The next Economics Seminar of Paris-Saclay will take place on Thursday, April 14 from 12h15 to 13h15. Margarita Lopez Forero (Evry) will present Aggregate Labor Share and Tax Havens: things are not always what they seem.
We use French firm-level data to study the role of multinational enterprises’ (MNEs) presence tax havens in determining the dynamics of the aggregate labor share and therefore, income inequalities between workers and capitalists. Given these firms’ weight in the economy, we find that tax haven presence of MNEs accounts for a 5% of the observed increase in the aggregate share of labor in France between 1997-2014. Implementing a difference-in-differences analyze the effect firm entry in a tax haven on firms’ labor share of value added and each of its components. We find that average firm labor share in France experiences an increase by 2.2% over the immediate years following the establishment in a tax haven. We argue that the labor share of MNEs with presence in tax havens is overestimated given that tax optimization partly consists in artificially shifting profits to low tax jurisdictions, thus underestimating domestic value added, which experiences an average drop by 11.1%. Indeed, the labor share increases even if its numerator, total wage bill, decreases on average by 8.8% when MNEs enter a tax haven. Additionally, the total wage bill drop is explained by a strong decline in employment (-8.6%) rather than a decline on average firm wages, on which there is no statistically significant effect. This means that the effect of firms’ usage of tax havens on workers goes beyond the underestimation of their share of income. Finally, we implement a panel event study design to show that our estimates capture the tax entry effect and not differential trends between treated and control units.