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Decentralized Tax and Public Service Policies with Differential Mobility of Residents


  • William H. Hoyt

    () (Martin School of Public Policy and Administration and Department of Economics, University of Kentucky)


A central focus of an extensive literature on fiscal competition has been on how the decentralization of tax and service policy affects efficiency, generally whether public services are inefficiently under- or overprovided. This question has traditionally been addressed in a framework in which the tax base regions compete for mobile capital. Here I am also interested in the impact of fiscal decentralization on both public service provision and tax policy but in a framework with both labor and capital mobility. Rather than limiting the competing regions to taxing only capital or only labor, I consider the endogenous choice of the two tax instruments in the context of two related models. In the first model, while labor is mobile it is also homogeneous. In this model I show that regions will choose to only tax income and not capital when public service costs are proportionate to the population and, by doing so, will provide the efficient level of public services. However, if there are public service costs not proportionate to the population, “fixed costs,” if given the option, regions will tax or subsidize capital as well as tax income. As a result of capital taxation, the public service is underprovided. I extend the model along the lines of Wildasin (AER, 2000) to consider two groups of workers who differ in both mobility and, in my case, human capital (skill). Unlike Wildasin, the difference in income is exogenous and not the result of investment decisions. In this model, I first consider the policies chosen by these regions when they can only tax income. I find that the public service can be either over or underprovided, depending on the relative impact of changes in public services and taxes on the mobility of the two groups. Next, I consider whether, in the absence of fixed costs, regions will want to tax or subsidize capital and find that in general they will with the magnitude and sign of a tax (subsidy) on capital depending on how capital taxation affects the relative mobility of the two groups of workers.

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  • William H. Hoyt, 2009. "Decentralized Tax and Public Service Policies with Differential Mobility of Residents," Working Papers 2009-01, University of Kentucky, Institute for Federalism and Intergovernmental Relations.
  • Handle: RePEc:ifr:wpaper:2009-01

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    1. Wildasin, David E. & Wilson, John Douglas, 1996. "Imperfect mobility and local government behaviour in an overlapping-generations model," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 60(2), pages 177-198, May.
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