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U.S. Multinational Corporations: Effective Tax Rates Are Correlated with Where Income Is Reported

GAO-08-950 Published: Aug 12, 2008. Publicly Released: Sep 08, 2008.
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U.S. and foreign tax regimes influence decisions of U.S. multinational corporations (MNC) regarding how much to invest and how many workers to employ in particular activities and in particular locations. Tax rules also influence where corporations report earning income for tax purposes. The average effective tax rate, which equals the amount of income taxes a business pays divided by its pretax net income (measured according to accounting rules, not tax rules), is a useful measure of actual tax burdens. In response to a request from U.S. Senate Committee on Finance, this report provides information on the average effective tax rates that U.S.-based businesses pay on their domestic and foreign-source income and trends in the location of worldwide activity of U.S.-based businesses. GAO analyzed Internal Revenue Service (IRS) data on corporate taxpayers, including new data for 2004 and Bureau of Economic Analysis data on the domestic and foreign operations of U.S. MNCs. Data limitations are noted where relevant. GAO is not making any recommendations in this report.

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