Public incentives have often been criticized for being ineffective, but there is still a lack of specific, rigorous analyses to either support or debunk that claim. In fact, no evidence has been provided so far on the role and effectiveness of financial incentives for outward internationalization. The paper aims to close that gap by evaluating the effects of such incentives on firm performance. We develop an empirical analysis using information on the population of Italian firms that received at least an incentive for international growth in the 1996-2008 period. The results of our analysis, after checking for selection bias and causality, show that financial incentives do help younger and smaller companies to increase their productivity, but are less effective in influencing their dimensional growth.