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Corporate taxation and the quality of research & development


  • Christoph Ernst

    (ZEW Mannheim)

  • Katharina Richter

    (University of Mannheim & ZEW Mannheim)

  • Nadine Riedel

    () (University of Hohenheim, Oxford University CBT & CESifo Munich)


This paper examines the impact of tax incentives on corporate research and development (R&D) activity. Traditionally, R&D tax incentives have been provided in the form of special tax allowances and tax credits. In recent years, several countries moreover reduced their income tax rates on R&D output. Previous papers have shown that all three tax instruments are effective in raising the quantity of R&D related activity. We provide evidence that, beyond this quantity effect, corporate taxation also distorts the quality of R&D projects, i.e. their innovativeness and revenue potential. Using rich data on corporate patent applications to the European patent office, we find that a low tax rate on patent income is instrumental in attracting innovative projects with a high earnings potentialand innovation level. The effect is statistically significant and economically relevant and prevails in a number of sensitivity checks. R&D tax credits and tax allowances are in turn not found to exert a statistically significant impact on project quality.

Suggested Citation

  • Christoph Ernst & Katharina Richter & Nadine Riedel, 2013. "Corporate taxation and the quality of research & development," Working Papers 1301, Oxford University Centre for Business Taxation.
  • Handle: RePEc:btx:wpaper:1301

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Karkinsky, Tom & Riedel, Nadine, 2012. "Corporate taxation and the choice of patent location within multinational firms," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 88(1), pages 176-185.
    2. Joshua Lerner, 1994. "The Importance of Patent Scope: An Empirical Analysis," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 25(2), pages 319-333, Summer.
    3. James R. Hines, Jr., 1995. "Taxes, Technology Transfer, and the R&D Activities of Multinational Firms," NBER Chapters,in: The Effects of Taxation on Multinational Corporations, pages 225-252 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. Bronwyn H. Hall & Grid Thoma & Salvatore Torrisi, 2006. "The market value of patents and R&D: Evidence from European firms," KITeS Working Papers 186, KITeS, Centre for Knowledge, Internationalization and Technology Studies, Universita' Bocconi, Milano, Italy, revised Nov 2006.
    5. Bloom, Nick & Griffith, Rachel & Van Reenen, John, 2002. "Do R&D tax credits work? Evidence from a panel of countries 1979-1997," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 85(1), pages 1-31, July.
    6. Thiess Buettner & Georg Wamser, 2009. "The impact of nonprofit taxes on foreign direct investment: evidence from German multinationals," International Tax and Public Finance, Springer;International Institute of Public Finance, vol. 16(3), pages 298-320, June.
    7. Daniel J. Wilson, 2009. "Beggar Thy Neighbor? The In-State, Out-of-State, and Aggregate Effects of R&D Tax Credits," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 91(2), pages 431-436, May.
    8. Dominique Guellec & Bruno Van Pottelsberghe De La Potterie, 2003. "The impact of public R&D expenditure on business R&D," Economics of Innovation and New Technology, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 12(3), pages 225-243.
    9. Johannes Becker & Clemens Fuest, 2007. "Quality versus Quantity – The Composition Effect of Corporate Taxation on Foreign Direct Investment," CESifo Working Paper Series 2126, CESifo Group Munich.
    10. Dietmar Harhoff & Francis Narin & F. M. Scherer & Katrin Vopel, 1999. "Citation Frequency And The Value Of Patented Inventions," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 81(3), pages 511-515, August.
    11. Becker, Johannes & Fuest, Clemens & Riedel, Nadine, 2012. "Corporate tax effects on the quality and quantity of FDI," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 56(8), pages 1495-1511.
    12. Laura Abramovsky & Rachel Griffith & Gareth Macartney & Helen Miller, 2008. "The location of innovative activity in Europe," IFS Working Papers W08/10, Institute for Fiscal Studies.
    13. Paff Lolita A, 2005. "State-Level R&D Tax Credits: A Firm-Level Analysis," The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy, De Gruyter, vol. 5(1), pages 1-27, September.
    14. Dischinger, Matthias & Riedel, Nadine, 2011. "Corporate taxes and the location of intangible assets within multinational firms," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 95(7), pages 691-707.
    15. Griffith, Rachel & Miller, Helen & O'Connell, Martin, 2011. "Corporate taxes and the location of intellectual property," CEPR Discussion Papers 8424, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    16. Grid Thoma & Salvatore Torrisi & Alfonso Gambardella & Dominique Guellec & Bronwyn H. Hall & Dietmar Harhoff, 2010. "Harmonizing and Combining Large Datasets - An Application to Firm-Level Patent and Accounting Data," NBER Working Papers 15851, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    17. repec:hoo:wpaper:e-93-1 is not listed on IDEAS
    18. Jean O. Lanjouw & Mark Schankerman, 2004. "Patent Quality and Research Productivity: Measuring Innovation with Multiple Indicators," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 114(495), pages 441-465, April.
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    Cited by:

    1. Lisa Evers & Helen Miller & Christoph Spengel, 2015. "Intellectual property box regimes: effective tax rates and tax policy considerations," International Tax and Public Finance, Springer;International Institute of Public Finance, vol. 22(3), pages 502-530, June.
    2. Christof Ernst & Katharina Richter & Nadine Riedel, 2014. "Corporate taxation and the quality of research and development," International Tax and Public Finance, Springer;International Institute of Public Finance, vol. 21(4), pages 694-719, August.
    3. Griffith, Rachel & Miller, Helen & O'Connell, Martin, 2014. "Ownership of intellectual property and corporate taxation," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 112(C), pages 12-23.

    More about this item


    corporate taxation; research and development; micro data;

    JEL classification:

    • H3 - Public Economics - - Fiscal Policies and Behavior of Economic Agents
    • H7 - Public Economics - - State and Local Government; Intergovernmental Relations
    • J5 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Labor-Management Relations, Trade Unions, and Collective Bargaining

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