Marcel Olbert - London Business School

Marcel Olbert London Business School

Marcel Olbert, Assistant Professor of Accounting, London Business School. Previously a Research Assistant and PhD student at Germany’s University of Mannheim, Dr Marcel Olbert’s broad range of experience includes investment banking within the M&A advisory group of JP Morgan London, strategy consulting with Roland Berger and international tax and private equity with PwC and Flick Gocke Schaumburg. His research interests focus on the real effects of corporate taxation and disclosure regulation – examining how multinational businesses respond to incentives that stem from their regulatory and macroeconomic environment.

Marcel’s current research on tax reforms, multinational firm investment, and economic growth in developing countries is featured in the Wheeler Institute for Business and Development


Consumption Taxes and Multinational Tax Planning in the Digital Age - Evidence from the European Service Sector
Marcel Olbert and Ann-Catherin Werner


We study how consumption taxes affect multinational companies’ (MNCs’) tax planning in the digital economy. We focus on the European value-added tax (VAT), a consumption tax collected and remitted by firms. Exploiting 43 staggered VAT rate changes, we show that MNCs in the business-to-consumer (B2C) service sector reallocate reported sales to benefit from VAT rate differentials across countries. Difference-in-differences analyses around a 2015 VAT reform that removed these VAT planning opportunities for digital B2C services indicate that MNCs reported disproportionally high digital B2C sales in Luxembourg, the country with the lowest VAT rate in 2014. Further analyses suggest that VAT planning behavior also shapes corporate income tax strategies. Contrary to conventional wisdom, pre-tax profits of MNC subsidiaries in the digital B2C sector were insensitive to changes in corporate income tax rates prior to 2015. However, since VAT planning strategies became obsolete, MNCs book substantially higher profits in Ireland and other low-tax European countries. Collectively, our evidence informs debates on taxing digital sales and tax strategies of MNCs in the globalized internet economy.


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