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Fixing the System: An Analysis of Alternative Proposals for the Reform of International Tax

Author

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  • Harry Grubert

    () (U.S. Treasury Department)

  • Rosanne Altshuler

    () (Rutgers University)

Abstract

We evaluate proposals for the reform of the U.S. system of taxing cross-border income including dividend exemption, full current inclusion, a Japanese type version of dividend exemption with an effective tax rate test subject to an exception for an active business, dividend exemption combined with a minimum tax, and repeal of check-the-box. We consider two versions of dividend exemption with a minimum tax: one in which the minimum tax is imposed on a country by country basis and another in which the minimum tax is based on overall foreign income. In addition we evaluate versions of minimum taxes that allow current deductions for tangible investment against the minimum tax base. To compare these schemes with current law, we reevaluate the efficiency cost of the dividend repatriation tax using evidence from the response to the 2005 repatriation tax holiday. We find that the burden of avoiding repatriations is higher than found in previous estimates, particularly for high tech profitable foreign businesses, and rises as deferrals accumulate. We simulate the effect of the various alternatives on effective tax rates for investment in high and low tax countries with inclusion of the importance of parent developed intangibles and their role in shifting income from the United States. Our analysis demonstrates that it is possible to make improvements to the system across many dimensions including the lockout effect, income shifting, the choice of location and complexity. The goals are not necessarily in conflict. Compared to the other schemes, we find the per country minimum tax with expensing for real investment has many advantages with respect to these margins. The per country minimum tax offsets (at least in part) the increased incentives for income shifting under pure dividend exemption and is better than full inclusion in tailoring companies’ effective tax rates to their competitive position abroad. No U.S. tax burden will fall on companies that earn just a normal return abroad. The minimum tax is basically a tax on large excess returns in low tax locations, cases in which the company probably has less intense foreign competition. The investment will still be made. Unlike the Japanese type dividend exemption alternative considered, there is no cliff in which the income is subject to the full home country rate if it fails the minimum effective tax rate and active business test. Under the minimum tax with no cliff the company has more of an incentive to lower foreign taxes and will often prefer paying the U.S. minimum tax to paying a higher foreign tax. Finally, the minimum tax with expensing is more effective in discouraging income shifting than repeal of check-the-box. In summary, the per country minimum tax with expensing combines the advantages of the extreme alternatives, dividend exemption and full inclusion, and reduces their shortcomings. Our comparison of the overall and per country minimum tax suggests that the overall version deserves serious consideration. While it is not as thorough as the per country minimum tax in targeting tax haven income, it is a substantial move in that direction and is much simpler.

Suggested Citation

  • Harry Grubert & Rosanne Altshuler, 2013. "Fixing the System: An Analysis of Alternative Proposals for the Reform of International Tax," Departmental Working Papers 201305, Rutgers University, Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:rut:rutres:201305
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Eric J. Allen & Susan C. Morse, 2013. "Tax-Haven Incorporation for U.S.-Headquartered Firms: No Exodus Yet," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association;National Tax Journal, vol. 66(2), pages 395-420, June.
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    5. Altshuler, Rosanne & Grubert, Harry, 2010. "Formula Apportionment: Is It Better Than the Current System and Are There Better Alternatives?," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association;National Tax Journal, vol. 63(4), pages 1145-1184, December.
    6. Altshuler, Rosanne & Grubert, Harry, 2001. "Where Will They Go if We Go Territorial? Dividend Exemption and the Location Decisions of U.S. Multinational Corporations," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association;National Tax Journal, vol. 54(4), pages 787-809, December.
    7. Alfons Weichenrieder, 1996. "Anti-tax-avoidance provisions and the size of foreign direct investment," International Tax and Public Finance, Springer;International Institute of Public Finance, vol. 3(1), pages 67-81, January.
    8. Wiji Arulampalam & Michael P. Devereux & Federica Liberini, 2012. "Taxes and the Location of Targets," Working Papers 1213, Oxford University Centre for Business Taxation.
    9. Harry P. Huizinga & Johannes Voget, 2009. "International Taxation and the Direction and Volume of Cross-Border M&As," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 64(3), pages 1217-1249, June.
    10. Harry Grubert & Joel Slemrod, 1998. "The Effect Of Taxes On Investment And Income Shifting To Puerto Rico," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 80(3), pages 365-373, August.
    11. Rosanne Altshuler & Benjamin Harris & Eric Toder, 2011. "Capital Income Taxation and Progressivity in a Global Economy," Departmental Working Papers 201122, Rutgers University, Department of Economics.
    12. Grubert, Harry, 2012. "Foreign Taxes and the Growing Share of U.S. Multinational Company Income Abroad: Profits, Not Sales, Are Being Globalized," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association;National Tax Journal, vol. 65(2), pages 247-281, June.
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    Cited by:

    1. Charles McLure & Jack Mintz & George Zodrow, 2015. "US Supreme Court unanimously chooses substance over form in foreign tax credit case: implications of the PPL decision for the creditability of cash-flow taxes," International Tax and Public Finance, Springer;International Institute of Public Finance, vol. 22(5), pages 887-907, October.
    2. Kari Seppo, 2015. "Corporate tax in an international environment – Problems and possible remedies," Nordic Tax Journal, Sciendo, vol. 2015(1), pages 1-16, September.
    3. Kayis-Kumar, Ann, 2016. "International tax planning by multinationals: Simulating a tax-minimising intercompany response to the OECD's recommendation on BEPS Action 4," MPRA Paper 72828, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    4. Dhammika Dharmapala, 2016. "The Economics of Corporate and Business Tax Reform," CESifo Working Paper Series 5864, CESifo Group Munich.
    5. Kayis-Kumar, Ann, 2015. "Taxing cross-border intercompany transactions: are financing activities fungible?," MPRA Paper 71615, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    6. Margaret K. McKeehan & George R. Zodrow, 2017. "Balancing act: weighing the factors affecting the taxation of capital income in a small open economy," International Tax and Public Finance, Springer;International Institute of Public Finance, vol. 24(1), pages 1-35, February.
    7. Charles E McLure & Jack Mintz & George R. Zodrow, 2014. "US Supreme Court Unanimously Chooses Substance over Form in Foreign Tax Credit," Working Papers 1411, Oxford University Centre for Business Taxation.
    8. Hasegawa, Makoto & Kiyota, Kozo, 2017. "The effect of moving to a territorial tax system on profit repatriation: Evidence from Japan," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 153(C), pages 92-110.
    9. Kayis-Kumar, Ann, 2015. "Thin capitalisation rules: A second-best solution to the cross-border debt bias?," MPRA Paper 72031, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    10. Harry Grubert, 2014. "Book Review: Fixing U.S. International Taxation by Daniel N. Shaviro (Oxford University Press, 2014, New York, Ny, 223 Pages)," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association;National Tax Journal, vol. 67(3), pages 745-754, September.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    International taxation; ; Multinational corporations; Territorial taxation; Corporate taxation;

    JEL classification:

    • H20 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - General
    • H25 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - Business Taxes and Subsidies
    • H87 - Public Economics - - Miscellaneous Issues - - - International Fiscal Issues; International Public Goods

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