On November 14 and 15, 1997, the NBER held a "Conference on International Taxation" in Cambridge. The conference papers report the results of research developed as part of the larger NBER project on International Capital Flows sponsored by the Center for International Political Economy. Organized by James R. Hines, Jr. of NBER and the University of Michigan, the two-day gathering included the following presentations:
Rosanne Altshuler, NBER and Rutgers University; and Harry Grubert and T. Scott Newlon, U.S. Department of the Treasury, "Has U.S. Investment Abroad Become More Sensitive to Tax Rates?"
Discussant: Jack Mintz, University of Toronto
Deborah L. Swenson, NBER and University of California, Davis, "Transaction Type and the Effect of Taxes on the Distribution of Foreign Direct Investment in the U.S."
Discussant: William Randoph, U.S. Department of the Treasury Julie Collins, Douglas Shackelford, and John R.M. Hand, University of North Carolina, "Valuing Deferral: The Effect of Permanently Reinvested Foreign Earnings on Stock Prices"
Discussant: Kevin A. Hassett, American Enterprise Institute
James R. Hines, Jr., and Adam B. Jaffe, NBER and Brandeis University, "International Taxation and the Location of Inventive Activity"
Discussant: Austan Goolsbee, NBER and University of Chicago
Jason Cummins, New York University, "Taxation and the Growth of U.S. Multinational Corporations"
Discussant: Samuel S. Kortum, NBER and Boston University
Shang-Jin Wei, NBER and Harvard University, "Irritants to International Direct Investment"
Discussant: Bernard Yeung, University of Michigan
Kimberly Clausing, Reed College, "The Impact of Transfer Pricing on Intrafirm Trade"
Discussant: Deen Kelmsley, Columbia University
Harry Grubert, "Tax Planning by Companies and Tax Competition by Governments: Is There Evidence of Changes in Behavior?"
Discussant: Joel B. Slemrod, NBER and University of Michigan
James R. Hines, Jr., "Tax Sparing and Direct Investment in Developing Countries"
Discussant: Timothy Goodspeed, Hunter College
Altshuler, Grubert, and Newlon use data from the U.S. Treasury corporate tax files for 1984 and 1992 to address two related questions concerning U.S. multinational corporations' investment decisions. First, how sensitive to differences in tax rates across countries are decisions about investment location? Second, have investment location choices become more sensitive to differences in host country tax rates? The authors relate real capital held in manufacturing affiliates of U.S. firms in 58 countries to tax rat6e variables and countries' measures of nontax characteristics. Using these two years of data allows them to control for unmeasured country fixed effects. For investment abroad, they find large estimated tax elasticities of real capital to aftertax rates of return of about 1.5 in 1984 and of close to 3 in 1992. This increase suggests that the allocation of real capital abroad might have grown more sensitive to differences in host country taxes. These results are consistent with the increase in international mobility of capital and globalization of production.
Swenson analyzes a set of foreign investment transactions completed between 1984 and 1994 to determine how U.S. state taxes influence the interstate distribution of foreign investment. The unique element of the transactions data is that it identifies the types of investments that were undertaken by foreign investors; transactions are identified as new plants, plant expansions, mergers and acquisitions, joint ventures, and equity increases. The results indicate there are large differences in the tax responsiveness of these different transaction types. New plants and plant expansions appear to be deterred by high state taxes, while there is a positive correlation between high state taxes and the probability that a foreign investor chooses to perform an acquisition in a state. Including controls for transaction type affects the attribution of tax effects that would otherwise be interpreted as country- or investor- type (residential versus territorial) effects. In other words, the results demonstrate that aggregation of investment data might lead to false inferences with respect to tax effects.
Collins, Shackelford, and Hand investigate the U.S. capital market's valuation of the international tax savings available to U.S. companies that operate in low tax rate foreign jurisdictions and reinvest their foreign earned income earned outside the United States. If a U.S. multinational on average faces foreign tax rates lower than the U.S. statutory rate (that is, if the company is in an excess limit position), then the imposition of any residual U.S. tax (and foreign withholding taxes) generally is deferred until the foreign income taxed at this lower rate is repatriated to the United States. In order to avoid recognizing this deferred tax liability in financial statement income, management must designate the foreign earnings as permanently reinvested (PRE) and disclose in supplementary footnotes the estimated unrecognized deferred tax liability (TAX). The authors describe the magnitudes, and assess the capital market's valuation, of disclosed PRE and TAX. They examine 340 publicly-traded U.S. companies that disclose PRE in their fiscal 1993 financial statements. Of their sample, 60 firms (18 percent) seem to be in an excess limit position and to report positive TAX. The remaining firms seem to be in excess credit positions and they indicate that: TAX is zero, insignificant, or substantially offset by foreign tax credits; TAX is "not practicable to estimate"; or, they provide no TAX information. For excess limit companies, the equity market capitalizes the positive deferred tax liability associated with PRE in current stock prices.
