The unintended effect of import competition on corporate tax avoidance

Last version | SSRN working paper | Slides

Abstract: This paper examines the role played by import competition in corporate tax avoidance. I exploit financial statements to measure tax avoidance of US-listed firms and the conferral of the Permanent Normal Trade Relations status on China as a quasi-natural experiment to establish causality. The results, supported by a series of sensitivity tests, reveal a positive effect of import competition on corporate tax avoidance. Furthermore, they are entirely driven by multinational enterprises. In response to the China shock, these firms invested in intangible assets to escape competition but these intangibles also allowed them to shift more profits towards low-tax countries. These findings shed light on the determinants of corporate tax avoidance. More generally, they help understand the decline in the average effective tax rate of US publicly listed firms and the recent backlash against large corporations and globalization.

Previous version (with the title "Import competition and corporate tax avoidance: Evidence from the China shock"): ECARES Working Papers, 2020, 30

Learning the ropes? Executive experience and location choices of multinational firms

Last version | Slides

Abstract: What makes firms invest in foreign countries? In this paper, I show that beyond country- and firm-specific characteristics, experience of executives is crucial to understand multinational enterprises' location choices. Using a dataset on executives and subsidiaries of the largest US-listed firms, I find that hiring an executive having previously worked for a company that had at least one subsidiary in a given country increases the average probability to own subsidiaries in this country by 14 percent after three years. Moreover, I observe a similar effect at the intensive margin and a wage premium for experience in managing multinational activities. A causal interpretation of the results is possible by using movements due to unexpected events as sources of exogenous shocks (e.g., death of incumbent executives) and by exploiting the conferral of the Permanent Normal Trade Relations status on China as a quasi-natural experiment. Altogether, the findings suggest that executives develop country-specific knowledge, a valuable asset in the labor market that helps companies intensify their presence abroad. Because they notably hold for tax havens, they also shed light on the mechanisms whereby profit shifting activities spread across multinational corporations and imply that tracking executives could help public authorities detect aggressive tax planning.


Quantifying the effects of international tax reforms (with S. Laffitte, M. Parenti, and F. Toubal)

Working paper coming soon

Abstract: Many reforms have been proposed to ensure that multinational firms pay their income taxes where they carry on their activities. Assessing ex-ante their impact requires a counterfactual analysis that takes into account the level of corporate taxation and the set of factors influencing the location of sales, production, and profits of multinational firms. We build a quantitative general equilibrium model featuring multinational activities and international corporate taxation. The model is calibrated using recent data on bilateral trade of goods and services, multinational sales, and profits for 40 countries, including 7 major tax havens. Specifically, we propose a new methodology to infer the amount of bilateral profits shifted by multinational corporations. The model predicts the change in the relative attractiveness of countries, the variation of tax revenues and inequalities within countries, and the world-level efficiency induced by the implementation of a broad range of different reforms. These include scenarios that either reallocate taxing rights across countries and/or address profit shifting to entities subject to no or very low taxation. We show that reforms aimed at curbing profit shifting are more likely to gain political consensus than those which redistribute taxing rights. We also study the optimal parameters (minimum tax rate and allocation key) in different corporate tax configurations.



Royal Economic Society Annual Conference (Queen’s University) [scheduled]


CEPS Seminar (ENS Paris Saclay)
ECARES Internal Seminar (Université libre de Bruxelles) [scheduled]
ECARES PhD Seminar (Université libre de Bruxelles)
Econometric Society European Winter Meeting (University of Nottingham) [scheduled]
Graduate Student Chinese Economy Workshop (University of International Business and Economics)
Graduate Student International Political Economy Workshop (Yale University)
ITSG Annual Meeting (Università Politecnica delle Marche) [scheduled]
JKU Economics Research Seminar (Johannes Kepler Universität Linz) [scheduled]
Seminars in Economic Geography (UCLA and University College Dublin)
Young Economists Symposium (UPenn)
15th WIEM Annual Conference (University of Warsaw)


5th DIAL Development Conference (Université Paris Dauphine)
UCL Doctoral Workshop in Economics (Université catholique de Louvain)
ECARES PhD Workshop (Université libre de Bruxelles)
21st ETSG Annual Conference (World Trade Institute)
12th FIW Research Conference (Austrian Institute of Economic Research)
21st INFER Annual Conference (Vrije Universiteit Brussel)
19th RIEF Doctoral Meeting (Aix-Marseille School of Economics)


DG TAXUD Seminar (European Commission)
10th EACES/IOS/APB Workshop (Akademie für Politische Bildung)
ECARES PhD Workshop (Université libre de Bruxelles)
20th ETSG Annual Conference (Warsaw School of Economics)


Revisiting the effect of the business environment and firm capabilities on firm performance: Theory and evidence from India

Master thesis | Hans Raupach Best Paper Award by the European Association for Comparative Economic Studies | Available upon request

Abstract: Are firms with low capabilities in favorable environments as successful as firms with high capabilities in bad environments? In this paper, I exploit a rich dataset of manufacturing firms and regional disparities in India to disentangle the effect of the business environment, state-specific (e.g., state-level Internet coverage), and that of capabilities, firm-specific (e.g., having a website), on firm performance. First, I uncover new stylized facts on the relationship between the business environment, firm capabilities, and firm performance. Then, I develop a theoretical model that rationalizes them, allows the business environment and firm capabilities to each affect product innovation and export participation, and guides the econometric analysis. The identification strategy, based on instrumental variables, allows a causal interpretation of the results. The results reveal that firm capabilities directly spur only product innovation, while the business environment directly drives only export participation. These findings are validated by various robustness checks and imply that policies aimed to boost firm performance should strengthen both the business environment and firm capabilities to maximize their success.