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Earnings shocks and tax-motivated income-shifting: Evidence from European multinationals

  • Dharmapala, Dhammika
  • Riedel, Nadine

This paper presents a new approach to estimating the existence and magnitude of taxmotivated income shifting within multinational corporations. Existing studies of income shifting use changes in corporate tax rates as a source of identification. In contrast, this paper exploits exogenous earnings shocks at the parent firm and investigates how these shocks propagate across low-tax and high-tax multinational subsidiaries. This approach is implemented using a large panel of European multinational affiliates over the period 1995-2005. The central result is that parents' positive earnings shocks are associated with a significantly positive increase in pretax profits at low-tax affiliates, relative to the effect on the pretax profits of high-tax affiliates. The result is robust to controlling for various other differences between low-tax and high-tax affiliates and for country-pair-year fixed effects. Additional tests suggest that the estimated effect is attributable primarily to the strategic use of debt across affiliates. The magnitude of income shifting estimated using this approach is substantial, but somewhat smaller than that found in the previous literature.

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Paper provided by University of Hohenheim, Center for Research on Innovation and Services (FZID) in its series FZID Discussion Papers with number 24-2011.

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Date of creation: 2011
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Handle: RePEc:zbw:fziddp:242011
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  1. James R. Hines, Jr. & Eric M. Rice, 1990. "Fiscal Paradise: Foreign Tax Havens and American Business," NBER Working Papers 3477, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Alfons Weichenrieder, 2009. "Profit shifting in the EU: evidence from Germany," International Tax and Public Finance, Springer, vol. 16(3), pages 281-297, June.
  3. Haufler, Andreas & Schjelderup, Guttorm, 2000. "Corporate tax systems and cross country profit shifting," Munich Reprints in Economics 20419, University of Munich, Department of Economics.
  4. Thiess Buettner & Georg Wamser, 2007. "Intercompany Loans and Profit Shifting – Evidence from Company-Level Data," CESifo Working Paper Series 1959, CESifo Group Munich.
  5. Huizinga, Harry & Laeven, Luc, 2008. "International profit shifting within multinationals: A multi-country perspective," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 92(5-6), pages 1164-1182, June.
  6. John W. Budd & Jozef Konings & Matthew J. Slaughter, 2005. "Wages and International Rent Sharing in Multinational Firms," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 87(1), pages 73-84, February.
  7. Eric J. Bartelsman & Roel Beetsma, 2000. "Why Pay More? Corporate Tax Avoidance through Transfer Pricing in OECD Countries," CESifo Working Paper Series 324, CESifo Group Munich.
  8. Faccio, Mara & Lang, Larry H. P., 2002. "The ultimate ownership of Western European corporations," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 65(3), pages 365-395, September.
  9. Swenson, Deborah L., 2001. "Tax Reforms and Evidence of Transfer Pricing," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association, vol. 54(n. 1), pages 7-26, March.
  10. Dischinger, Matthias & Riedel, Nadine, 2010. "The Role of Headquarters Firms in Multinational Profit Shifting Strategies," Discussion Papers in Economics 11352, University of Munich, Department of Economics.
  11. Clausing, Kimberly A., 2003. "Tax-motivated transfer pricing and US intrafirm trade prices," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 87(9-10), pages 2207-2223, September.
  12. Dharmapala, Dhammika & Hines Jr., James R., 2009. "Which countries become tax havens?," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 93(9-10), pages 1058-1068, October.
  13. Schreiber, Ulrich & Overesch, Michael & Büttner, Thiess & Wamser, Georg, 2006. "The Impact of Thin-Capitalization Rules on Multinationals? Financing and Investment Decisions," ZEW Discussion Papers 06-68, ZEW - Zentrum für Europäische Wirtschaftsforschung / Center for European Economic Research.
  14. Dhammika Dharmapala, 2008. "What problems and opportunities are created by tax havens?," Oxford Review of Economic Policy, Oxford University Press, vol. 24(4), pages 661-679, winter.
  15. Thorsten Beck & Asli Demirgüç-Kunt & Ross Levine, 2010. "Financial Institutions and Markets across Countries and over Time: The Updated Financial Development and Structure Database," World Bank Economic Review, World Bank Group, vol. 24(1), pages 77-92, January.
  16. Mihir A. Desai & Dhammika Dharmapala, 2004. "Corporate Tax Avoidance and High Powered Incentives," NBER Working Papers 10471, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  17. 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.
  18. European Commission, 2006. "Taxation trends in the European Union: 2006 edition," Taxation trends 2006, Directorate General Taxation and Customs Union, European Commission.
  19. Desai, Mihir A. & Dharmapala, Dhammika, 2009. "Earnings Management, Corporate Tax Shelters, and Book–Tax Alignment," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association, vol. 62(1), pages 169-86, March.
  20. Marianne Bertrand & Paras Mehta & Sendhil Mullainathan, 2002. "Ferreting out Tunneling: An Application to Indian Business Groups," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 117(1), pages 121-148.
  21. Buettner, Thiess & Overesch, Michael & Schreiber, Ulrich & Wamser, Georg, 2012. "The impact of thin-capitalization rules on the capital structure of multinational firms," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 96(11), pages 930-938.
  22. Grubert, Harry & Mutti, John, 1991. "Taxes, Tariffs and Transfer Pricing in Multinational Corporate Decision Making," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 73(2), pages 285-93, May.
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