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Earnings Shocks and Tax-Motivated Income-Shifting: Evidence from European Multinationals

  • Dhammika Dharmapala
  • Nadine Riedel

This paper presents a new approach to estimating the existence and magnitude of tax-motivated income shifting within multinational corporations. Existing studies of income shifting use changes in corporate tax rates as a source of identification. In contrast, this paper exploits exogenous earnings shocks at the parent firm and investigates how these shocks propagate across low-tax and high-tax multinational subsidiaries. This approach is implemented using a large panel of European multinational affiliates over the period 1995-2005. The central result is that parents’ positive earnings shocks are associated with a significantly positive increase in pretax profits at low-tax affiliates, relative to the effect on the pretax profits of high-tax affiliates. The result is robust to controlling for various other differences between low-tax and high-tax affiliates and for country-pair-year fixed effects. Additional tests suggest that the estimated effect is attributable primarily to the strategic use of debt across affiliates. The magnitude of income shifting estimated using this approach is substantial, but somewhat smaller than that found in the previous literature.

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Paper provided by CESifo Group Munich in its series CESifo Working Paper Series with number 3791.

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Date of creation: 2012
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Handle: RePEc:ces:ceswps:_3791
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  1. Bartelsman, Eric J. & Beetsma, Roel M. W. J., 2003. "Why pay more? Corporate tax avoidance through transfer pricing in OECD countries," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 87(9-10), pages 2225-2252, September.
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  8. Dischinger, Matthias & Riedel, Nadine, 2010. "The Role of Headquarters Firms in Multinational Profit Shifting Strategies," Discussion Papers in Economics 11352, University of Munich, Department of Economics.
  9. Alfons Weichenrieder, 2009. "Profit shifting in the EU: evidence from Germany," International Tax and Public Finance, Springer;International Institute of Public Finance, vol. 16(3), pages 281-297, June.
  10. Buettner, Thiess & Overesch, Michael & Schreiber, Ulrich & Wamser, Georg, 2012. "The impact of thin-capitalization rules on the capital structure of multinational firms," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 96(11), pages 930-938.
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  15. Desai, Mihir A. & Dharmapala, Dhammika, 2009. "Earnings Management, Corporate Tax Shelters, and Book–Tax Alignment," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association, vol. 62(1), pages 169-86, March.
  16. Grubert, Harry & Mutti, John, 1991. "Taxes, Tariffs and Transfer Pricing in Multinational Corporate Decision Making," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 73(2), pages 285-93, May.
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  22. Clausing, Kimberly A., 2003. "Tax-motivated transfer pricing and US intrafirm trade prices," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 87(9-10), pages 2207-2223, September.
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