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A Theory of Fiscal Imbalance

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  • Robin Boadway
  • Jean-François Tremblay

Abstract

This paper examines how sequential decision-making by two levels of government can result in fiscal imbalances. Federal-regional transfers serve to equalize the marginal cost of public funds between regions hit by different shocks. The optimal transfers minimize the efficiency cost of taxation in the federation as a whole. The analysis shows how the existence of vertical fiscal externalities, leading regional governments to overprovide public goods, can induce the federal government to create a fiscal imbalance by selecting transfers that differ from the optimal ones. When the federal government can commit to its policies before regional governments select their level of expenditures, the fiscal imbalance will generally be negative. In the absence of commitment, the equilibrium transfer is unambiguously larger than the optimal fiscal gap, resulting in a positive fiscal imbalance.

Suggested Citation

  • Robin Boadway & Jean-François Tremblay, 2006. "A Theory of Fiscal Imbalance," FinanzArchiv: Public Finance Analysis, Mohr Siebeck, Tübingen, vol. 62(1), pages 1-27, March.
  • Handle: RePEc:mhr:finarc:urn:sici:0015-2218(200603)62:1_1:atofi_2.0.tx_2-o
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. 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, January.
    2. 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 657-672, August.
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    5. Dahlby, Bev & Wilson, Leonard S., 2003. "Vertical fiscal externalities in a federation," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 87(5-6), pages 917-930, May.
    6. J. Kornai & E. Maskin & G. Roland., 2004. "Understanding the Soft Budget Constraint," VOPROSY ECONOMIKI, N.P. Redaktsiya zhurnala "Voprosy Economiki", vol. 12.
    7. Robin Boadway & Katherine Cuff & Maurice Marchand, 2003. "Equalization and the Decentralization of Revenue-Raising in a Federation," Journal of Public Economic Theory, Association for Public Economic Theory, vol. 5(2), pages 201-228, April.
    8. Johnson, William R, 1988. "Income Redistribution in a Federal System," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 78(3), pages 570-573, June.
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    10. Massimo Bordignon & Paolo Manasse & Guido Tabellini, 2001. "Optimal Regional Redistribution under Asymmetric Information," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 91(3), pages 709-723, June.
    11. Robin Boadway & Jean-Francois Tremblay, 2005. "A Theory of Vertical Fiscal Imbalance," Working Papers 2006-04, University of Kentucky, Institute for Federalism and Intergovernmental Relations.
    12. 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.
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    Cited by:

    1. repec:kap:itaxpf:v:24:y:2017:i:5:d:10.1007_s10797-016-9435-y is not listed on IDEAS
    2. Sharma, Chanchal Kumar, 2010. "Beyond Gaps and Imbalances: Re-Structuring the Debate on Intergovernmental Fiscal Relations," MPRA Paper 32145, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    3. Dahlby, Bev & Rodden, Jonathan & Wilson, Sam, 2009. "A Median Voter Model of the Vertical Fiscal Gap," Working Papers 2009-14, University of Alberta, Department of Economics.
    4. Boadway, Robin & Song, Zhen & Tremblay, Jean-François, 2013. "Non-cooperative pollution control in an inter-jurisdictional setting," Regional Science and Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 43(5), pages 783-796.
    5. Zarko Y. Kalamov, 2012. "Prudent Fiscal Policy in the Presence of Bailout Expectations," FinanzArchiv: Public Finance Analysis, Mohr Siebeck, Tübingen, vol. 68(4), pages 365-382, December.
    6. Diego Martinez-Lopez & Tomas Sjöngren, 2014. "Vertical externalities with lump-sum taxes: how much difference does unemployment make?," European Journal of Government and Economics, Europa Grande, vol. 3(1), pages 75-87, June.
    7. José Manuel Cordero Ferrera & Francisco Pedraja Chaparro & Javier Suárez Pandiello & Alfonso Utrilla de la Hoz, 2013. "El índice de evolución de los ingresos tributarios del Estado y sus efectos sobre la PIE municipal," Hacienda Pública Española, IEF, vol. 206(3), pages 137-161, September.
    8. Sharma, Chanchal Kumar, 2011. "Multilevel Fiscal Governance in a Balanced Policy Environment," MPRA Paper 30282, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    9. Boadway, Robin & Tremblay, Jean-François, 2012. "Reassessment of the Tiebout model," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 96(11), pages 1063-1078.
    10. Bev Dahlby & Jonathan Rodden, 2013. "A political economy model of the vertical fiscal gap and vertical fiscal imbalances in a federation," Working Papers 2013/18, Institut d'Economia de Barcelona (IEB).
    11. Jorge Martinez-Vazquez & Cristian Sepulveda, 2012. "Toward a More General Theory of Revenue Assignments," International Center for Public Policy Working Paper Series, at AYSPS, GSU paper1231, International Center for Public Policy, Andrew Young School of Policy Studies, Georgia State University.
    12. Toshihiro Ihori, 2014. "Commitment, Deficit Ceiling, and Fiscal Privilege," FinanzArchiv: Public Finance Analysis, Mohr Siebeck, Tübingen, vol. 70(4), pages 511-526, December.
    13. Eyraud, Luc & Lusinyan, Lusine, 2013. "Vertical fiscal imbalances and fiscal performance in advanced economies," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 60(5), pages 571-587.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    fiscal imbalance; intergovernment transfers; commitment; fiscal externalities;

    JEL classification:

    • H72 - Public Economics - - State and Local Government; Intergovernmental Relations - - - State and Local Budget and Expenditures
    • H73 - Public Economics - - State and Local Government; Intergovernmental Relations - - - Interjurisdictional Differentials and Their Effects
    • H77 - Public Economics - - State and Local Government; Intergovernmental Relations - - - Intergovernmental Relations; Federalism

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