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Property taxation as incentive for cost control: Empirical evidence for utility services in Norway

  • Lars-Erik Borge

    ()

  • Jørn Rattsø

    ()

Cost control in the public sector is a challenge for political institutions. Theoretical research recently has shown incentive effects of property taxation that can work as a mechanism to hold costs down. We are able to investigate the empirical relevance of this proposition, since local governments in Norway represent a kind of natural experiment where about 30% of them have residential property tax. The framework of the analysis is a bureau producing public services for the local government, and control of slack is related to the budget constraint of the bureau. High costs are understood as the result of an agency problem. In a stylized model of this interaction, we show that property taxation increases the local government budget responsiveness to higher costs if housing demand is not ‘too’ elastic. Both complimentarity between service supply and housing demand and migration equilibrium contribute to the negative relationship hypothesized between the property tax base and the reported costs of the bureau. The econometric analysis confirms significant differences in unit costs dependent on tax structure. Existence of property taxation seems to help overcome the agency problem and reduce costs. The potential problems of endogeneity of the choice of property taxation and unequal comparisons are handled with instrument variables and matching.

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Paper provided by European Regional Science Association in its series ERSA conference papers with number ersa03p219.

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Date of creation: Aug 2003
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Handle: RePEc:wiw:wiwrsa:ersa03p219
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  1. Jon Fiva & Jørn Rattsø, 2007. "Local choice of property taxation: evidence from Norway," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 132(3), pages 457-470, September.
  2. Glaeser, Edward L, 1996. " The Incentive Effects of Property Taxes on Local Governments," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 89(1-2), pages 93-111, October.
  3. Torsten Persson, 2001. "Currency unions and trade: how large is the treatment effect?," Economic Policy, CEPR;CES;MSH, vol. 16(33), pages 433-462, October.
  4. Lars-Erik Borge & Jørn Rattsø, 2003. "The Relationships Between Costs and User Charges: The Case of a Norwegian Utility Service," CESifo Working Paper Series 1033, CESifo Group Munich.
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  9. Jørn Rattsø & Jon Hernes Fiva, 2005. "Decentralization with Property Taxation to Improve Incentives: Evidence from Local Governments’ Discrete Choice," Working Paper Series 5305, Department of Economics, Norwegian University of Science and Technology, revised 02 Sep 2005.
  10. Joshua D. Angrist, 1998. "Estimating the Labor Market Impact of Voluntary Military Service Using Social Security Data on Military Applicants," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 66(2), pages 249-288, March.
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  12. Persson, Torsten & Tabellini, Guido, 2002. "Do constitutions cause large governments? Quasi-experimental evidence," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 46(4-5), pages 908-918, May.
  13. Jon H. Fiva & Marte Rønning, 2006. "The Incentive Effects of Property Taxation: Evidence from Norwegian School Districts," Discussion Papers 484, Research Department of Statistics Norway.
  14. Borge, Lars-Erik & Rattso, Jorn, 1995. "Demographic shift, relative costs and the allocation of local public consumption in Norway," Regional Science and Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 25(6), pages 705-726, December.
  15. Cullis, J G & Jones, P R & Morrissey, O, 1991. "Public Choice Perspectives on the Poll Tax," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 101(406), pages 600-614, May.
  16. Lars-Erik Borge & Jørn Rattsø, 2005. "The Relationships between Cost and User Charges: The Case of the Norwegian Utility Service," FinanzArchiv: Public Finance Analysis, Mohr Siebeck, Tübingen, vol. 61(1), pages 98-, March.
  17. Brennan, Geoffrey & Buchanan, James M., 1978. "Tax instruments as constraints on the disposition of public revenues," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 9(3), pages 301-318, June.
  18. Borge, Lars-Erik & Rattso, J.Jorn, 2004. "Income distribution and tax structure: Empirical test of the Meltzer-Richard hypothesis," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 48(4), pages 805-826, August.
  19. Jorid Kalseth & Jørn Rattsø, 1998. "Political Control of Administrative Spending: The Case of Local Governments in Norway," Economics and Politics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 10(1), pages 63-83, 03.
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  22. repec:cup:cbooks:9780521233293 is not listed on IDEAS
  23. Lars-Erik Borge & Linn Renée Naper, 2005. "Efficiency Potential and Efficiency Variation in Norwegian Lower Secondary Schools," CESifo Working Paper Series 1624, CESifo Group Munich.
  24. John Joseph Wallis & Richard E. Sylla & John B. Legler, 1994. "The Interaction of Taxation and Regulation in Nineteenth-Century U.S. Banking," NBER Chapters, in: The Regulated Economy: A Historical Approach to Political Economy, pages 121-144 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  25. Fischel, William A., 2001. "Homevoters, Municipal Corporate Governance, and the Benefit View of the Property Tax," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association, vol. 54(n. 1), pages 157-74, March.
  26. Sascha O. Becker & Andrea Ichino, 2002. "Estimation of average treatment effects based on propensity scores," Stata Journal, StataCorp LP, vol. 2(4), pages 358-377, November.
  27. Hoxby, Caroline M., 1999. "The productivity of schools and other local public goods producers," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 74(1), pages 1-30, October.
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