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Taxation and the International Mobility of Inventors


  • Ufuk Akcigit
  • Salomé Baslandze
  • Stefanie Stantcheva


This paper studies the effect of top tax rates on inventors' international mobility since 1977. We put special emphasis on “superstar” inventors, those with the most abundant and most valuable patents. We use panel data on inventors from the United States and European Patent Offices to track inventors' locations over time and combine it with international effective top tax rate data. We construct a detailed set of proxies for inventors' counterfactual incomes in each possible destination country including, among others, measures of patent quality and technological fit with each potential destination. Exploiting the differential impact of changes in the top tax rate on inventors of different qualities, we find that superstar top 1% inventors are significantly affected by top tax rates when deciding where to locate. The elasticity to the net-of-tax rate of the number of domestic superstar inventors is relatively small, around 0.03, while the elasticity of the number of foreign superstar inventors is around 1. Inventors who work in multinational companies are more likely to take advantage of tax differentials. On the other hand, if the company of an inventor has a higher share of its research activity in a given country, the inventor is less sensitive to the tax rate in that country.

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  • Ufuk Akcigit & Salomé Baslandze & Stefanie Stantcheva, 2015. "Taxation and the International Mobility of Inventors," NBER Working Papers 21024, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:21024
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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Miguelez Ernest, 2014. "Inventor Diasporas And The Internationalization Of Technology," ERSA conference papers ersa14p1030, European Regional Science Association.
    2. Etienne Lehmann & Laurent Simula & Alain Trannoy, 2014. "Tax me if you can! Optimal Nonlinear Income Tax Between Competing Governments," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 129(4), pages 1995-2030.
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    12. David S. Abrams & Ufuk Akcigit & Jillian Popadak, 2013. "Patent Value and Citations: Creative Destruction or Strategic Disruption?," NBER Working Papers 19647, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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    14. Jon Bakija & Joel Slemrod, 2004. "Do the Rich Flee from High State Taxes? Evidence from Federal Estate Tax Returns," Department of Economics Working Papers 2004-12, Department of Economics, Williams College.
    15. Simula, Laurent & Trannoy, Alain, 2010. "Optimal income tax under the threat of migration by top-income earners," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 94(1-2), pages 163-173, February.
    16. Ernest Miguelez & Carsten Fink, 2013. "Measuring the International Mobility of Inventors: A New Database," WIPO Economic Research Working Papers 08, World Intellectual Property Organization - Economics and Statistics Division, revised May 2013.
    17. Abadie, Alberto & Diamond, Alexis & Hainmueller, Jens, 2010. "Synthetic Control Methods for Comparative Case Studies: Estimating the Effect of California’s Tobacco Control Program," Journal of the American Statistical Association, American Statistical Association, vol. 105(490), pages 493-505.
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    Cited by:

