Does intangible asset intensity increase profit-shifting opportunities of multinationals ?

Roberto CROTTI

This paper studies how intangible asset intensity affects multinationals’ profit-shifting behavior. Intangible assets reduce the cost of booking profits in low-tax jurisdictions, independently from where profits are generated. Consequently they can be instrumental to implementing tax-avoidance schemes. Using a large firm-level, parent-subsidiaries matched panel data set I test if multinationals characterized by high intangible asset intensity report higher profits in low-tax jurisdictions, respect to corporations with low intangible asset intensity. I find that, intangible asset intensity exacerbates multinationals’ profit-shifting behavior. Splitting the sample between tech and non-tech companies, I find that, although tech companies leverage intangible asset intensity for profit-shifting more than the rest of the sample, there is no statistical difference between profit-shifting of tech companies with high intangibles intensity and non-tech companies with high intangibles intensity.