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The Optimal Taxation Approach to Intergovernmental Grants

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  • Dahlby, Bev

    () (University of Alberta, Department of Economics)

Abstract

An optimal tax system equates the marginal cost of public funds across all tax bases. This idea is applied to a federation to derive the optimal unconditional transfers that will promote an optimal allocation of taxation and expenditures among the governments in the federation. This approach provides insights into the concepts of vertical and horizontal fiscal imbalance, fiscal capacity, and fiscal need. Expressions for the optimal fiscal equalization grant and the optimal vertical fiscal gap are derived. We also show how the marginal cost of public funds affects the optimal matching grant rate for activities that generate expenditure externalities.

Suggested Citation

  • Dahlby, Bev, 2009. "The Optimal Taxation Approach to Intergovernmental Grants," Working Papers 2009-16, University of Alberta, Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:ris:albaec:2009_016
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    File URL: https://sites.ualberta.ca/~econwps/2009/wp2009-16.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Wildasin, David E, 1984. "On Public Good Provision with Distortionary Taxation," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 22(2), pages 227-243, April.
    2. Browning, Edgar K, 1987. "On the Marginal Welfare Cost of Taxation," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 77(1), pages 11-23, March.
    3. B. Dahlby & L. S. Wilson, 1994. "Fiscal Capacity, Tax Effort, and Optimal Equalization Grants," Canadian Journal of Economics, Canadian Economics Association, vol. 27(3), pages 657-672, August.
    4. Charles L. Ballard & Don Fullerton, 1992. "Distortionary Taxes and the Provision of Public Goods," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 6(3), pages 117-131, Summer.
    5. Craig Volden, 2007. "Intergovernmental Grants: A Formal Model of Interrelated National and Subnational Political Decisions," Publius: The Journal of Federalism, Oxford University Press, vol. 37(2), pages 209-243, Spring.
    6. Dahlby, Bev & Wilson, Leonard S., 2003. "Vertical fiscal externalities in a federation," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 87(5-6), pages 917-930, May.
    7. Michael J. Keen & Christos Kotsogiannis, 2002. "Does Federalism Lead to Excessively High Taxes?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 92(1), pages 363-370, March.
    8. A. B. Atkinson & N. H. Stern, 1974. "Pigou, Taxation and Public Goods," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 41(1), pages 119-128.
    9. Breton,Albert, 1996. "Competitive Governments," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521481021, March.
    10. Bev Dahlby, 2008. "The Marginal Cost of Public Funds: Theory and Applications," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262042509, January.
    11. John Mikesell, 0. "Changing State Fiscal Capacity and Tax Effort in an Era of Devolving Government, 1981-2003," Publius: The Journal of Federalism, Oxford University Press, vol. 37(4), pages 532-550.
    12. Triest, Robert K, 1990. "The Relationship between the Marginal Cost of Public Funds and Marginal Excess Burden," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 80(3), pages 557-566, June.
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    Cited by:

    1. Sharma, Chanchal Kumar, 2010. "Beyond Gaps and Imbalances: Re-Structuring the Debate on Intergovernmental Fiscal Relations," MPRA Paper 32145, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    2. Dahlby, Bev & Rodden, Jonathan & Wilson, Sam, 2009. "A Median Voter Model of the Vertical Fiscal Gap," Working Papers 2009-14, University of Alberta, Department of Economics.
    3. Bev Dahlby, 2011. "The marginal cost of public funds and the flypaper effect," International Tax and Public Finance, Springer;International Institute of Public Finance, vol. 18(3), pages 304-321, June.
    4. Sharma, Chanchal Kumar, 2007. "Rescuing the concept of vertical fiscal imbalance," MPRA Paper 39343, University Library of Munich, Germany, revised 2010.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    intergovernmental grants; median voter model; fiscal federalism; vertical fiscal gap; vertical fiscal imbalance; fiscal capacity; fiscal need;

    JEL classification:

    • H21 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - Efficiency; Optimal Taxation
    • H71 - Public Economics - - State and Local Government; Intergovernmental Relations - - - State and Local Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue
    • H72 - Public Economics - - State and Local Government; Intergovernmental Relations - - - State and Local Budget and Expenditures
    • H77 - Public Economics - - State and Local Government; Intergovernmental Relations - - - Intergovernmental Relations; Federalism

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