Published In

Osgoode Hall Law Journal

Document Type

Working Paper

Publication Date

2015

Subjects

state-owned enterprises; state capitalism; corporate taxation; tax and corporate governance; dividend policy; tax and development

Abstract

State-owned enterprises (SOEs) have become active investors in global markets in the last decade, challenging policymakers in Canada and other OECD countries to confront the logic of “state capitalism.” This article develops a novel theory of the income taxation of SOEs. Many countries subject their SOEs to the income tax, but economists tend to dismiss SOE taxation as superfluous. A contrary, popular belief holds that SOE taxation is necessary to ensure fair competition. This article shows that both views are mistaken and explains SOE taxation in terms of the agency problem for dividend policy. Because typical devices to give private firm managers incentives to distribute profits may not be available for SOEs, taxing SOEs becomes a mechanism to force distributions. This “forced distribution” view implies that SOEs may be highly tax-sensitive. This article analyzes the factors affecting SOE tax-sensitivity and demonstrates its consequences for international tax policy.

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