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Perfect Competition, Spatial Competition, and Tax Incidence in the Retail Gasoline Market

  • James Alm

    ()

    (Andrew Young School of Policy Studies, Georgia State University)

  • Edward Sennoga

    (Andrew Young School of Policy Studies, Georgia State University)

  • Mark Skidmore

    ()

    (Department of Economics, University of Wisconsin - Whitewater)

In this paper we use monthly gasoline price data for all fifty U.S. states over the period 1984 to 1999 to examine the incidence of state gasoline excise taxes. Standard economic theory predicts full shifting of the excise tax to consumers when the supply of gasoline is perfectly elastic, and our empirical results are largely consistent with this prediction. In general, we find full shifting of gasoline taxes to the final consumer, with changes in gasoline taxes fully reflected in the tax-inclusive gasoline price almost instantly, a result consistent with a retail gasoline market in which firms are perfectly competitive and produce at constant cost. In addition, although we find that gasoline retail prices demonstrate asymmetric responses to changes in gasoline wholesale prices, we find only limited evidence of such behavior for retail prices with respect to gasoline excise taxes. Importantly, we also present a novel application of a spatial price discrimination model to examine tax incidence in markets that are not perfectly competitive. In this alternative framework, the incidence of excise taxes depends upon the competitiveness of retail gasoline markets, which depends in turn on spatial aspects of the market. Consistent with this alternative theoretical framework, our empirical estimates demonstrate that gasoline markets in urban states exhibit full shifting, but those in rural states demonstrate somewhat less than full shifting.

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Paper provided by UW-Whitewater, Department of Economics in its series Working Papers with number 05-09.

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Length: 32 pages
Date of creation: Oct 2005
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:uww:wpaper:05-09
Contact details of provider: Postal: Whitewater, WI 53190-1750
Phone: (414) 472-1361
Web page: http://www.uww.edu/cobe/economics/main.html

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  1. Fullerton, Don & Metcalf, Gilbert E., 2002. "Tax incidence," Handbook of Public Economics, in: A. J. Auerbach & M. Feldstein (ed.), Handbook of Public Economics, edition 1, volume 4, chapter 26, pages 1787-1872 Elsevier.
  2. Sofia Delipalla & Michael Keen, 1991. "The Comparison Between Ad Valorem and Specific Taxation under Imperfect Competition," Working Papers 821, Queen's University, Department of Economics.
  3. Joskow, P. & Edward Kahn, 2002. "A Quantitative Analysis of Pricing Behavior In California’s Wholesale Electricity Market During Summer 2000," Cambridge Working Papers in Economics 0211, Faculty of Economics, University of Cambridge.
  4. Chernick, Howard & Reschovsky, Andrew, 1997. "Who Pays the Gasoline Tax?," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association, vol. 50(2), pages 233-59, June.
  5. Anderson, Simon P. & de Palma, Andre & Kreider, Brent, 2001. "Tax incidence in differentiated product oligopoly," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 81(2), pages 173-192, August.
  6. Severin Borenstein & A. Colin Cameron, 1992. "Do Gasoline Prices Respond Asymmetrically to Crude Oil Price Changes?," NBER Working Papers 4138, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Borenstein, S. & Shepard, A., 1993. "Dynamic Pricing in Retail Gazoline Markets," Papers 93-22, California Davis - Institute of Governmental Affairs.
  8. Sullivan, Daniel, 1985. "Testing Hypotheses about Firm Behavior in the Cigarette Industry," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 93(3), pages 586-98, June.
  9. Laurence J. Kotlikoff & Lawrence H. Summers, 1986. "Tax Incidence," NBER Working Papers 1864, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    • Kotlikoff, Laurence J. & Summers, Lawrence H., 1987. "Tax incidence," Handbook of Public Economics, in: A. J. Auerbach & M. Feldstein (ed.), Handbook of Public Economics, edition 1, volume 2, chapter 16, pages 1043-1092 Elsevier.
  10. Besley, Timothy J. & Rosen, Harvey S., 1999. "Sales Taxes and Prices: An Empirical Analysis," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association, vol. 52(n. 2), pages 157-78, June.
  11. Vita, Michael G, 2000. "Regulatory Restrictions on Vertical Integration and Control: The Competitive Impact of Gasoline Divorcement Policies," Journal of Regulatory Economics, Springer, vol. 18(3), pages 217-33, November.
  12. Sumner, Daniel A, 1981. "Measurement of Monopoly Behavior: An Application to the Cigarette Industry," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 89(5), pages 1010-19, October.
  13. Dillon Alleyne & James Alm & Roy Bahl & Sally Wallace, 2004. "Tax Burden in Jamaica," International Center for Public Policy Working Paper Series, at AYSPS, GSU paper0434, International Center for Public Policy, Andrew Young School of Policy Studies, Georgia State University.
  14. Skidmore, Mark & Peltier, James & Alm, James, 2005. "Do state motor fuel sales-below-cost laws lower prices?," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 57(1), pages 189-211, January.
  15. McLure, Charles Jr., 1975. "General equilibrium incidence analysis : The Harberger model after ten years," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 4(2), pages 125-161, February.
  16. Arthur M. Wiese & Adam Rose & Gerald Schluter, 1995. "Motor-Fuel Taxes and Household Welfare: An Applied General Equilibrium Analysis," Land Economics, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 71(2), pages 229-242.
  17. Michael L. Katz & Harvey S. Rosen, 1983. "Tax Analysis in an Oligopoly Model," NBER Working Papers 1088, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  18. Poterba, James M., 1996. "Retail Price Reactions to Changes in State and Local Sales Taxes," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association, vol. 49(2), pages 165-76, June.
  19. Justine S. Hastings, 2004. "Vertical Relationships and Competition in Retail Gasoline Markets: Empirical Evidence from Contract Changes in Southern California," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 94(1), pages 317-328, March.
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