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Group subsidiaries, tax minimization and offshore financial centres: Mapping organizational structures to establish the ‘in-betweener’ advantage

Phillips, R., Petersen, H. & Palan, R. (2021). Group subsidiaries, tax minimization and offshore financial centres: Mapping organizational structures to establish the ‘in-betweener’ advantage. Journal of International Business Policy, 4(2), pp. 286-307. doi: 10.1057/s42214-020-00069-3


International business and public policy research have examined the techniques that multinational enterprises (MNEs) use to shift revenues to subsidiaries in offshore financial centres (OFCs) in order to minimize tax liability and arbitrage for their advantage. While study of such tax arbitrage strategies has looked to geographical locations and legal dimensions to better understand these strategies, it has ignored the structural and organizational relationship between MNEs and their subsidiaries. We define two distinct types of OFC-based corporate entities based on their location among and apparent control over other MNE affiliates: ‘stand-alone’ OFCs at the end of a chain of MNE subsidiaries; and ‘in-betweener’ OFCs with equity control over further entities and hence apparent flexibility to redirect profits to other MNE subsidiaries further down the chain. We hypothesize that when MNEs have in-betweener OFCs controlling a substantial share of overall MNE profits, this indicates greater MNE interest in aggressive tax planning (ATP). We then evaluate empirical support for our claims based on an ‘equity mapping’ approach identifying stand-alone and in-betweener OFCs in 100 of the largest MNEs operating globally. This study demonstrates that a key factor determining tax arbitrage is not the amount of value registered on OFC subsidiaries’ balance sheets, but rather the portion of the group’s operating revenues and net income controlled by OFC subsidiaries. National taxing authorities could benefit from tracking in-betweener OFC locations and behaviour to counter ATP strategies, decrease sovereign arbitrage, and increase MNE tax revenue.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article's Creative Commons licence, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article's Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this licence, visit
Publisher Keywords: multinational enterprise, MNE subsidiary, MNE organizational structure, offshore financial centre, tax arbitrage, legal jurisdiction
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HD Industries. Land use. Labor > HD28 Management. Industrial Management
H Social Sciences > HG Finance
H Social Sciences > HJ Public Finance
J Political Science > JZ International relations
Departments: School of Policy & Global Affairs > International Politics
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