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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
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:zbw:fziddp:242011
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  1. Büttner, Thiess & Overesch, Michael & Schreiber, Ulrich & Wamser, Georg, 2008. "The impact of thin-capitalization rules on multinationals' financing and investment decisions," Discussion Paper Series 1: Economic Studies 2008,03, Deutsche Bundesbank, Research Centre.
  2. Marianne Bertrand & Paras Mehta & Sendhil Mullainathan, 2000. "Ferreting Out Tunneling: An Application to Indian Business Groups," NBER Working Papers 7952, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Budd, John W. & Konings, Jozef & Slaughter, Matthew J., 2002. "Wages and International Rent Sharing in Multinational Firms," IZA Discussion Papers 560, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  4. Bartelsman, Eric J. & Beetsma, Roel M. W. J., 2003. "Why pay more? Corporate tax avoidance through transfer pricing in OECD countries," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 87(9-10), pages 2225-2252, September.
  5. European Commission, 2006. "Taxation trends in the European Union: 2006 edition," Taxation trends 2006, Directorate General Taxation and Customs Union, European Commission.
  6. Thiess Buettner & Georg Wamser, 2007. "Intercompany Loans and Profit Shifting – Evidence from Company-Level Data," CESifo Working Paper Series 1959, CESifo Group Munich.
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