Skip to content

Mihir A. Desai, C. Fritz Foley & James R. Hines Jr., Foreign Direct Investment in a World of Multiple Taxes, 88 J. Pub. Econ. 2727 (2004).

Abstract: Governments impose multiple taxes on foreign investors, though studies of the effect of tax policy on the location of foreign direct investment (FDI) focus almost exclusively on corporate income taxes. This paper examines the impact of indirect (non-income) taxes on FDI by American multinational firms, using affiliate-level data that permit the introduction of controls for parent companies and affiliate industries. Indirect tax burdens significantly exceed the foreign income tax obligations of foreign affiliates of American companies. Estimates imply that 10% higher local indirect tax rates are associated with 7.1% lower affiliate assets, which is similar to the effect of 10% higher income tax rates. Affiliate output falls by 2.9% as indirect taxes rise by 10%, while higher income taxes have more modest output effects. High corporate income tax rates depress capital/labor ratios and profit rates of foreign affiliates, whereas high indirect tax rates do not. These patterns reveal the impact of indirect taxes and suggest the mechanisms by which direct and indirect taxes affect FDI.