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Taxes or Grants: What Revenue Source for Sub-Central Governments?


  • Hansjörg Blöchliger


  • Oliver Petzold


This paper analyses trends in and driving forces of the revenue composition of sub-central governments (SCG). Between 1995 and 2005 the share of SCG in total government spending increased from 31 to 33%, while the SCG tax share remained stable at around 17%, increasing SCG’s dependence on intergovernmental grants. While equal access to public services is the most common justification for such grants, the grant systems of most countries are much larger than required by equalization. Moreover, rather than smoothing out SCG revenue fluctuations over the cycle, grants often tend to exacerbate them. Finally, there is some evidence that grants reduce SCG tax raising effort, inflate SCG spending and increase SCG deficits and debt. The economic crisis will both sharply reduce SCG’s own tax revenues and – via budget constraints at the central level – increase pressure on the grant system. The crisis could hence help rethink the SCG revenue mix, their tax structure and the size and design of intergovernmental transfers. Impôts ou transferts : quels revenus pour les administrations infranationales ? Ce document analyse les tendances et les déterminants de la composition des revenus des administrations infra-nationales (AI). Entre 1995 et 2005, la part des dépenses des AI dans les dépenses publiques totales a augmenté de 31 à 33%, alors que leur participation aux recettes fiscales restait stable autour de 17%, accentuant de ce fait la dépendance des AI envers les transferts intergouvernementaux. Bien que l’égalité d’accès aux services publics soit la raison la plus souvent invoquée pour justifier ces transferts, les systèmes de transferts sont en réalité souvent bien plus importants que ceux qu’impliquerait la simple péréquation. Par ailleurs, les transferts ont tendance à amplifier plutôt qu’à réduire les fluctuations de revenus au cours du cycle. Finalement, il semblerait que les transferts réduisent l’effort fiscal des AI tout en augmentant leurs dépenses et donc leurs déficits et leur dette. La crise économique en cours à la fois va réduire fortement les impôts propres des AI et – suite aux contraintes budgétaires au niveau central – augmenter la pression sur le système des transferts. La crise pourrait donc inciter à repenser la composition des revenues des AI, la structure de leurs impôts et la taille et le design des transferts intergouvernementaux.

Suggested Citation

  • Hansjörg Blöchliger & Oliver Petzold, 2009. "Taxes or Grants: What Revenue Source for Sub-Central Governments?," OECD Economics Department Working Papers 706, OECD Publishing.
  • Handle: RePEc:oec:ecoaaa:706-en

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    Cited by:

    1. Hansjörg Blöchliger & José Maria Pinero Campos, 2011. "Tax Competition Between Sub-Central Governments," OECD Economics Department Working Papers 872, OECD Publishing.
    2. Hansjörg Blöchliger, 2013. "Fiscal Consolidation Across Government Levels - Part 1. How Much, What Policies?," OECD Economics Department Working Papers 1070, OECD Publishing.
    3. Margit Schratzenstaller, 2016. "Design and Criteria to Strengthen Tax Autonomy of the Austrian Länder," WIFO Monatsberichte (monthly reports), WIFO, vol. 89(6), pages 411-422, June.

    More about this item


    fiscal federalism; fédéralisme fiscal; impôts locaux; intergovernmental grants; local tax system; transferts intergouvernementaux;

    JEL classification:

    • H42 - Public Economics - - Publicly Provided Goods - - - Publicly Provided Private Goods
    • H50 - Public Economics - - National Government Expenditures and Related Policies - - - General
    • H77 - Public Economics - - State and Local Government; Intergovernmental Relations - - - Intergovernmental Relations; Federalism

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