Finance and Economics Discussion Series (FEDS)
September 2021 (Revised November 2022)
IPOs and Corporate Tax Planning
Christine Dobridge, Rebecca Lester, and Andrew Whitten
Does going public affect the amount and type of corporate tax planning? Using a panel of U.S. corporate tax return data from 1994 to 2018, we show that IPO completion is associated with the implementation of multinational income shifting strategies central to the current international tax policy debate. Specifically, firms (i) expand their foreign tax haven presence, (ii) enter into cross-border agreements that accompany intangible asset transfers to foreign subsidiaries, and (iii) increase their level of foreign related-party payments around the time that they go public. The effects are strongest among firms that switch to more sophisticated tax advisors in the years preceding the IPO. In contrast, we observe little domestic tax planning because large stock option deductions, which increase as a consequence of the IPO, provide large domestic tax shields. The paper contributes to the nascent literature studying IPOs by documenting the types and timing of specific tax strategies that enable public firms to remain lightly taxed in the post-IPO period. Furthermore, the findings imply that U.S. tax policies targeted at early-stage innovative firms are critical for retaining domestically developed IP – and the income earned on such assets – for the U.S. tax base.
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