The fellowship of the thin capitalization rules : an empirical analysis of the effect of earnings stripping rules in Norway, Finland, Spain and Germany
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- Master Thesis 
Governments across Europe have recently introduced tax reforms to counter the growing problem of multinational companies exploiting loopholes in tax regulations. We have analysed the effect of one type of tax regulation, earnings stripping rules, in selected European countries. Specifically, we study how the capital structure of multinational firms in Germany, Spain, Finland and Norway are affected when subjected to a transition from either safe harbour rules or from no prior regulations, to earnings stripping rules. Firms analysed in Spain, Finland and Norway were not previously regulated by thin capitalization rules, and we find significant evidence of a reduction in the total debt-to-asset ratio as a response to the introduction of the earnings stripping rules. In Germany, we find evidence of an increase in the total debt-to-asset ratio as a response to the transition from safe harbour rules to earnings stripping rules. We conclude that firms without prior regulation will reduce their debt levels, when being subject to an earnings stripping rule. However, the effect of earning stripping rules in countries with prior regulations is dependent on the relative tightness of the new and old rules. For Finland, Spain and Norway we believe the earnings stripping rules have had the desired effect, as MNCs of these countries have reduced their total debt-to-asset ratio. Whether the German rules have had the desired effect is inconclusive, but we argue that the earnings stripping rules are an improvement on the previous legislation.