Do you know where your firms are?

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As production comes to depend more on intangible productive assets, the location of production by multinational firms becomes increasingly ambiguous. The reason is that, within the firm, these assets have no clear geographical location, but only a nominal location determined by the firm’s tax or legal strategies.

The effects of these location ambiguities, and the resulting distortions for tax reasons of the location of production, are described and it is estimated that for U.S. firms’ affiliates in a few tax havens alone, the exaggeration of value added in those locations amounted, in 2005, to about 4 percent of worldwide affiliate sales, and the exaggeration of sales to about 10 percent of worldwide affiliate sales.

Robert Lipsey – Measuring the Location of Production in a World of Intangible Productive Assets, FDI, and Intrafirm Trade NBER WP 14121

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