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How Fiscal Decentralization Flattens Progressive Taxes

  • Roland Hodler
  • Kurt Schmidheiny

We study the tension between fiscal decentralization and progressive taxation. We present a multi-community model in which the local income tax rate is determined by an exogenous progressive tax schedule and a tax shifter that can differ across communities. The progressivity of the tax schedule induces a self-sorting process that results in substantial though imperfect income sorting. Rich households are more likely to locate themselves in low tax communities than poor households. The actual tax structure is thus less progressive than the exogenous tax schedule. To investigate the quantitative implications of our model, we calibrate a fully-specified version to the largest metropolitan area in Switzerland. The equilibrium values of the simulation show the same pattern across communities as we observe in this area. The theoretical result is challenged by estimating the actual tax structure faced by the households in this area. We find that the actual tax structure is indeed substantially less progressive than the fixed tax schedule.

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Paper provided by Department of Economics, Tufts University in its series Discussion Papers Series, Department of Economics, Tufts University with number 0508.

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Date of creation: 2005
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Handle: RePEc:tuf:tuftec:0508
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  1. Epple, Dennis & Platt, Glenn J., 1998. "Equilibrium and Local Redistribution in an Urban Economy when Households Differ in both Preferences and Incomes," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 43(1), pages 23-51, January.
  2. Goodspeed, Timothy J., 1989. "A re-examination of the use of ability to pay taxes by local governments," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 38(3), pages 319-342, April.
  3. Ross, Stephen & Yinger, John, 1999. "Sorting and voting: A review of the literature on urban public finance," Handbook of Regional and Urban Economics, in: P. C. Cheshire & E. S. Mills (ed.), Handbook of Regional and Urban Economics, edition 1, volume 3, chapter 47, pages 2001-2060 Elsevier.
  4. Wallace E. Oates, 1999. "An Essay on Fiscal Federalism," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 37(3), pages 1120-1149, September.
  5. Feldstein, Martin & Wrobel, Marian Vaillant, 1998. "Can state taxes redistribute income?," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 68(3), pages 369-396, June.
  6. Dennis Epple & Holger Sieg, 1999. "Estimating Equilibrium Models of Local Jurisdictions," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 107(4), pages 645-681, August.
  7. Kurt Schmidheiny, 2004. "Income Segregation and Local Progressive Taxation: Empirical Evidence from Switzerland," CESifo Working Paper Series 1313, CESifo Group Munich.
  8. Kurt Schmidheiny, 2005. "Income Segregation from Local Income Taxation When Households Differ in Both Preferences and Incomes," Discussion Papers Series, Department of Economics, Tufts University 0509, Department of Economics, Tufts University.
  9. Westhoff, Frank, 1977. "Existence of equilibria in economies with a local public good," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 14(1), pages 84-112, February.
  10. Young, H Peyton, 1990. "Progressive Taxation and Equal Sacrifice," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 80(1), pages 253-66, March.
  11. Hansen, Julia L. & Formby, John P. & Smith, W. James, 1996. "The Income Elasticity of Demand for Housing: Evidence from Concentration Curves," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 39(2), pages 173-192, March.
  12. Mayo, Stephen K., 1981. "Theory and estimation in the economics of housing demand," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 10(1), pages 95-116, July.
  13. Epple, Dennis & Romer, Thomas, 1991. "Mobility and Redistribution," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 99(4), pages 828-58, August.
  14. Hardman, Anna & Ioannides, Yannis M., 2004. "Neighbors' income distribution: economic segregation and mixing in US urban neighborhoods," Journal of Housing Economics, Elsevier, vol. 13(4), pages 368-382, December.
  15. Ellickson, Bryan, 1971. "Jurisdictional Fragmentation and Residential Choice," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 61(2), pages 334-39, May.
  16. Hansen, Julia L. & Formby, John P. & Smith, W. James, 1998. "Estimating the Income Elasticity of Demand for Housing: A Comparison of Traditional and Lorenz-Concentration Curve Methodologies," Journal of Housing Economics, Elsevier, vol. 7(4), pages 328-342, December.
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