    1. Alejandro Esteller & Amedeo Piolatto & Matthew D. Rablen, 2016. "Taxing high-income earners: tax avoidance and mobility," IFS Working Papers W16/07, Institute for Fiscal Studies.
    2. Aghion, Philippe & Akcigit, Ufuk & Bergeaud, Antonin & Blundell, Richard William & Hémous, David, 2015. "Innovation and Top Income Inequality," CEPR Discussion Papers 10659, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    3. Dechezlepretre, Antoine & Einiö, Elias & Martin, Ralf & Nguyen, Kieu-Trang & Reenen, John Van, 2016. "Do tax incentives for research increase firm innovation? An RD design for R&D," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 66428, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
    4. Enrico Moretti & Daniel J. Wilson, 2017. "The Effect of State Taxes on the Geographical Location of Top Earners: Evidence from Star Scientists," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 107(7), pages 1858-1903, July.
    5. Ugo Troiano, 2017. "Intergovernmental Cooperation and Tax Enforcement," NBER Working Papers 24153, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    6. Bell, Alex & Chetty, Raj & Jaravel, Xavier & Petkova, Neviana & Van Reenen, John, 2017. "Who becomes an inventor in America? The importance of exposure to innovation," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 86616, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
    7. Matthias Parey & Jens Ruhose & Fabian Waldinger & Nicolai Netz, 2017. "The Selection of High-Skilled Emigrants," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 99(5), pages 776-792, December.
    8. d’Andria, Diego, 2016. "Why are researchers paid bonuses? On technology spillovers and market rivalry," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 45(10), pages 2105-2112.
    9. Diego d’Andria & Dimitris Pontikakis & Agnieszka Skonieczna, 2017. "Towards a European R&D Incentive? An assessment of R&D Provisions under a Common Corporate Tax Base," Taxation Papers 69, Directorate General Taxation and Customs Union, European Commission.
    10. Philippe Aghion & Ufuk Akcigit & Ari Hyytinen & Otto Toivanen, 2017. "The Social Origins of Inventors," CEP Discussion Papers dp1522, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.
    11. Roller, Marcus & Schmidheiny, Kurt, 2016. "Effective Tax Rates and Effective Progressivity in a Fiscally Decentralized Country," CEPR Discussion Papers 11152, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    12. E. Mark Curtis & Ryan Decker, 2018. "Entrepreneurship and State Taxation," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 2018-003, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
    13. Martinez, Isabel Z., 2016. "Beggar-Thy-Neighbour Tax Cuts: Mobility after a Local Income and Wealth Tax Reform in Switzerland," Annual Conference 2016 (Augsburg): Demographic Change 145643, Verein für Socialpolitik / German Economic Association.
    14. Julio López Laborda & Fernando Rodrigo Sauco, 2017. "Movilidad de los contribuyentes de rentas altas en respuesta a las diferencias regionales en los impuestos personales," Studies on the Spanish Economy eee2017-28, FEDEA.
    15. Diego d'Andria, 2016. "Employed inventors, inter-firm mobility, bonus pay with multi-stage R&D processes, and optimal innovation policy," JRC Working Papers on Taxation & Structural Reforms 2016-02, Joint Research Centre (Seville site).
    16. Alex Bell & Raj Chetty & Xavier Jaravel & Neviana Petkova & John Van Reenen, 2017. "Who Becomes an Inventor in America? The Importance of Exposure to Innovation," CEP Discussion Papers dp1519, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.
    17. Ugo Troiano, 2017. "Do Taxes Increase Economic Inequality? A Comparative Study Based on the State Personal Income Tax," NBER Working Papers 24175, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    18. Sachverständigenrat zur Begutachtung der Gesamtwirtschaftlichen Entwicklung (ed.), 2015. "Zukunftsfähigkeit in den Mittelpunkt. Jahresgutachten 2015/16," Annual Economic Reports / Jahresgutachten, German Council of Economic Experts / Sachverständigenrat zur Begutachtung der gesamtwirtschaftlichen Entwicklung, volume 127, number 201516.
    19. Mare Sarr & Joëlle Noailly, 2017. "Innovation, Diffusion, Growth and the Environment: Taking Stock and Charting New Directions," Environmental & Resource Economics, Springer;European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 66(3), pages 393-407, March.
    20. repec:oup:jecgeo:v:17:y:2017:i:5:p:1009-1038. is not listed on IDEAS

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • F22 - International Economics - - International Factor Movements and International Business - - - International Migration
    • H21 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - Efficiency; Optimal Taxation
    • H24 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - Personal Income and Other Nonbusiness Taxes and Subsidies
    • H31 - Public Economics - - Fiscal Policies and Behavior of Economic Agents - - - Household
    • J61 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Mobility, Unemployment, Vacancies, and Immigrant Workers - - - Geographic Labor Mobility; Immigrant Workers
    • O33 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights - - - Technological Change: Choices and Consequences; Diffusion Processes
    • O38 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights - - - Government Policy

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