IDEAS home Printed from
MyIDEAS: Login to save this paper or follow this series

Regional integration and commodity tax harmonization

  • De Bonis, Valeria

In a closed economy, a commodity tax drives a wedge between the producer price and the consumer price. In open economies, intercountry differences in commodity taxation can induce two additional distortions: (1) Cross-country differences in consumer marginal rates of substitution (which result in an inefficient allocation of world consumption), which arise when countries levy taxes on goods and services consumed within their borders (the destination principle). (2) Cross-country differences in producer marginal rates of transformation (resulting in an inefficient allocation of world production), which arises when countries levy taxes on goods and services produced within their borders (the origins principle). Such distortions can be avoided by harmonizing tax rates, ensuring efficiency regardless of the tax principle adopted. At least, that is the theoretical rationale for international tax harmonization. Regionally such harmonization can be justified, because equalities between marginal rates of substitution and transformation exist between economically integrated countries. Removing barriers to trade and factor movement exposes the allocation of resources more directly to tax rate of differentials. But gains in production and consumption efficiency derived from regional harmonization are not great. Moreover by reducing international distortions, harmonization could increase internal distortions and reduce welfare, if the new tax structure is inefficient and does not meet the country's preferences. Tax rate uniformity does not appear to be the right way to maximize welfare if integrating countries are different. Some flexibility should be maintained. And apart from the misallocation of resources, tax rate diversity can induce strategic behavior. A country's choice of tax rate can be influenced by the choices of others. Countries can race to cut rates to attract foreign consumers or producers -or if they have market power, they can increase taxes on imported goods and decrease them on exports. So, externalities arise: the"usurpation of the tax base"(in the first example) or the"export of the tax burden"(in the second). Competition between countries would then lead to Nash equilibria in the tax-rate-setting game, resulting in a welfare level inferior to that attainable by cooperation. In fact, there is some evidence that revenue effects might be large for small countries, where the tax structure is often used as a protective device. If both harmonization and competition can produce welfare losses, one solution could be coordination measures aimed at reducing exploitation of other member countries through taxation.

If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.

File URL:
Download Restriction: no

Paper provided by The World Bank in its series Policy Research Working Paper Series with number 1848.

in new window

Date of creation: 30 Nov 1997
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:wbk:wbrwps:1848
Contact details of provider: Postal: 1818 H Street, N.W., Washington, DC 20433
Phone: (202) 477-1234
Web page:

More information through EDIRC

References listed on IDEAS
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:

as in new window
  1. Whalley, John, 1979. "Uniform domestic tax rates, trade distortions and economic integration," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 11(2), pages 213-221, March.
  2. Sinn, Hans-Werner, 1990. "Tax harmonization and tax competition in Europe," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 34(2-3), pages 489-504, May.
  3. Cnossen, Sijbren, 1990. "The case for tax diversity in the European community," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 34(2-3), pages 471-479, May.
  4. Deaton, Angus & Stern, Nicholas, 1986. "Optimally uniform commodity taxes, taste differences and lump-sum grants," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 20(3), pages 263-266.
  5. Michael Devereux & Mark Pearson, 1990. "Harmonising corporate taxes in Europe," Fiscal Studies, Institute for Fiscal Studies, vol. 11(1), pages 21-35, February.
  6. Hans-Werner Sinn, 1990. "Can Direct and Indirect Taxes Be Added for International Comparisons of Competitiveness?," NBER Working Papers 3263, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. FitzGerald, John & Quinn, T. P. & Whelan, Brendan J. & Williams, J. A., 1988. "An Analysis of Cross-Border Shopping," Research Series, Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI), number GRS137.
  8. Smith, Alasdair & Venables, Anthony J., 1988. "Completing the internal market in the European Community : Some industry simulations," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 32(7), pages 1501-1525, September.
  9. Jacob Frenkel & Assaf Razin & Efraim Sadka, 1991. "International Taxation in an Integrated World," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262512149, June.
  10. Burgess, Robin & Stern, Nicholas, 1993. "Taxation and Development," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 31(2), pages 762-830, June.
  11. Gordon, Roger H, 1983. "An Optimal Taxation Approach to Fiscal Federalism," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 98(4), pages 567-86, November.
  12. Kanbur, Ravi & Keen, Michael, 1993. "Jeux Sans Frontieres: Tax Competition and Tax Coordination When Countries Differ in Size," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 83(4), pages 877-92, September.
Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.

When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:wbk:wbrwps:1848. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Roula I. Yazigi)

If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

This information is provided to you by IDEAS at the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis using RePEc data.