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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

  • 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, 07.
  • This item is provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Chapters with number 7997.
    Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberch:7997
    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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