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Under Cover: Estimating the Existence of Profit-Shifting by MNCs in China




This paper investigates profit-shifting behaviour among a large sample of multinational corporations (MNCs) in China. While profit-shifting behaviour is difficult to observe directly, it can be inferred from the behaviour of firms. That is the approach taken by Egger, Merlo, & Wamser (2014, henceforth EM&W) in their seminal analysis of tax elasticity of German MNCs. They developed a two-component mixture model that categorized MNCs into tax “avoiders” and “non-avoiders” based upon the estimated elasticities of investment to taxes. We apply their approach to our sample of MNCs in China. Like EM&W we find evidence of two distinct groups of MNCs. One group is responsive to changes in taxes, reducing investment when taxes increase. The other group is unresponsive to taxes, so that investment is not significantly associated with changes in tax rates. We show that the characteristics of these groups closely match the “avoiders” and “non-avoiders” of EM&W’s sample. Even so, our estimated tax elasticities are much smaller than EM&W. This suggests that the extent of profit-shifting was relatively small during China’s period of preferential tax treatment for foreign investors.

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  • Xuefeng Qian & Bifei Tian & W. Robert Reed & Zirou Chen, 2016. "Under Cover: Estimating the Existence of Profit-Shifting by MNCs in China," Working Papers in Economics 16/36, University of Canterbury, Department of Economics and Finance.
  • Handle: RePEc:cbt:econwp:16/36

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Egger, Peter H. & Merlo, Valeria & Wamser, Georg, 2014. "Unobserved tax avoidance and the tax elasticity of FDI," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 108(C), pages 1-18.
    2. Devereux, Michael P & Griffith, Rachel, 2003. "Evaluating Tax Policy for Location Decisions," International Tax and Public Finance, Springer;International Institute of Public Finance, vol. 10(2), pages 107-126, March.
    3. Xiaowen Tian, 2007. "Accounting for sources of FDI technology spillovers: evidence from China," Journal of International Business Studies, Palgrave Macmillan;Academy of International Business, vol. 38(1), pages 147-159, January.
    4. Dhammika Dharmapala, 2014. "What Do We Know about Base Erosion and Profit Shifting? A Review of the Empirical Literature," Fiscal Studies, Institute for Fiscal Studies, vol. 35, pages 421-448, December.
    5. An, Zhiyong & Tan, Congyan, 2014. "Taxation and income shifting: Empirical evidence from a quasi-experiment in China," Economic Systems, Elsevier, vol. 38(4), pages 588-596.
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    More about this item


    Multinational Corporations (MNCs); Profit shifting; Tax elasticity of investment; Finite mixture model;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • C33 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Multiple or Simultaneous Equation Models; Multiple Variables - - - Models with Panel Data; Spatio-temporal Models
    • F23 - International Economics - - International Factor Movements and International Business - - - Multinational Firms; International Business
    • H32 - Public Economics - - Fiscal Policies and Behavior of Economic Agents - - - Firm

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