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Games within borders: are geographically differentiated taxes optimal?

  • David Agrawal

    ()

The discontinuous tax treatment of sales at borders creates incentives for individuals to cross-border shop. This paper addresses whether it is optimal for a state composed of multiple regions to levy differentiated commodity tax rates across the regions. In a model where states maximize social welfare, a state’s optimal commodity tax system is almost always geographically differentiated. The optimal pattern of geographic differentiation critically depends on fundamental parameters as well as whether the state has a preference for high or low taxes. Under the assumption that utility is linear in consumption and that the elasticity of cross-border shopping is less than unity in absolute value, high-tax states will find it optimal to set a tax rate that is lower in the border region than in the periphery region and low-tax states will find it optimal to set a tax rate that is higher in the border region than in the periphery region. Optimizing high-tax states will set a higher tax rate in the border region if the social welfare measure is sufficiently redistributive. With welfare maximization, it is possible for taxes to be higher in the region near the state border—an outcome that cannot arise when the government cares only about total tax revenue. Copyright Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012

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Article provided by Springer in its journal International Tax and Public Finance.

Volume (Year): 19 (2012)
Issue (Month): 4 (August)
Pages: 574-597

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Handle: RePEc:kap:itaxpf:v:19:y:2012:i:4:p:574-597
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  1. Tosun Mehmet S & Skidmore Mark L, 2007. "Cross-Border Shopping and the Sales Tax: An Examination of Food Purchases in West Virginia," The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy, De Gruyter, vol. 7(1), pages 1-20, December.
  2. Søren Bo Nielsen, . "A Simple Model of Commodity Taxation and Cross-Border Shopping," EPRU Working Paper Series 98-18, Economic Policy Research Unit (EPRU), University of Copenhagen. Department of Economics.
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  10. Michael F. Lovenheim, 2007. "How Far to the Border?: The Extent and Impact of Cross-Border Casual Cigarette Smuggling," Discussion Papers 06-040, Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research, revised Oct 2009.
  11. Joel Slemrod, 2007. "Cheating Ourselves: The Economics of Tax Evasion," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 21(1), pages 25-48, Winter.
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  13. Keen, Michael, 2001. "Preferential Regimes Can Make Tax Competition Less Harmful," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association, vol. 54(n. 4), pages 757-62, December.
  14. Joel Slemrod & Shlomo Yitzhaki, 1996. "The Costs of Taxation and the Marginal Efficiency Cost of Funds," IMF Staff Papers, Palgrave Macmillan, vol. 43(1), pages 172-198, March.
  15. David Merriman, 2010. "The Micro-geography of Tax Avoidance: Evidence from Littered Cigarette Packs in Chicago," American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, American Economic Association, vol. 2(2), pages 61-84, May.
  16. B. Dahlby & L. S. Wilson, 1994. "Fiscal Capacity, Tax Effort, and Optimal Equalization Grants," Canadian Journal of Economics, Canadian Economics Association, vol. 27(3), pages 657-72, August.
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