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Safe haven or earnings stripping rules: a prisoner’s dilemma?

Author

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  • Zarko Y. Kalamov

    (University of Technology Berlin)

Abstract

Multinational firms use internal debt financing to shift profits from high-tax to low-tax countries. Therefore, governments restrict the deductibility of interest expenses by applying thin-capitalization rules (TCRs). TCRs fall into two main categories: safe haven rules (SHR) and earnings stripping rules (ESR). We analyze the optimal TCR choice in a two-country tax competition model. We show that unilateral replacement of SHR by ESR imposes a negative profit shifting externality on the other country. This effect can explain the recently observed switch from SHR to ESR in many countries. However, ESR may be a dominant strategy even when SHR is socially optimal, i.e., the observed policies of ESR implementation may indicate a prisoner’s dilemma.

Suggested Citation

  • Zarko Y. Kalamov, 2020. "Safe haven or earnings stripping rules: a prisoner’s dilemma?," International Tax and Public Finance, Springer;International Institute of Public Finance, vol. 27(1), pages 38-76, February.
  • Handle: RePEc:kap:itaxpf:v:27:y:2020:i:1:d:10.1007_s10797-019-09545-w
    DOI: 10.1007/s10797-019-09545-w
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Haufler, Andreas & Runkel, Marco, 2012. "Firms' financial choices and thin capitalization rules under corporate tax competition," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 56(6), pages 1087-1103.
    2. Mardan, Mohammed, 2017. "Why countries differ in thin capitalization rules: The role of financial development," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 91(C), pages 1-14.
    3. Ruf Martin & Schindler Dirk, 2015. "Debt Shifting and Thin-Capitalization Rules – German Experience and Alternative Approaches," Nordic Tax Journal, Sciendo, vol. 2015(1), pages 17-33, September.
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    5. Gresik, Thomas A. & Schindler, Dirk & Schjelderup, Guttorm, 2017. "Immobilizing corporate income shifting: Should it be safe to strip in the harbor?," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 152(C), pages 68-78.
    6. Thiess Buettner & Michael Overesch & Georg Wamser, 2018. "Anti profit-shifting rules and foreign direct investment," International Tax and Public Finance, Springer;International Institute of Public Finance, vol. 25(3), pages 553-580, June.
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    9. Georg Wamser, 2014. "The Impact of Thin-Capitalization Rules on External Debt Usage – A Propensity Score Matching Approach," Oxford Bulletin of Economics and Statistics, Department of Economics, University of Oxford, vol. 76(5), pages 764-781, October.
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    13. Langenmayr Dominika, 2015. "Limiting Profit Shifting in a Model with Heterogeneous Firm Productivity," The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy, De Gruyter, vol. 15(4), pages 1657-1677, October.
    14. Thiess Buettner & Michael Overesch & Georg Wamser, 2016. "Restricted interest deductibility and multinationals’ use of internal debt finance," International Tax and Public Finance, Springer;International Institute of Public Finance, vol. 23(5), pages 785-797, October.
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    17. Rita de la Feria & Ana Paula Dourado, 2008. "Thin Capitalization Rules in the Context of the CCCTB," Working Papers 0804, Oxford University Centre for Business Taxation.
    18. repec:ces:ifodic:v:12:y:2015:i:4:p:19151968 is not listed on IDEAS
    19. Valeria Merlo & Georg Wamser, 2015. "Debt Shifting and Thin-capitalization Rules," ifo DICE Report, ifo Institute - Leibniz Institute for Economic Research at the University of Munich, vol. 12(04), pages 27-31, January.
    20. Michael Overesch & Georg Wamser, 2010. "Corporate tax planning and thin-capitalization rules: evidence from a quasi-experiment," Applied Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 42(5), pages 563-573.
    21. Haufler, Andreas & Mardan, Mohammed & Schindler, Dirk, 2018. "Double tax discrimination to attract FDI and fight profit shifting: The role of CFC rules," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 114(C), pages 25-43.
    22. Buettner, Thiess & Overesch, Michael & Schreiber, Ulrich & Wamser, Georg, 2012. "The impact of thin-capitalization rules on the capital structure of multinational firms," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 96(11), pages 930-938.
    23. Valeria Merlo & Georg Wamser, 2015. "Debt Shifting and Thin-capitalization Rules," ifo DICE Report, ifo Institute - Leibniz Institute for Economic Research at the University of Munich, vol. 12(4), pages 27-31, 01.
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    Cited by:

    1. Alexander Georgievich Gurinovich & Marina Afanasyevna Lapina & Alexey Evgenievich Ivanov, 2020. "Ways of Restricting the Rights of Taxpayers Under Agreements for the Avoidance of Double Taxation in National Legislation," SAGE Open, , vol. 10(4), pages 21582440209, October.
    2. Batabyal, Amitrajeet & Nijkamp, Peter, 2021. "Efficient Regional Taxes in the Presence of Mobile Creative Capital," MPRA Paper 111534, University Library of Munich, Germany, revised 06 Jan 2022.

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Thin-capitalization rule; Safe haven rule; Earnings stripping rule; Profit shifting;
    All these keywords.

    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
    • H7 - Public Economics - - State and Local Government; Intergovernmental Relations

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