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Domestic Tax Policy and Foreign Investment: Some Evidence

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  • David G. Hartman

Abstract

Investment abroad has come to play a major role in the total investment undertaken by U.S. firms. Despite this development, very little attention has been paid to the impacts of domestic tax policy on foreign investment. One reason has been the presumption that, since changes in domestic tax rules ordinarily also apply to foreign-source income, policy changes should affect foreign and domestic investment similarly. However, the fact that the tax on foreign-source income is deferred until the income is repatriated represents a crucial difference in the treatment of foreign and domestic income. So long as the U.S. tax is deferred, the effective U.S. tax rate on foreign-source income can be shown to be irrelevant to a firm's optimal foreign reinvestment decision. Foreign investment is now largely accomplished by firms reinvesting earnings abroad, so the reinvestment decision is of primary importance. Thus, a decrease in the effective U.S. tax rate which applies to both domestic and foreign investment income can be thought of as a cut in the tax on domestic investment income, which is encouraging to domestic investment (perhaps at the expense of foreign investment), combined with a cut in the tax on foreign investment income, which has no effect on the optimal foreign reinvestment decision. Consequently, the impacts on foreign and domestic investment of an apparently neutral policy could be very different . Another reason that the response of foreign investment has been neglected in domestic policy discussions is the lack of evidence on the magnitude of that response. This paper utilizes the theory just described to confirm that foreign investment is influenced negatively and quite strongly by the after-tax rate of return to domestic investment. A further test, in which a "gross domestic rate of return" term and a "domestic tax" term are included separately, produces coefficients virtually equal in absolute value, confirming that the net domestic rate of return is the appropriate variable. The results indicate that a tax incentive which has been found to raise net domestic investment by a dollar reduces net foreign investment by at least twenty cents. This conclusion is further reinforced by results from a forward-looking (Tobin's q) mod el. While these results do not point to the primary outcome of a domestic policy change being a domestic-foreign reallocation of the capital stock, they indicate that a significant reallocation does take place. With open economy tax analysis still in its infancy, the question of how this evidence alters the usual conclusions is largely an open one.

Suggested Citation

  • David G. Hartman, 1981. "Domestic Tax Policy and Foreign Investment: Some Evidence," NBER Working Papers 0784, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:0784
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Feldstein, Martin & Horioka, Charles, 1980. "Domestic Saving and International Capital Flows," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 90(358), pages 314-329, June.
    2. David G. Hartman, 1981. "Tax Policy and Foreign Direct Investment," NBER Working Papers 0689, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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    Cited by:

    1. Rosanne Altshuler & Harry Grubert & T. Scott Newlon, 2000. "Has U.S. Investment Abroad Become More Sensitive to Tax Rates?," NBER Chapters,in: International Taxation and Multinational Activity, pages 9-38 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Martin Feldstein, 1991. "Domestic Saving and International Capital Movements in the Long Run and the Short Run," NBER Chapters,in: International Volatility and Economic Growth: The First Ten Years of The International Seminar on Macroeconomics, pages 331-353 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Joosung Jun, 1989. "U.S. Tax Policy and Direct Investment Abroad," NBER Working Papers 3049, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. Joosung Jun, 1990. "U.S. Tax Policy and Direct Investment Abroad," NBER Chapters,in: Taxation in the Global Economy, pages 55-78 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. James R. Hines, Jr. & R. Glenn Hubbard, 1990. "Coming Home To America: Dividend Repatriations By U.S. Multinationals," NBER Chapters,in: Taxation in the Global Economy, pages 161-208 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    6. Céline Azémar & Gregory Corcos, 2009. "Multinational Firms' Heterogeneity in Tax Responsiveness: The Role of Transfer Pricing," The World Economy, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 32(9), pages 1291-1318, September.
    7. Hines, James R, Jr, 1996. "Altered States: Taxes and the Location of Foreign Direct Investment in America," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 86(5), pages 1076-1094, December.
    8. Rosanne Altshuler & T. Scott Newlon & Joel Slemrod, 1993. "The Effects of U.S. Tax Policy on the Income Repatriation Patterns of U. S . Multinational Corporations," NBER Chapters,in: Studies in International Taxation, pages 77-116 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    9. Michael J. Boskin, 1987. "Tax Policy and the International Location of Investment," NBER Chapters,in: Taxes and Capital Formation, pages 73-82 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    10. Azemar, Celine & Corcos, Gregory, 2008. "Multinational Firms’ Heterogeneity in Tax Responsiveness: the Role of Transfer Pricing," SIRE Discussion Papers 2008-08, Scottish Institute for Research in Economics (SIRE).
    11. James R. Hines, Jr., 1996. "Tax Policy and the Activities of Multinational Corporations," NBER Working Papers 5589, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    12. Jiming Ha & Anne Sibert, 1997. "Strategic Capital Taxation in Large Open Economies with Mobile Capital," International Tax and Public Finance, Springer;International Institute of Public Finance, vol. 4(3), pages 243-262, July.
    13. Jason Cummins & R. Glenn Hubbard, 1995. "The Tax Sensitivity of Foreign Direct Investment: Evidence from Firm-Level Panel Data," NBER Chapters,in: The Effects of Taxation on Multinational Corporations, pages 123-152 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    14. David G. Hartman, 1982. "Tax Policy and Foreign Direct Investment in the United States," NBER Working Papers 0967, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

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