Hines and Jaffe consider the effect of tax rules on the distribution of inventive activity between the United States and foreign countries. They analyze the effects of U.S. tax changes, particularly those introduced in 1981 and 1986, on the international patenting pattern of a panel of U.S. multinational firms affected by those changes. As a result of the specifics of U.S. tax law, American firms differ in the extent to which tax changes affect the aftertax cost of undertaking research and development (R and D) in the United States. The evidence indicates that firms for which the aftertax cost of performing R and D in the United States rose most rapidly exhibit the fastest growth of foreign patenting in subsequent years. This pattern suggests that higher aftertax costs of R and D encourage firms to reallocate research resources to substitute foreign locations.
Capital income tax policy affects investment by the parent and affiliates of multinational corporations (MNCs). In a vintage capital model, in which technical advances are embodied in new capital, investment will translate directly into productivity gains. Cummins finds that: 1) growth in parent and affiliate capital are the most important sources of growth, with foreign direct investment contributing more to a firm's growth than the sum of the contributions of parent and affiliate employment, and materials; 2) productivity has boomed since 1992, as a result of productivity growth in MNCs with Canadian affiliates; and 3) the investment elasticity of productivity growth is large and the adjustment costs of investment are small, suggesting that changes in the aftertax price of capital result in robust investment that translates directly into productivity gains.
Wei reports on a sample of bilateral direct investment from 14 source countries to 45 host countries. He finds that taxes, capital controls, and corruption all have negative, statistically significant, and quantitatively large effects on foreign investment. Moreover, there is no robust support in the data for the "grease payment" argument that corruption may help to attract foreign investment by reducing firms' tax burden and the irritation of capital controls.
Using data on the operations of U.S. parent firms and their foreign affiliates between 1982 and 1994, Clausing examines the extent to which tax-minimizing behavior influences intrafirm trade. Her results indicate that taxes have a substantial influence on intrafirm trade flows between U.S. parent firms and their affiliates abroad; the United States has less favorable intrafirm trade balances with low tax countries. Taxes also have an influence on intrafirm trade flows between different foreign affiliates of U.S. firms.
Has "globalization" changed the behavior of companies and governments? Grubert examines both firm-level data and country averages for 1984 and 1992 and finds some signs of change. Companies with low initial overall foreign tax rates obtained larger than average decreases in effective tax rates from 1984 to 1992 in the countries in which they were located. This suggests either that governments competed for them because they are more mobile or that the companies exploited their tax planning skills. Effective tax rates did fall substantially in the 60-country sample, although there was not much convergence. The smaller countries, which would probably be most affected by increased capital mobility, did cut their tax rates more. On the other hand, the pattern of companies' allocation of debt and income in response to local tax rates was virtually unchanged from 1984 to 1992. Finance affiliates, which are usually regarded as highly mobile, did not obtain larger reductions in tax rates as compared to manufacturing firms. Effective tax rates did not fall more in homogeneous regions with low trade barriers, such as the European Economic Community where tax competition might be expected to be most intense. The relatively mixed picture suggests either that globalization has not been as powerful as claimed or that governments have been able to respond to attempts to erode their tax bases.
Hines analyzes the effect of "tax sparing" on the location and performance of direct investment by American and Japanese firms. Tax sparing is the practice of reducing home country taxation of foreign investment income in response to host country tax reductions. When a home country operates a worldwide residence-based tax system that permits its firms to claim foreign tax credits, tax sparing may entail allowing firms to claim foreign tax credits for taxes that would have been paid, in the absence of special abatements, on income from investments in certain countries. As foreign tax credits are then based on something other than taxes actually paid, any special tax breaks offered by host country governments enhance the aftertax profitability of foreign investors and are not simply offset by higher home-country taxes. Japanese firms are permitted to claim foreign tax credits for taxes that would normally be paid to certain, generally low-income, countries with tax treaties with Japan. Countries with such treaty provisions can reduce their taxation of Japanese firms without reducing the foreign tax credits available to such firms. The United States refuses to grant tax sparing credits. The evidence indicates that Japanese firms locate considerably higher fractions of their foreign investment in countries with whom Japan has tax sparing arrangements than do American firms. This difference appears both in patterns of aggregate foreign direct investment and in industry-level data on equity capital investments. In addition, Japanese firms pay foreign taxes at much lower rates than those faced by their American counterparts in countries with whom Japan has tax sparing agreements. These differences suggest that tax sparing has an important effect on the willingness of foreign governments to offer tax concessions and, partly as a consequence, on the level and location of foreign direct investment.
The conference proceedings will be published as an NBER volume by the University of Chicago Press. Its availability will be announced in a future issue of the NBER Reporter.…
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Publication information: Article title: International Taxation. Contributors: Not available. Journal title: NBER Reporter. Publication date: Spring 1998. Page number: 25+. © 1999 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc. COPYRIGHT 1998 Gale Group.