Voget, Johannes, 2017. "International taxation and productivity effects of M&As," ZEW Discussion Papers 17-014, ZEW - Zentrum für Europäische Wirtschaftsforschung / Center for European Economic Research.
    24. Deborah Schanz & Andreas Dinkel & Sara Keller, 2017. "Tax attractiveness and the location of German-controlled subsidiaries," Review of Managerial Science, Springer, vol. 11(1), pages 251-297, January.

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