NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
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Externalities in International Tax Enforcement: Theory and Evidence

Thomas R. Tørsløv, Ludvig S. Wier, Gabriel Zucman

NBER Working Paper No. 26899
Issued in March 2020
NBER Program(s):International Trade and Investment, Public Economics

We show that the fiscal authorities of high-tax countries can lack the incentives to combat profit shifting to tax havens. Instead, they have incentives to focus their enforcement efforts on relocating profits booked by multinationals in other high-tax countries, crowding out the enforcement on transactions that shift profits to tax havens, and reducing the global tax payments of multinational companies. This incentive problem can help explain why profit shifting to low-tax countries persists despite its tax revenue cost for high-tax countries. The predictions of our model are motivated and supported by the analysis of two new datasets: the universe of transfer price corrections conducted by the Danish tax authority, and new cross-country data on international tax enforcement. Both of these datasets shows that that tax authorities in high-tax countries focus their transfer pricing enforcement effort on correcting transactions with other high-tax countries rather than transactions involving tax havens.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w26899

 
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