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Debt or Profit Shifting? Assessment of Corporate Tax Avoidance Practices across Lithuanian Companies

Egidijus Kundelis, Renata Legenzova and Julijonas Kartanas

Central European Business Review, 2022, vol. 2022, issue 2, 81-100

Abstract: Tax avoidance became a frequently observed practice in a global business environment. Multinational enterprises (MNEs) employ differences between statutory tax rates of their home countries and countries of their subsidiaries, aiming to achieve the effective tax rate being lower than the statutory one. MNEs enable tax avoidance practices via multiple channels, transfer pricing and debt shifting being among the most popular among them. The goal of this article is to evaluate if MNEs operating in Lithuania, a small open economy of Central and Eastern Europe (CEE), are engaging in tax avoidance practices, and if yes, what channel debt shifting profit shifting or both are employed. Our research is built on the data for the years 2010-2018 and analyses 3,563 MNEs and local companies operating in Lithuania. Results of the conducted regression analysis rejected the impact of differences in tax rates between MNEs and their subsidiaries in Lithuania on their leverage. Therefore debt shifting across the sample companies was not evident. On the contrary, analysis of profit shifting evidence among sample companies proved the significant influence of transfer mispricing practices on earnings of Lithuanian subsidiaries of MNEs'. Such results may imply that in Lithuania, corporate tax avoidance of MNEs occurs via the channel of profit shifting rather than debt shifting. We suggest that this is related to the specifics of small economies commonly characterised by lower tax rates, underdeveloped financial markets and lower tax avoidance costs. Implications for Central European audience: Previous tax avoidance and profit shifting research mainly analysed the United Kingdom, Germany and other large countries in Europe, leaving a gap in research on small economies, especially those in CEE. Lithuania, similar to the other CEE open economies, is competing for attracting foreign investment, which makes it relevant to understand if and how the country's tax system is exploited in the corporate governance practices of MNEs.

Keywords: tax avoidance; transfer pricing; multinational enterprises; profit shifting; debt shifting (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: G32 H26 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2022
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Faculty of Business Administration, University of Economics, Prague

DOI: 10.18267/j.cebr.290

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