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Can lower tax rates be bought? Business rent-seeking and tax competition among U.S. states

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  • Robert S. Chirinko
  • Daniel J. Wilson

Abstract

The standard model of strategic tax competition – the non-cooperative tax-setting behavior of jurisdictions competing for a mobile capital tax base – assumes that government policymakers are perfectly benevolent, acting solely to maximize the utility of the representative resident in their jurisdiction. We depart from this assumption by allowing for the possibility that policymakers, given the political and electoral environments in which they operate, also may be influenced by the rent-seeking (lobbying) behavior of businesses. Firms recognize the factors affecting policymakers’ welfare and may make campaign contributions to influence tax policy. These changes to the standard strategic tax competition model imply that business contributions affect not only the levels of equilibrium tax rates but also the slope of the tax reaction function between jurisdictions. Thus, business campaign contributions may affect tax competition and enhance or retard the mobility of capital across jurisdictions. ; Based on a panel of 48 U.S. states and unique data on business campaign contributions, our empirical work uncovers four key results. First, we document a significant direct effect of business contributions on tax policy. Second, the economic value of a $1 business campaign contribution in terms of lower state corporate taxes is nearly $4. Third, the slope of the reaction function between tax policy in a given state and the tax policies of its competitive states is negative. Fourth, we highlight the sensitivity of the empirical results to state effects.

Suggested Citation

  • Robert S. Chirinko & Daniel J. Wilson, 2009. "Can lower tax rates be bought? Business rent-seeking and tax competition among U.S. states," Working Paper Series 2009-29, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco.
  • Handle: RePEc:fip:fedfwp:2009-29
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Edwards, Jeremy & Keen, Michael, 1996. "Tax competition and Leviathan," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 40(1), pages 113-134, January.
    2. Robert S. Chirinko & Daniel J. Wilson, 2007. "Tax competition among U.S. states: racing to the bottom or riding on a seesaw?," Working Paper Series 2008-03, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco.
    3. Chirinko, Robert S. & Wilson, Daniel J., 2008. "State investment tax incentives: A zero-sum game?," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 92(12), pages 2362-2384, December.
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    7. 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 518-529, October.
    8. Devereux, Michael P. & Lockwood, Ben & Redoano, Michela, 2008. "Do countries compete over corporate tax rates?," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, pages 1210-1235.
    9. Daniel J. Wilson, 2006. "The mystery of falling state corporate income taxes," FRBSF Economic Letter, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, issue dec8.
    10. Aggarwal Rajesh K. & Meschke Felix & Wang Tracy Yue, 2012. "Corporate Political Donations: Investment or Agency?," Business and Politics, De Gruyter, vol. 14(1), pages 1-40, April.
    11. Edwards, Jeremy & Keen, Michael, 1996. "Tax competition and Leviathan," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 40(1), pages 113-134, January.
    12. 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.
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    Cited by:

    1. repec:kap:itaxpf:v:24:y:2017:i:2:d:10.1007_s10797-016-9419-y is not listed on IDEAS
    2. Michael P. Devereux & Simon Loretz, 2013. "What Do We Know About Corporate Tax Competition?," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association, pages 745-774.
    3. Denvil Duncan & Ed Gerrish, 2014. "Personal income tax mimicry: evidence from international panel data," International Tax and Public Finance, Springer;International Institute of Public Finance, vol. 21(1), pages 119-152, February.
    4. Chen, Yu-Fu & Funke, Michael, 2010. "Global Warming And Extreme Events: Rethinking The Timing And Intensity Of Environmental Policy," SIRE Discussion Papers 2010-48, Scottish Institute for Research in Economics (SIRE).
    5. Florence TOUYA, 2016. "Horizontal and Vertical Tax Interactions in a Common Agency Game," Working Papers 2015-2016_12, CATT - UPPA - Université de Pau et des Pays de l'Adour, revised Aug 2016.
    6. Florence TOUYA, 2016. "EU tax competition and tax avoidance: A multiprincipal perspective," Working Papers 2015-2016_11, CATT - UPPA - Université de Pau et des Pays de l'Adour, revised Aug 2016.
    7. Esteller-Moré, Alejandro & Galmarini, Umberto & Rizzo, Leonzio, 2012. "Vertical tax competition and consumption externalities in a federation with lobbying," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 96(3), pages 295-305.
    8. Michael Keen & Kai A. Konrad, 2012. "International Tax Competition and Coordination," Working Papers international_tax_competi, Max Planck Institute for Tax Law and Public Finance.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Taxation;

    JEL classification:

    • H71 - Public Economics - - State and Local Government; Intergovernmental Relations - - - State and Local Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue
    • H73 - Public Economics - - State and Local Government; Intergovernmental Relations - - - Interjurisdictional Differentials and Their Effects
    • H25 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - Business Taxes and Subsidies

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