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At Your Service! The Role of Tax Havens in International Trade with Services

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  • Shafik Hebous
  • Niels Johannesen

Abstract

This paper documents that tax havens play a prominent role in international service trade and investigates the nature of this role. We employ a firm-level dataset with detailed information about service trade and foreign affiliates for virtually all multinational firms in Germany, which allows us to approximately distinguish trade between related and unrelated parties. We find that the service trade of tax havens partly reflects genuine specialization in service industries, which suggests that institutional features such as low tax rates, secrecy and low regulatory standards create a comparative advantage in service production. We also find that trade in service categories such as intellectual property (patents and trademarks) and headquarter services (administration, management and advertising) partly reflects mispriced affiliate trade serving to shift profits to tax havens. We argue, however, that the loss of government revenue resulting from this type of corporate tax evasion is likely to be modest.

Suggested Citation

  • Shafik Hebous & Niels Johannesen, 2015. "At Your Service! The Role of Tax Havens in International Trade with Services," CESifo Working Paper Series 5414, CESifo.
  • Handle: RePEc:ces:ceswps:_5414
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    Cited by:

    1. Menkhoff, Lukas & Miethe, Jakob, 2019. "Tax evasion in new disguise? Examining tax havens' international bank deposits," EconStor Open Access Articles and Book Chapters, ZBW - Leibniz Information Centre for Economics, pages 53-78.
    2. Mariana Colacelli & Cyril Rebillard & Deepali Gautam, 2021. "Japan’s Foreign Assets and Liabilities: Implications for the External Accounts," IMF Working Papers 2021/026, International Monetary Fund.
    3. Ludvig Wier & Hayley Reynolds, 2018. "Big and 'unprofitable': How 10 per cent of multinational firms do 98 per cent of profit shifting," WIDER Working Paper Series wp-2018-111, World Institute for Development Economic Research (UNU-WIDER).
    4. Francesco Bripi & David Loschiavo & Davide Revelli, 2020. "Services trade and credit frictions: Evidence with matched bank–firm data," The World Economy, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 43(5), pages 1216-1252, May.
    5. Shafik Hebous & Alexander Klemm & Saila Stausholm, 2020. "Revenue Implications of Destination-Based Cash-Flow Taxation," IMF Economic Review, Palgrave Macmillan;International Monetary Fund, vol. 68(4), pages 848-874, December.
    6. Shafik Hebous & Alfons J. Weichenrieder, 2015. "What Do We Know about the Tax Planning of German-based Multinational Firms?," ifo DICE Report, ifo Institute - Leibniz Institute for Economic Research at the University of Munich, vol. 12(4), pages 15-21, 01.
    7. Sebastian Beer & Ruud de Mooij & Li Liu, 2020. "International Corporate Tax Avoidance: A Review Of The Channels, Magnitudes, And Blind Spots," Journal of Economic Surveys, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 34(3), pages 660-688, July.
    8. Becker, Johannes & Johannesen, Niels & Riedel, Nadine, 2020. "Taxation and the allocation of risk inside the multinational firm," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 183(C).
    9. Carol Bertaut & Beau Bressler & Stephanie E Curcuru, 2019. "Globalization and the geography of capital flows," IFC Bulletins chapters, in: Bank for International Settlements (ed.), Are post-crisis statistical initiatives completed?, volume 49, Bank for International Settlements.
    10. Sébastien Laffitte & Farid Toubal, 2018. "Firms, Trade and Profit Shifting: Evidence from Aggregate Data," CESifo Working Paper Series 7171, CESifo.
    11. repec:ces:ifodic:v:12:y:2015:i:4:p:19149984 is not listed on IDEAS
    12. Bui Quang Pierre, & Gigout Timothée. Abstract : Trade in services is playing an increasingly important role in French foreign trade. Between 2000 and 2019, it grew by 156%, twice as fast as trade in g, 2021. "Twenty years of growth in France’s trade in services [Vingt ans d’essor des échanges de services de la France]," Bulletin de la Banque de France, Banque de France, issue 236.
    13. Li Liu & Tim Schmidt-Eisenlohr & Dongxian Guo, 2020. "International Transfer Pricing and Tax Avoidance: Evidence from Linked Trade-Tax Statistics in the United Kingdom," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 102(4), pages 766-778, October.
    14. Shafik Hebous & Alfons J. Weichenrieder & Alfons Weichenrieder, 2015. "What Do We Know about the Tax Planning of German-based Multinational Firms?," ifo DICE Report, ifo Institute - Leibniz Institute for Economic Research at the University of Munich, vol. 12(04), pages 15-21, January.
    15. Dongxian Guo & Li Liu & Tim Schmidt-Eisenlohr, 2017. "International Transfer Pricing and Tax Avoidance : Evidence from Linked Trade-Tax Statistics in the UK," International Finance Discussion Papers 1214, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
    16. Sébastien Laffitte & Farid Toubal, 2019. "A Fistful of Dollars? Foreign Sales Platforms and Profit Shifting in Tax Havens," Working Papers 2019-02, CEPII research center.
    17. Bodo Knoll & Nadine Riedel, 2020. "Patent Shifing and Anti-Tax Avoidance Legislation," ifo DICE Report, ifo Institute - Leibniz Institute for Economic Research at the University of Munich, vol. 17(04), pages 25-29, January.
    18. Thomas R. Tørsløv & Ludvig S. Wier & Gabriel Zucman, 2020. "Externalities in International Tax Enforcement: Theory and Evidence," NBER Working Papers 26899, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    19. Weichenrieder, Alfons J., 2016. "Panama & Co: Implikationen für die Steuerpolitik," SAFE Policy Letters 52, Leibniz Institute for Financial Research SAFE.
    20. Niels Johannesen & Thomas Tørsløv & Ludvig Wier, 2016. "Are less developed countries more exposed to multinational tax avoidance? Method and evidence from micro-data," WIDER Working Paper Series 010b (Revised version May, World Institute for Development Economic Research (UNU-WIDER).

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    service trade; profit shifting; tax evasion; multinational firms; tax havens;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • F14 - International Economics - - Trade - - - Empirical Studies of Trade
    • F23 - International Economics - - International Factor Movements and International Business - - - Multinational Firms; International Business
    • H26 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - Tax Evasion and Avoidance

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