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The Effect of Agglomeration Size on Local Taxes

  • Eva Luthi
  • Kurt Schmidheiny

Standard tax competition models predict a ‘race-to-the-bottom’ of corporate tax rates when firms are mobile. Recent theoretical literature has qualified this view by offering a theoretical explanation why this extreme prediction need not occur: central regions with large clusters of economic activity are able to set positive tax rates without fearing to lose firms to peripheral regions as the firms would forego ‘rents’ from agglomeration economies. In this paper, we study whether local policy makers effectively tax such agglomeration rents. We test this with panel data from Swiss municipalities between 1985 and 2005. We find that large urban areas set indeed higher tax rates than small ones. This is consistent with the theoretical prediction. Within urban areas, however, municipal tax rates are unrelated to the size of economic activity in and around municipalities while they are positively related to the size of the political jurisdiction. We see this result as evidence that the standard tax competition model for asymmetric jurisdictions is at work in the competition of municipalities within an urban area. Both results are robust to controlling for reverse causality by using instrumental variables. Controlling for fixed effects in a 20 year panel is non-informative and neither supports nor contradicts these findings. As a robustness check we introduce an new measure of cluster intensity which considers the varying intensities in agglomeration economies across sectors.

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Paper provided by CESifo Group Munich in its series CESifo Working Paper Series with number 3426.

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Date of creation: 2011
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Handle: RePEc:ces:ceswps:_3426
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  1. Richard Baldwin; Paul Krugman, 2001. "Agglomeration, Integration and Tax Harmonization," IHEID Working Papers 01-2001, Economics Section, The Graduate Institute of International Studies.
  2. Forslid, Rikard & Andersson, Fredrik, 1999. "Tax Competition and Economic Geography," Research Papers in Economics 2000:5, Stockholm University, Department of Economics.
  3. Brülhart, Marius & Jametti, Mario, 2004. "Vertical versus Horizontal Tax Externalities: An Empirical Test," CEPR Discussion Papers 4593, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  4. Marius Brülhart & Mario Jametti & Kurt Schmidheiny, 2007. "Do agglomeration economies reduce the sensitivity of firm location to tax differentials?," Economics Working Papers 1062, Department of Economics and Business, Universitat Pompeu Fabra.
  5. Luca Crivelli & Massimo Filippini & Ilaria Mosca, 2006. "Federalism and regional health care expenditures: an empirical analysis for the Swiss cantons," Health Economics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 15(5), pages 535-541.
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  7. Hyun-Ju Koh & Nadine Riedel, 2010. "Do governments tax agglomeration rents?," Working Papers 2010/21, Institut d'Economia de Barcelona (IEB).
  8. Rodney D. Ludema & Ian Wooton, 1998. "Economic Geography and the Fiscal Effects of Regional Integration," Working Papers 9809, Business School - Economics, University of Glasgow.
  9. Ottaviano, Gianmarco I.P. & van Ypersele, Tanguy, 2005. "Market size and tax competition," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 67(1), pages 25-46, September.
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  11. Ellison, Glenn & Glaeser, Edward L, 1997. "Geographic Concentration in U.S. Manufacturing Industries: A Dartboard Approach," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 105(5), pages 889-927, October.
  12. James H. Stock & Motohiro Yogo, 2002. "Testing for Weak Instruments in Linear IV Regression," NBER Technical Working Papers 0284, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  13. Hans Bacher & Marius Brülhart, 2013. "Progressive taxes and firm births," International Tax and Public Finance, Springer, vol. 20(1), pages 129-168, February.
  14. Frank Kleibergen & Richard Paap, 2003. "Generalized Reduced Rank Tests using the Singular Value Decomposition," Tinbergen Institute Discussion Papers 03-003/4, Tinbergen Institute.
  15. Cragg, John G. & Donald, Stephen G., 1993. "Testing Identifiability and Specification in Instrumental Variable Models," Econometric Theory, Cambridge University Press, vol. 9(02), pages 222-240, April.
  16. Borck, Rainald & Pflüger, Michael P., 2004. "Agglomeration and Tax Competition," IZA Discussion Papers 1033, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  17. Zodrow, George R. & Mieszkowski, Peter, 1986. "Pigou, Tiebout, property taxation, and the underprovision of local public goods," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 19(3), pages 356-370, May.
  18. Sylvie Charlot & Sonia Paty, 2007. "Market access effect and local tax setting: evidence from French panel data," Journal of Economic Geography, Oxford University Press, vol. 7(3), pages 247-263, May.
  19. Wilson, John D., 1986. "A theory of interregional tax competition," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 19(3), pages 296-315, May.
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