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An Empirical Examination of Municipal Financial Policy

  • Roger H. Gordon
  • Joel Slemrod

Current U.S. tax law creates a variety of incentives affecting municipal financial policy. Under current law,municipalities can borrow at a tax-exempt interest rate yet can earn the full market rate of return on any assets held. Residents, in contrast, if they borrow or lend as individuals,pay or earn the market rate of return but after personal income taxes. These differences in rates of return create a variety of arbitrage opportunities, allowing communities/residents to borrow at low rates and invest at higher rates.The purpose of this paper is to examine empirically the financial policy of municipalities in four states (Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts and Rhode Island) to see to what degree these municipalities attempt to take advantage of each of the available opportunities to engage in tax arbitrage. Our datacomes from the 1980 U.S. Census of Population and Housing, and the 1977 U.S.Census of Governments. We find clear evidence that communities do actively engage in such tax arbitrage.

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File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w1599.pdf
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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 1599.

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Date of creation: Apr 1985
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Publication status: published as Gordon, Roger H. and Joel Slemrod. "An Empirical Examination of Municipal Financial Policy." State and Local Public Finance, edited by Harvey S. Rosen. Chicago: UCP, 1986, pp. 53-78.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:1599
Note: PE
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  1. Roger H. Gordon, 1982. "Interest Rates, Inflation, and Corporate Financial Policy," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 13(2), pages 461-491.
  2. Tepper, Irwin, 1981. "Taxation and Corporate Pension Policy," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 36(1), pages 1-13, March.
  3. Gordon, Roger H & Slemrod, Joel, 1983. " A General Equilibrium Simulation Study of Subsidies to Municipal Expenditures," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 38(2), pages 585-94, May.
  4. Irwin Tepper, 1981. "Taxation and Corporate Pension Policy," NBER Working Papers 0661, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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