Taxation and the Location of U.S. Investment Abroad
Tax policy toward the overseas income of U.S. firms is an important issue since foreign investment accounts for a sizabLe fraction of total investment by U.S. firms. At present there is no consensus on the degree to which U.S. firms respond to tax incentives when making international investment decisions. This paper seeks to shed light on this issue. Because the tax systems of (at least) two countries are involved,the specification of tax incentives is far from trivial. For example, U.S.treatment is based on the foreign tax credit mechanism. In its purest form,this mechanism would insure that the net tax rate on all income of U.S. firms would be equal to the U.S. rate, rendering the tax rates in the host countries irrelevant. In fact, actual U.S. tax practice is far removed from an idealized foreign tax credit mechanism. For instance the U.S. tax is not collected until income is repatriated from abroad; section I points out that deferral changes the incentive effects in fundamental ways. Foreign income tax rates definitely do matter in theory; in fact, they may be of overriding importance.The remainder of the paper seeks to test these theoretical considerations. First,we describe the cross-section data that were collected for this purpose. Then, we report the result that U.S. firms respond to net rates of return in general and to properly specified tax rates in particular.
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