Innovation through R&D Tax Incentives: Some Ideas for a Fair and Transparent Tax Policy

Innovation is generally considered a cornerstone of sustainable economic growth and prosperity, as well as a key to business success and to the development of emerging economies. This may justify the policy of subsidizing scientific and entrepreneurial activities that could lead to innovation and, thus, to the accumulation of valuable intangible assets, such as know-how, patents, trademarks, copyrights. This policy appears all the more defensible where one considers that the economic benefits of innovation may spill over without charge, which might contribute to render it less attractive for a company to embark upon expensive and uncertain R&D ventures and, thus, lead to market failures. Given the above-mentioned relevance of innovation as a driver to business success and the fact that valuable intangibles are regarded as the corporate assets that contribute for the most part to that success, it is not surprising that the blow-out of the crisis in 2007 has revamped in many states (in particular within the European Union) the policy of providing tax incentives to R&D activities and the result thereof (i.e. valuable intangible assets). Against this background, this article is aimed at identifying the policy goals of current European R&D tax incentives, categorizing their most significant common features, evaluating them in the light of the policy goals pursued and assessing whether and to what extent they may lead to harmful tax competition among countries.