Tax Incentives to Appear Small: Evidence from Thai Firms and Corporate Groups
This paper studies the effects of SME tax incentives on firm behaviors. We use firm-level panel data of all registered firms in Thailand to analyze the effects of a large reduction in corporate income tax rates for SMEs in 2011. First, we find that firms responded strongly to the SME tax incentive as indicated by a sharp bunching of firms just below the threshold after the incentive was introduced. The responses were concentrated among firms with positive EBIT, implying a financial motive for firms to remain small. Second, the bunching was prominent for stand-alone firms, where we observe slower revenue growth for those below the threshold. Third, we do not observe bunching for corporate-group firms, but we find evidence of tax-motivated profit shifting among them instead, especially among firms in small groups with weak corporate governance. Our analysis suggests that transfer pricing was likely a primary channel. Finally, despite the unintended consequences, we find that the incentive significantly raised the probability of firm's survival and encouraged new firm registration, as the policy intended.