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On the Sensitivity of R&D to Delicate Tax Changes: The Behavior of U. S. Multinationals in the 1980s

In: Studies in International Taxation

Listed author(s):
  • James R. Hines, Jr.
  • R. Glenn Hubbard
  • Joel Slemrod

This paper explores the effect of recent U.S. tax changes on the R&D activities of American multinational corporations. Prior to 1986, U.S. multinational firms could deduct all of their domestic R&D expenses against their U.S. income for tax purposes. After 1986, some firms could take only a partial deduction (while other multinationals continued to receive the benefits of 100% deductibility). By comparing the behavior of firms in these two situations (after 1986), it is possible to estimate the responsiveness of R&D to changes in after-tax prices. The results indicate that the price elasticity of demand for R&D lies between -1.2 and -1.6, thereby implying considerably more price sensitivity than is typically assumed to be true of R&D. Based on these results, the 1986 tax change appears to have been responsible for a reduction of between $1.4 billion and $2.2 billion in annual R&D in the United States, in return for $1.2 billion in additional annual tax revenue.

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This chapter was published in:
  • Alberto Giovannini & R. Glenn Hubbard & Joel Slemrod, 1993. "Studies in International Taxation," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number giov93-1, Enero-Jun.
  • This item is provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Chapters with number 7997.
    Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberch:7997
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    1. Cohen, Wesley M & Levin, Richard C & Mowery, David C, 1987. "Firm Size and R&D Intensity: A Re-examination," Journal of Industrial Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 35(4), pages 543-565, June.
    2. Don Fullerton & Andrew B. Lyon, 1988. "Tax Neutrality and Intangible Capital," NBER Chapters,in: Tax Policy and the Economy: Volume 2, pages 63-88 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Nadiri, M. Ishaq & Prucha, Ingmar R., 1990. "Dynamic factor demand models, productivity measurement, and rates of return: Theory and an empirical application to the US Bell System," Structural Change and Economic Dynamics, Elsevier, vol. 1(2), pages 263-289, December.
    4. Lach, Saul & Schankerman, Mark, 1989. "Dynamics of R&D and Investment in the Scientific Sector," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 97(4), pages 880-904, August.
    5. Jaffe, Adam B, 1986. "Technological Opportunity and Spillovers of R&D: Evidence from Firms' Patents, Profits, and Market Value," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 76(5), pages 984-1001, December.
    6. Kopits, George F, 1976. "Intra-firm Royalties Crossing Frontiers and Transfer-Pricing Behaviour," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 86(344), pages 791-805, December.
    7. James R. Hines & Eric M. Rice, 1994. "Fiscal Paradise: Foreign Tax Havens and American Business," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 109(1), pages 149-182.
    8. Nadiri, M. Ishaq & Prucha, Ingmar R., 1989. "Dynamic Factor Demand Models, Productivity Measurement, And Rates Return: Theory And An Empirical Application To The U.S. Bell System," Working Papers 89-15, C.V. Starr Center for Applied Economics, New York University.
    9. Edwin Mansfield & Anthony Romeo, 1980. "Technology Transfer to Overseas Subsidiaries by U. S.-Based Firms," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 95(4), pages 737-750.
    10. Altshuler, Rosanne, 1988. "A Dynamic Analysis of the Research and Experimentation Credit," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association, vol. 41(4), pages 453-466, December.
    11. Schankerman, Mark, 1981. "The Effects of Double-Counting and Expensing on the Measured Returns to R&D," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 63(3), pages 454-458, August.
    12. Hartman, David G., 1985. "Tax policy and foreign direct investment," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 26(1), pages 107-121, February.
    13. Altshuler, Rosanne, 1988. "A Dynamic Analysis of the Research and Experimentation Credit," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association, vol. 41(4), pages 453-66, December.
    14. Zvi Griliches, 1998. "The Search for R&D Spillovers," NBER Chapters,in: R&D and Productivity: The Econometric Evidence, pages 251-268 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    15. Jeffrey I. Bernstein & M. Ishaq Nadiri, 1988. "Rates Of Return On Physical And R&D Capital And Structure Of The Production Process: Cross Section And Time Series Evidence," NBER Working Papers 2570, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    16. Mansfield, Edwin & Romeo, Anthony & Wagner, Samuel, 1979. "Foreign Trade and U.S. Research and Development," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 61(1), pages 49-57, February.
    17. Hall, Bronwyn H. & Hayashi, Fumio, 1989. "Research and Development as an Investment," Department of Economics, Working Paper Series qt8br8d266, Department of Economics, Institute for Business and Economic Research, UC Berkeley.
    18. Griliches, Zvi, 1986. "Productivity, R&D, and the Basic Research at the Firm Level in the 1970's," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 76(1), pages 141-154, March.
    19. John Scott, 1984. "Firm versus Industry Variability in R&D Intensity," NBER Chapters,in: R&D, Patents, and Productivity, pages 233-248 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    20. Lichtenberg, Frank R, 1987. "The Effect of Government Funding on Private Industrial Research and Development: A Re-assessment," Journal of Industrial Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 36(1), pages 97-104, September.
    21. Wesley M. Cohen & Richard C. Levin & David C. Mowery, 1987. "Firm Size and R&D Intensity: A Re-Examination," NBER Working Papers 2205, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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