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Raising taxes through equalization

  • Michael Smart

A simple theory suggests that a common form of federal horizontal equalization grants should cause subnational governments to levy higher tax rates, distorting local tax bases and so increasing federal transfers. To test this, I examine Canadian provincial tax policies in the 1972-2002 period. Consistent with the theory, provinces respond to expansions of equalization transfers by increasing their own tax rates. I estimate that on average tax rates in grant-receiving provinces were substantially and significantly higher as a consequence of the transfer formula.

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Article provided by Canadian Economics Association in its journal Canadian Journal of Economics.

Volume (Year): 40 (2007)
Issue (Month): 4 (November)
Pages: 1188-1212

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Handle: RePEc:cje:issued:v:40:y:2007:i:4:p:1188-1212
Contact details of provider: Postal: Canadian Economics Association Prof. Steven Ambler, Secretary-Treasurer c/o Olivier Lebert, CEA/CJE/CPP Office C.P. 35006, 1221 Fleury Est Montréal, Québec, Canada H2C 3K4
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  1. Büttner, Thiess, 2005. "The Incentive Effect of Fiscal Equalization Transfers on Tax Policy," Center for European, Governance and Economic Development Research Discussion Papers 37, University of Goettingen, Department of Economics.
  2. Thiess Buettner, 2005. "The Incentive Effect of Fiscal Equalization Transfers on Tax Policy," CESifo Working Paper Series 1404, CESifo Group Munich.
  3. Robin W. Boadway & Frank R. Flatters, 1982. "Efficiency and Equalization Payments in a Federal System of Government: A Synthesis and Extension of Recent Results," Canadian Journal of Economics, Canadian Economics Association, vol. 15(4), pages 613-33, November.
  4. Sam Bucovetsky & Michael Smart, 2006. "The Efficiency Consequences of Local Revenue Equalization: Tax Competition and Tax Distortions," Journal of Public Economic Theory, Association for Public Economic Theory, vol. 8(1), pages 119-144, 01.
  5. Brian Knight, 2002. "Endogenous Federal Grants and Crowd-out of State Government Spending: Theory and Evidence from the Federal Highway Aid Program," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 92(1), pages 71-92, March.
  6. Bird, Richard M. & Smart, Michael, 2002. "Intergovernmental Fiscal Transfers: International Lessons for Developing Countries," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 30(6), pages 899-912, June.
  7. Masayoshi Hayashi & Robin Boadway, 2001. "An empirical analysis of intergovernmental tax interaction: the case of business income taxes in Canada," Canadian Journal of Economics, Canadian Economics Association, vol. 34(2), pages 481-503, May.
  8. Egger, Peter & Koethenbuerger, Marko & Smart, Michael, 2010. "Do fiscal transfers alleviate business tax competition? Evidence from Germany," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 94(3-4), pages 235-246, April.
  9. Bev Dahlby & Neil Warren, 2003. "Fiscal Incentive Effects of the Australian Equalisation System," The Economic Record, The Economic Society of Australia, vol. 79(247), pages 434-445, December.
  10. Michael Smart, 1998. "Taxation and Deadweight Loss in a System of Intergovernmental Transfers," Canadian Journal of Economics, Canadian Economics Association, vol. 31(1), pages 189-206, February.
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