Tax incentives for foreign direct investment part I : Recent trends and countertrends

Easson, Alex 2001, Tax incentives for foreign direct investment part I : Recent trends and countertrends, Bulletin for international taxation, vol. 55, no. 7, pp. 266-274.

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Title Tax incentives for foreign direct investment part I : Recent trends and countertrends
Author(s) Easson, Alex
Journal name Bulletin for international taxation
Volume number 55
Issue number 7
Start page 266
End page 274
Publisher International bureau of fiscal documentation (I.B.F.D)
Place of publication Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Publication date 2001-07
ISSN 0007-4624
Summary According to the conventional wisdom, tax incentives for investment - in particular for foreign direct investment (FDI) - are not recommended. That is the view held almost universally by theorists and by the international bodies that advise on tax matters.' Tax incentives are bad in theory and bad in practice. They are bad in theory principally because they cause distortions: investment decisions are made that would not have been made without the inducement of special tax concessions. They are bad in practice, being both ineffective and inefficient. They are ineffective in that tax considerations are only rarely a major determinant in FDI decisions; they are inefficient because their cost, in terms of tax revenue foregone, often far exceeds any benefits they may produce. Other criticisms are also frequently levelled against tax incentives for FDI - they are inequitable (since they benefit some investors but not others), they are difficult to administer and open to abuse, and they lack transparency. Thus, it is not surprising that ''the standard advice given by institutions like the World Bank and the lMF to developing countries is to refrain from offering tax incentives to foreign investors".2 The purpose of this article is not to question that advice or to challenge the conventional wisdom - except in one respect. Recent evidence does suggest that tax considerations are an increasingly important factor in investment decisions and that special tax incentives have become substantially more effective as instruments for attracting FDI than they were 10 or 20 years ago.3 The first part of this article, published here, examines some of that evidence, reviews some recent trends in national policies towards FDI, attempts to suggest why investment incentives have become more important and more effective, and looks at the pressures that are exerted on governments, especially in developing countries, to compete for FDI by offering special incentives. The second part of the article, to be published in the Bulletin next month, assumes that many countries will continue to offer tax incentives to investors regardless of the best advice, and considers how incentives might be designed in order to increase their effectiveness and efficiency.
Language eng
Field of Research 150107 Taxation Accounting
HERDC Research category C1 Refereed article in a scholarly journal
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Document type: Journal Article
Collections: Faculty of Business and Law
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