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Multinational Corporations, Transfer Prices, and Taxes: Evidence from the U.S.Petroleum Industry

In: Taxation in the Global Economy

  • Jean-Thomas Bernard
  • Robert Weiner

Economic research on transfer-pricing behavior by multinational corporadons has emphasized theoretical modeling and institutional description. This paper presents the fiit systematic empirical analysis of transfer prices, using data from the petroleum industry. On the basis of oil imported into the United States over the period 1973 - 1984, we test two propositions: i) Are prices set by integrated companies for their internal transfers different from those prevailing in arm 's-length (i.e., inter-company) trade, when other variables, such as oil quality, are controlled for? ii) Do average effective corporate income tar rates explain observed patterns of transfer pricing? Regression analysis leads to the following conclusions: i) Transfer and arm's-length prices differ significantly for oil origznating in some countries but not all. When multiplied by the relevant import volumes, these differences are relatively smalL The revenue transferred through deviations from arm's-length prices represents two percent or less of the value of the crude oil imported by multinational companies each year. ii) The observed differences between arm's-length and transfer prices are not easily explained by average effective tax rates in exporting countries. Our results provide little support for the claim that multinational petroleum companies set their transfer prices to evade taxes. We offer several hypotheses to explain our findings.

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This chapter was published in:
  • Assaf Razin & Joel Slemrod, 1990. "Taxation in the Global Economy," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number razi90-1, August.
  • This item is provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Chapters with number 7207.
    Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberch:7207
    Contact details of provider: Postal: National Bureau of Economic Research, 1050 Massachusetts Avenue Cambridge, MA 02138, U.S.A.
    Phone: 617-868-3900
    Web page: http://www.nber.org
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    1. Jenkins, Glenn P & Wright, Brian D, 1975. "Taxation of Income of Multinational Corporations: The Case of the United States Petroleum Industry," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 57(1), pages 1-11, February.
    2. Savin, N E, 1980. "The Bonferroni and the Scheffe Multiple Comparison Procedures," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 47(1), pages 255-73, January.
    3. Lall, Sanjaya, 1973. "Transfer-Pricing by Multinational Manufacturing Firms," Oxford Bulletin of Economics and Statistics, Department of Economics, University of Oxford, vol. 35(3), pages 173-95, August.
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