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Domestic Deadbeats? US Multinationals Shifting Domestic Earnings to Zero

  • Author(s): Lehmer, Tiana
  • Advisor(s): Shevlin, Terrence
  • et al.
Abstract

I investigate whether US multinational corporations shift income overseas to the point of recording domestic US pretax earnings around zero. I find that firms that face tax incentives to shift and firms that are more aggressive income shifters are more likely to shift all of their earnings out of the US. The economic significance of the effects of tax incentives and aggressive income shifting are large, increasing the likelihood of reporting domestic earnings around zero by as much as 115.7%. The likelihood varies by industry, depending on factors such as reputational costs and the ease of income shifting. In addition, investors value companies reporting low domestic earnings higher than other US multinational firms, conditional on overall profitability, suggesting that on average, investors hold a positive view of shifting to the point of recording domestic earnings around zero.

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