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Capital Structure and International Debt Shifting

  • Harry Huizinga
  • Luc Laeven
  • Gaëtan Nicodème

This paper presents a model of a multinational firm’s optimal debt policy that incorporates international taxation factors. The model yields the prediction that a multinational firm’s indebtedness in a country depends on a weighted average of national tax rates and differences between national and foreign tax rates. These differences matter as multinationals have an incentive to shift debt to high-tax countries. The predictions of the model are tested using a novel firm-level dataset for European multinationals and their subsidiaries, combined with newly collected data on the international tax treatment of dividend and interest streams. Our empirical results show that a foreign subsidiary’s capital structure reflects local corporate tax rates as well as tax rate differences vis-à-vis the parent firm and other foreign subsidiaries, although the overall economic effect of taxes on leverage appears to be small. Ignoring the international debt shifting arising from differences in national tax rates woudunderstate the impact of national taxes on debt policies by about 25%.

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Paper provided by ULB -- Universite Libre de Bruxelles in its series Working Papers CEB with number 07-015.RS.

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Length: 65 p.
Date of creation: 2007
Date of revision:
Publication status: Published by:
Handle: RePEc:sol:wpaper:07-015
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