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No Place Like Home: Tax Incentives and the Location of R&D by American Multinationals

  • James R. Hines, Jr.

This paper analyzes the effects of the U.S. tax treatment of the R&D activities of American multinationals. Recent evidence indicates that the level of R&D spending is highly sensitive to its after-tax cost. The U.S. Tax Reform Act of 1986 reduced the tax deductions that many American firms can claim for their R&D expenses incurred in the U.S., and on this basis, observers predicted that American firms would react to the tax change by significantly increasing the fraction of their R&D that they perform abroad. Aggregate data indicate that this fraction instead stayed roughly constant, at around 10%. An important reason why U.S. firms did not move more of their total R&D activity offshore is that U.S. tax law provides quite generous treatment of R&D performed in the U.S. for use abroad by firms with excess foreign tax credits, and the Tax Reform Act of 1986 significantly increased the number of American firms with excess foreign tax credits. Hence, the 1986 tax change increased the cost of U.S.-based R&D for some American firms, and reduced it for others, with little impact on the overall fraction of R&D spending that U.S. firms do abroad. One consequence of the tax law changes of the late 1980s is that, by 1991, the tax treatment of foreign-source royalties received by American firms with excess foreign tax credits has five times the revenue impact of the Research and Experimentation Tax Credit.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 4574.

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Date of creation: Dec 1993
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Publication status: published as No Place Like Home: Tax Incentives and the Location of R&D by American Multinationals , James R. Hines, Jr.. in Tax Policy and the Economy, Volume 8 , Poterba. 1994
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:4574
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  1. Mansfield, Edwin, 1986. "The R&D Tax Credit and Other Technology Policy Issues," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 76(2), pages 190-94, May.
  2. Bernstein, J.I. & Nadiri, M.I., 1988. "Rates Of Return On Physical And R&D Capital And Structure Of The Production Process: Cross Section And Time Series Evidence," Working Papers 88-09, C.V. Starr Center for Applied Economics, New York University.
  3. Hines, James R, Jr, 1996. " Dividends and Profits: Some Unsubtle Foreign Influences," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 51(2), pages 661-89, June.
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  7. Zvi Griliches, 1991. "The Search for R&D Spillovers," NBER Working Papers 3768, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Goodspeed, Timothy & Frisch, Daniel, 1989. "U.S. tax policy and the overseas activities of U.S. multinational corporations: a quantitative assessment," MPRA Paper 39389, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  9. M. Ishaq Nadiri & Ingmar R. Prucha, 1989. "Dynamic Factor Demand Models, Productivity Measurement, and Rates of Return: Theory and an Empirical Application to the U.S. Bell System," NBER Working Papers 3041, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. Zvi Griliches, 1998. "Productivity and R&D at the Firm Level," NBER Chapters, in: R&D and Productivity: The Econometric Evidence, pages 100-133 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  11. Andrew B. Lyon & Gerald Silverstein, 1994. "The Alternative Minimum Tax and the Behavior of Multinational Corporations," NBER Working Papers 4783, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  12. Altshuler, Rosanne, 1988. "A Dynamic Analysis of the Research and Experimentation Credit," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association, vol. 41(4), pages 453-66, December.
  13. Hartman, David G., 1985. "Tax policy and foreign direct investment," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 26(1), pages 107-121, February.
  14. Jaffe, Adam B, 1986. "Technological Opportunity and Spillovers of R&D: Evidence from Firms' Patents, Profits, and Market Value," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 76(5), pages 984-1001, December.
  15. Zvi Griliches & Jacques Mairesse, 1981. "Productivity and R and D at the Firm Level," NBER Working Papers 0826, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  16. Kopits, George F, 1976. "Intra-firm Royalties Crossing Frontiers and Transfer-Pricing Behaviour," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 86(344), pages 791-805, December.
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