TaxProf Blog

Editor: Paul L. Caron, Dean
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Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Democratic Countries Generate 26% More Tax Revenues From Multinational Corporations Than Authoritarian Countries

Nathan M. Jensen (Washington University, Department of Political Science), Domestic Institutions and the Taxing of Multinational Corporations, 57 Int'l Stud. Q. 440 (2013):

Political scientists have examined how domestic politics and the competition for international capital affect the setting of national tax rates. In this paper, I explore how political institutions, specifically the level of democracy, affect firm-level taxation across the world. I argue that electoral competition leads democratic governments to higher levels of taxation on firms. Using a data set on firm tax payments on the foreign affiliates of US multinational corporations from the US Bureau of Economic Analysis, I show that there are large variations within countries on the tax burdens faced by firms that are not explained by national tax rates. I find evidence that the mobility of the specific investment project, the types of spillovers these investments provide to a community, and attributes of the parent firm are all important determinants of taxation. While firm-level factors clearly affect corporate taxation, I argue that democratic institutions limit the offering of tax incentives and generate electoral benefits to policing tax avoidance by multinational corporations. After controlling for parent firm and foreign affiliate–level factors, I find that democratic countries generate as much as 26% more tax revenues from multinational corporations relative to authoritarian countries. 

(Hat Tip: Greg McNeal.)

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