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Interest group demand for taxation


  • William Hunter
  • Michael Nelson


Researchers have typically ignored the determinants of the tax structure of the public sector. Political scientists have concentrated their analyses on the expenditure side of the public ledgers while economists have avoided the issue by assuming that taxes are exogenously determined. In this paper we have shown that a behavioral model of political interest groups can be employed to gain insights into the political selection of taxes. The theory provides a general complement to the well-documented analysis of special interest demand for public expenditures. Our analysis raises several important policy questions. First, is the influence of interest groups on the determination of tax systems desirable from a public policy perspective? For example, special interest groups dominated by high and middle income individuals may prefer regressive tax systems which reduce their own tax burden. Certainly the impact of interest groups on the well-known regressivity of state and local tax systems is an area worthy of additional investigation. Second, does the influence of interest groups lead to tax systems that unduly hamper economic efficiency and retard economic growth? For example, governments with economies dominated by a single industry may forsake diversity and economic development by selecting a tax system favorable to the major industry. Interest group demand for taxes may be a factor in explaining long run regional cycles such as the rise and fall of heavy manufacturing states such as the upper midwest. This research has established that a link exists between special interest group demand for taxation and the structure of local tax systems. However, the extent to which these groups influence tax systems and the exact nature of this influence requires further research. Additional research may also provide insights into the control (e.g., constitutional or legislative) of interest group influence on taxes should it be determined that such control is necessary. Copyright Kluwer Academic Publishers 1989

Suggested Citation

  • William Hunter & Michael Nelson, 1989. "Interest group demand for taxation," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 62(1), pages 41-61, July.
  • Handle: RePEc:kap:pubcho:v:62:y:1989:i:1:p:41-61
    DOI: 10.1007/BF00168013

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Hettich, Walter & Winer, Stanley, 1984. "A positive model of tax structure," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 24(1), pages 67-87, June.
    2. David Sjoquist, 1981. "A median voter analysis of variations in the use of property taxes among local governments," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 36(2), pages 273-285, January.
    3. Anthony Downs, 1957. "An Economic Theory of Political Action in a Democracy," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 65, pages 135-135.
    4. John Mikesell, 1978. "Election periods and state tax policy cycles," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 33(3), pages 99-106, January.
    5. Ronald G. Bodkin, 1974. "Additively Consistent Relationships for Personal Savings and the Categories of Consumption Expenditures, U.S.A., 1949-1963," Eastern Economic Journal, Eastern Economic Association, vol. 1(1), pages 20-51, January.
    6. Litvack, James M & Oates, Wallace E, 1970. "Group Size and the Output of Public Goods: Theory and Application to State-Local Finance in the United States," Public Finance = Finances publiques, , vol. 25(1), pages 42-62.
    7. repec:cup:apsrev:v:79:y:1985:i:01:p:79-96_22 is not listed on IDEAS
    8. repec:cup:apsrev:v:80:y:1986:i:01:p:89-106_18 is not listed on IDEAS
    9. repec:cup:apsrev:v:81:y:1987:i:03:p:757-774_20 is not listed on IDEAS
    10. Albert Breton, 1974. "The economic theory of representative government: A reply," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 20(1), pages 129-133, December.
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    Cited by:

    1. repec:dgr:rugsom:99e05 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. Volkerink, Bjørn & Haan, Jakob de, 1999. "Political and institutional determinants of the tax mix : an empirical investigation for OECD countries," Research Report 99E05, University of Groningen, Research Institute SOM (Systems, Organisations and Management).
    3. Frangois Vaillancourt, 1992. "Subnational Tax Harmonization, Canada and the United States: Intent, Results, and Consequences," NBER Chapters,in: Canada-U.S. Tax Comparisons, pages 323-358 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. Potters, Jan & Sloof, Randolph, 1996. "Interest groups: A survey of empirical models that try to assess their influence," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 12(3), pages 403-442, November.
    5. Michael Marlow & William Orzechowski, 1997. "The Separation of Spending from Taxation: Implications for Collective Choices," Constitutional Political Economy, Springer, vol. 8(2), pages 151-163, June.

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