IDEAS home Printed from
MyIDEAS: Login to save this paper or follow this series

Tax Competition Among U.S. States: Racing to the Bottom or Riding on a Seesaw?

  • Robert S. Chirinko
  • Daniel J. Wilson

Dramatic declines in capital tax rates among U.S. states and European countries have been linked by many commentators to tax competition and an inevitable “race to the bottom.” This paper provides an empirical analysis of the reaction of capital tax policy in a given U.S. state to changes in capital tax policy by other states. The analysis is undertaken with a novel panel dataset covering the 48 contiguous U.S. states for the period 1965 to 2006 and is guided by the theory of strategic tax competition. The latter suggests that capital tax policy is a function of “foreign” (out-of-state) tax policy, home state and foreign state economic and demographic conditions and, perhaps most importantly, preferences for government services. We estimate this reaction function for the two primary business tax policies employed by states: the investment tax credit rate and the corporate income tax rate. The slope of the reaction function – the equilibrium response of home state to foreign state tax policy – is negative, contrary to many prior empirical studies of fiscal reaction functions. This seemingly paradoxical result is due to two critical elements – controlling for aggregate shocks and allowing for delayed responses to foreign tax changes. Omitting either of these elements leads to a misspecified model and a positively sloped reaction function. Our results suggest that the secular decline in capital tax rates, at least among U.S. states, reflects synchronous responses among states to common shocks rather than competitive responses to foreign state tax policy. While striking given prior findings in the literature, these results are not surprising. The negative sign is fully consistent with qualitative and quantitative implications of the theoretical model developed in this paper. Rather than “racing to the bottom,” our findings suggest that states are “riding on a seesaw.”

If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.

File URL:
Download Restriction: no

Paper provided by CESifo Group Munich in its series CESifo Working Paper Series with number 3535.

in new window

Date of creation: 2011
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:ces:ceswps:_3535
Contact details of provider: Postal: Poschingerstrasse 5, 81679 Munich
Phone: +49 (89) 9224-0
Fax: +49 (89) 985369
Web page:

More information through EDIRC

References listed on IDEAS
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:

