The Effects of U.S. Tax Policy on the Income Repatriation Patterns of U.S. Multinational Corporations
NBER Working Paper No. 3925
U.S. corporations owe taxes to the U.S. Treasury on income earned both inside and outside American borders. This paper examines the incentives created by the U.S. tax system for the legal avoidance of taxes on foreign source income. Using data from 1986 corporate tax returns, we investigate the extent to which U.S. corporations structure and coordinate remittances of income from their foreign subsidiaries to reduce their U.S. and foreign tax liabilities. In contrast to previous work in this area, our estimates of the tax consequences of income remittances from foreign subsidiaries to parent corporations explicitly take into account the ability to use foreign tax credits generated from one source of foreign income to offset the U.S. tax liability generated by other sources of foreign income, withholding tax rates on income remittances, variations in source country corporate income tax systems, and dynamic aspects of the U.S. tax system. Our findings indicate that U.S. multinationals are able to take advantage of the U.S. tax system to avoid paying much U.S. tax on their foreign source income.