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Inefficiencies in regional commuting policy

  • Toon Vandyck
  • Stef Proost

This paper discusses incentives for investments in transport infrastructure and commuting subsidies in a multi-region framework. Responsibilities of fiscal treatment of commuting expenses, public provision of road infrastructure and road pricing are distributed among different levels of government. The incentives of governments are discussed in a setting with commuting from a peripheral, less productive area to an urban agglomeration or city center. The interactions between investment in transport infrastructure, road pricing and commuting subsidies are analyzed. First, the optimal number of commuters from the point of view of the federation is derived in a first best situation. When a tax on labor is levied to finance the investment in transportation, a commuting subsidy can correct the labor tax distortion and the first best outcome can be obtained. However, when the peripheral region is in control of the transport policy and perceives its position as a dominant supplier of labor, the regional government will have an incentive to strategically restrict the number of commuters. This will lead to a commuting tax. In addition, there will be underinvestment in infrastructure investment. The city government faces different incentives. On the one hand, profits made in the city increase with the commuting flow. Assuming profits are captured locally, the city thus benefits from a higher number of commuters. On the other hand, the city can raise tax revenues by taxing commuters. Therefore, tax exporting behavior can be one of the drivers of the city’s transport policy. The result is a situation where the city invests in transport infrastructure to attract commuters and sets a tax on commuters to raise government revenues. We show that the intensity of the regional strategic behavior is affected by firm ownership structure, the number of labor-supplying regions and the revenue-sharing mechanism in the federation. The paper also looks into vertical tax competition and iden

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Article provided by Wiley Blackwell in its journal Papers in Regional Science.

Volume (Year): 91 (2012)
Issue (Month): 3 (08)
Pages: 659-689

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Handle: RePEc:bla:presci:v:91:y:2012:i:3:p:659-689
Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www.blackwellpublishing.com/journal.asp?ref=1056-8190

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  1. Parry, Ian W.H. & Bento, Antonio Miguel R., 1999. "Revenue recycling and the welfare effects of road pricing," Policy Research Working Paper Series 2253, The World Bank.
  2. Borck, Rainald & Wrede, Matthias, 2009. "Subsidies for intracity and intercity commuting," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 66(1), pages 25-32, July.
  3. Bruno De Borger & Stef Proost & Kurt Van Dender, 2003. "Congestion and tax competition in a parallel network," Energy, Transport and Environment Working Papers Series ete0309, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Centrum voor Economische Studiën, Energy, Transport and Environment.
  4. De Borger Bruno & Stef Proost, 2004. "Vertical and horizontal tax competition in the transport sector," Energy, Transport and Environment Working Papers Series ete0412, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Centrum voor Economische Studiën, Energy, Transport and Environment.
  5. Wrede, Matthias, 2001. "Should Commuting Expenses Be Tax Deductible? A Welfare Analysis," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 49(1), pages 80-99, January.
  6. DE BORGER, Bruno & DUNKERLEY, Fay & PROOST, Stef, 2006. "Strategic investment and pricing decisions in a congested transport corridor," Working Papers 2006021, University of Antwerp, Faculty of Applied Economics.
  7. Rainald Borck & Matthias Wrede, 2007. "Commuting Subsidies with two Transport Modes," CESifo Working Paper Series 1972, CESifo Group Munich.
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