as in new window
  1. John Wilson & Eckhard Janeba, 2003. "Decentralization and International Tax Competition," CESifo Working Paper Series 854, CESifo Group Munich.
  2. Robert S. Chirinko & Daniel J. Wilson, 2006. "State investment tax incentives: a zero-sum game?," Working Paper Series 2006-47, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco.
  3. Devereux, Michael P & Lockwood, Ben & Redoano, Michela, 2002. "Do Countries Compete Over Corporate Tax Rates?," The Warwick Economics Research Paper Series (TWERPS) 642, University of Warwick, Department of Economics.
  4. Michael Overesch & Johannes Rincke, 2009. "What Drives Corporate Tax Rates Down? A Reassessment of Globalization, Tax Competition, and Dynamic Adjustment to Shocks," CESifo Working Paper Series 2535, CESifo Group Munich.
  5. Rosanne Altshuler & Timothy J. Goodspeed, 2002. "Follow the Leader? Evidence on European and U.S. Tax Competition," Departmental Working Papers 200226, Rutgers University, Department of Economics.
  6. Besley, Timothy J. & Case, Anne, 2002. "Political Institutions and Policy Choices: Evidence from the United States," CEPR Discussion Papers 3498, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  7. Ruud A. de Mooij & Gaëtan Nicodème, 2007. "Corporate tax policy and incorporation in the EU," Working Papers CEB 07-016.RS, ULB -- Universite Libre de Bruxelles.
  8. Brueckner, Jan K. & Saavedra, Luz A., 2001. "Do Local Governments Engage in Strategic Property-Tax Competition?," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association, vol. 54(n. 2), pages 203-30, June.
  9. Theodore M. Crone, 2005. "An Alternative Definition of Economic Regions in the United States Based on Similarities in State Business Cycles," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 87(4), pages 617-626, November.
  10. Stephen Coate & Stephen Morris, . "Policy Persistence," CARESS Working Papres 97-2, University of Pennsylvania Center for Analytic Research and Economics in the Social Sciences.
  11. Andrews, Donald W. K. & Lu, Biao, 2001. "Consistent model and moment selection procedures for GMM estimation with application to dynamic panel data models," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 101(1), pages 123-164, March.
  12. Andrew K. Rose & Mark M. Spiegel, 2005. "Offshore financial centers: parasites or symbionts?," Working Paper Series 2005-05, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco.
  13. Egger, Peter & Pfaffermayr, Michael & Winner, Hannes, 2005. "An unbalanced spatial panel data approach to US state tax competition," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 88(3), pages 329-335, September.
  14. Besley, Timothy & Case, Anne, 1995. "Incumbent Behavior: Vote-Seeking, Tax-Setting, and Yardstick Competition," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 85(1), pages 25-45, March.
  15. 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.
  16. 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.
  17. Mackie-Mason, Jeffrey K & Gordon, Roger H, 1997. " How Much Do Taxes Discourage Incorporation?," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 52(2), pages 477-505, June.
  18. Vrijburg, H. & Jacobs, J.P.A.M. & Ligthart, J.E., 2007. "Consumption tax competition among governments: Evidence from the United States," Research Report 07008, University of Groningen, Research Institute SOM (Systems, Organisations and Management).
  19. Devereux, M.P. & Lockwood, B. & Redoano, M., 2007. "Horizontal and vertical indirect tax competition: Theory and some evidence from the USA," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 91(3-4), pages 451-479, April.
  20. Assaf Razin & Efraim Sadka, 2011. "Tax Competition and Migration: The Race-to-the-Bottom Hypothesis Revisited," NBER Working Papers 16670, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  21. Federico Revelli, 2005. "On Spatial Public Finance Empirics," International Tax and Public Finance, Springer, vol. 12(4), pages 475-492, August.
  22. Donald, Stephen G & Newey, Whitney K, 2001. "Choosing the Number of Instruments," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 69(5), pages 1161-91, September.
  23. Goolsbee, Austan, 2004. "The impact of the corporate income tax: evidence from state organizational form data," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 88(11), pages 2283-2299, September.
  24. Mintz, Jack & Tulkens, Henry, 1986. "Commodity tax competition between member states of a federation: equilibrium and efficiency," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 29(2), pages 133-172, March.
  25. Hansen, Christian & Hausman, Jerry & Newey, Whitney, 2008. "Estimation With Many Instrumental Variables," Journal of Business & Economic Statistics, American Statistical Association, vol. 26, pages 398-422.
  26. Federico Revelli, 2002. "Testing the taxmimicking versus expenditure spill-over hypotheses using English data," Applied Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 34(14), pages 1723-1731.
  27. Robert S. Chirinko & Daniel J. Wilson, 2006. "State investment tax incentives: what are the facts?," Working Paper Series 2006-49, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco.
  28. Case, Anne C. & Rosen, Harvey S. & Hines, James Jr., 1993. "Budget spillovers and fiscal policy interdependence : Evidence from the states," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 52(3), pages 285-307, October.
  29. 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.
  30. Donald W.K. Andrews, 1997. "Consistent Moment Selection Procedures for Generalized Method of Moments Estimation," Cowles Foundation Discussion Papers 1146R, Cowles Foundation for Research in Economics, Yale University.
  31. Russell L. Hanson, 1993. "Bidding for Business: A Second War between the States?," Economic Development Quarterly, , vol. 7(2), pages 183-198, May.
  32. Reed, W. Robert, 2006. "Democrats, republicans, and taxes: Evidence that political parties matter," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 90(4-5), pages 725-750, May.
  33. Konrad, Kai A. & Schjelderup, Guttorm, 1999. "Fortress Building in Global Tax Competition," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 46(1), pages 156-167, July.
  34. Murphy, Kevin M & Topel, Robert H, 1985. "Estimation and Inference in Two-Step Econometric Models," Journal of Business & Economic Statistics, American Statistical Association, vol. 3(4), pages 370-79, October.
  35. M. Hashem Pesaran, 2004. "Estimation and Inference in Large Heterogeneous Panels with a Multifactor Error Structure," CESifo Working Paper Series 1331, CESifo Group Munich.
  36. Heyndels, Bruno & Vuchelen, Jef, 1998. "Tax Mimicking Among Belgian Municipalities," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association, vol. 51(n. 1), pages 89-101, March.
  37. Pagan, Adrian, 1984. "Econometric Issues in the Analysis of Regressions with Generated Regressors," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 25(1), pages 221-47, February.
  38. Wilson, John D., 1986. "A theory of interregional tax competition," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 19(3), pages 296-315, May.
  39. Brueckner, Jan K., 2000. "A Tiebout/tax-competition model," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 77(2), pages 285-306, August.
  40. Jan K. Brueckner, 2003. "Strategic Interaction Among Governments: An Overview of Empirical Studies," International Regional Science Review, , vol. 26(2), pages 175-188, April.
  41. Bucovetsky, S., 1991. "Asymmetric tax competition," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 30(2), pages 167-181, September.
  42. Zodrow, George R., 2010. "Capital Mobility And Capital Tax Competition," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association, vol. 63(4), pages 865-901, December.
  43. Nickell, Stephen J, 1981. "Biases in Dynamic Models with Fixed Effects," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 49(6), pages 1417-26, November.
  44. Egger, Peter & Pfaffermayr, Michael & Winner, Hannes, 2005. "Commodity taxation in a 'linear' world: a spatial panel data approach," Regional Science and Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 35(5), pages 527-541, September.
  45. Kapoor, Mudit & Kelejian, Harry H. & Prucha, Ingmar R., 2007. "Panel data models with spatially correlated error components," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 140(1), pages 97-130, September.
  46. Stock, James H & Wright, Jonathan H & Yogo, Motohiro, 2002. "A Survey of Weak Instruments and Weak Identification in Generalized Method of Moments," Journal of Business & Economic Statistics, American Statistical Association, vol. 20(4), pages 518-29, October.
  47. Plesko, George A., 2003. "An evaluation of alternative measures of corporate tax rates," Journal of Accounting and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 35(2), pages 201-226, June.
Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.

When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:ces:ceswps:_3535. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Julio Saavedra)

If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

This information is provided to you by IDEAS at the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis using RePEc data.