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Do Multinationals or Domestic Firms Face Higher Effective Tax Rates?


  • Kevin S. Markle
  • Douglas Shackelford


To our knowledge, this paper provides the most comprehensive analysis of firm-level corporate income tax expenses to date. We use publicly available financial statement information to estimate firm-level effective tax rates (ETRs) for 10,642 corporations from 85 countries from 1988 to 2007. We find that multinationals and domestic-only companies face similar ETRs. We also find that, on average, ETRs declined by seven percentage points or 20% over the period. German, Japanese, Australian and Canadian decreases were large. American, British, and French declines were more modest. Nonetheless, because ETRs were falling worldwide, the ordinal rank from high-tax countries to low-tax countries changed little. Japanese firms always faced the highest ETRs. ETRs for tax havens and countries from the Middle East and Asia (ignoring Japan) were always lower than those for the U.S. and European countries. These findings should provide some empirical underpinning for ongoing policy debates about the taxation of multinational profits.

Suggested Citation

  • Kevin S. Markle & Douglas Shackelford, 2009. "Do Multinationals or Domestic Firms Face Higher Effective Tax Rates?," NBER Working Papers 15091, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:15091
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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Desai, Mihir A. & Foley, C. Fritz & Hines, James Jr., 2006. "The demand for tax haven operations," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 90(3), pages 513-531, February.
    2. Shackelford, Douglas A. & Shevlin, Terry, 2001. "Empirical tax research in accounting," Journal of Accounting and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 31(1-3), pages 321-387, September.
    3. Julie H. Collins & Douglas A. Shackelford, 2003. "Do U.S. Multinationals Face Different Tax Burdens than Other Companies?," NBER Chapters,in: Tax Policy and the Economy, Volume 17, pages 141-168 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. Atwood, T.J. & Drake, Michael S. & Myers, Linda A., 2010. "Book-tax conformity, earnings persistence and the association between earnings and future cash flows," Journal of Accounting and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 50(1), pages 111-125, May.
    5. Desai, Mihir A. & Hines, James R. Jr., 2002. "Expectations and Expatriations: Tracing the Causes and Consequences of Corporate Inversions," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association, vol. 55(3), pages 409-440, September.
    6. Hanlon, Michelle, 2003. "What Can We Infer About a Firm’s Taxable Income From Its Financial Statements?," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association, vol. 56(4), pages 831-863, December.
    7. Julie Collins & Douglas Shackelford, 1995. "Corporate domicile and average effective tax rates: The cases of Canada, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States," International Tax and Public Finance, Springer;International Institute of Public Finance, vol. 2(1), pages 55-83, February.
    8. John H. Mutti & Harry Grubert, 2007. "The Effect of Taxes on Royalties and the Migration of Intangible Assets Abroad," NBER Working Papers 13248, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    9. Roger Gordon & Laura Kalambokidis & Joel Slemrod, 2003. "A New Summary Measure of the Effective Tax Rate on Investment," NBER Working Papers 9535, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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    Cited by:

    1. Kevin S Markle, 2012. "A Comparison of the Tax-motivated Income Shifting of Multinationals in Territorial and Worldwide Countries," Working Papers 1206, Oxford University Centre for Business Taxation.
    2. Lee, Namryoung & Swenson, Charles, 2012. "Are Multinational Corporate Tax Rules as Important as Tax Rates?," The International Journal of Accounting, Elsevier, vol. 47(2), pages 155-167.
    3. Sinclair Davidson, 2012. "Treasury Forecasts of Company Tax Revenue: Back of the Envelope or Back to the Drawing Board?," Agenda - A Journal of Policy Analysis and Reform, Australian National University, College of Business and Economics, School of Economics, vol. 19(2), pages 53-62.
    4. repec:col:000093:012622 is not listed on IDEAS
    5. Peter Greagg & Dean Parham & Pero Stojanovski, 2010. "Disparities in average rates of company tax across industries," Economic Roundup, The Treasury, Australian Government, issue 2, pages 91-103, July.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • F23 - International Economics - - International Factor Movements and International Business - - - Multinational Firms; International Business
    • H25 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - Business Taxes and Subsidies
    • K34 - Law and Economics - - Other Substantive Areas of Law - - - Tax Law
    • M41 - Business Administration and Business Economics; Marketing; Accounting; Personnel Economics - - Accounting - - - Accounting

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