What Do We Know About Base Erosion and Profit Shifting? A Review of the Empirical Literature

Dhammika Dharmapala

University of Chicago Law School

September 3, 2014

Illinois Public Law Research Paper No. 14-23

The issue of tax-motivated income shifting within multinational firms – or “base erosion and profit shifting” (BEPS) – has attracted increasing global attention in recent years. This paper provides a survey of the empirical literature on this topic. Its emphasis is on reviewing and elucidating what is known about the magnitude of BEPS. The paper discusses different empirical approaches to identifying income shifting, describes existing data sources, and summarizes the findings of the empirical literature. A major theme that emerges from this survey is that in the more recent empirical literature, which uses new and richer sources of data, the estimated magnitude of BEPS is typically much smaller than that found in earlier studies. The paper seeks to provide a framework within which to conceptualize this magnitude and its implications for policy. It concludes by highlighting the importance of existing legal and economic frictions as constraints on BEPS, and by discussing possible ways in which future research might model these frictions more precisely.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 30

Keywords: Base erosion; profit shifting; multinational firms

JEL Classification: H25, F23

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Date posted: January 2, 2014 ; Last revised: September 18, 2014

Suggested Citation

Dharmapala, Dhammika, What Do We Know About Base Erosion and Profit Shifting? A Review of the Empirical Literature (September 3, 2014). Illinois Public Law Research Paper No. 14-23. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=2373549 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2373549

Contact Information

Dhammika Dharmapala (Contact Author)
University of Chicago Law School ( email )
1111 E. 60th St.
Chicago, IL 60637
United States
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