A Theory of Fiscal Imbalance

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Abstract:

This paper examines how sequential decision-making by two levels of government can result in fiscal imbalances. Federal–regional transfers serve to equalize the marginal cost of public funds between regions hit by different shocks. The optimal transfers minimize the efficiency cost of taxation in the federation as a whole. The analysis shows how the existence of vertical fiscal externalities, leading regional governments to overprovide public goods, can induce the federal government to create a fiscal imbalance by selecting transfers that differ from the optimal ones. When the federal government can commit to its policies before regional governments select their level of expenditures, the fiscal imbalance will generally be negative. In the absence of commitment, the equilibrium transfer is unambiguously larger than the optimal fiscal gap, resulting in a positive fiscal imbalance.

Keywords: COMMITMENT; FISCAL EXTERNALITIES; FISCAL IMBALANCE; INTERGOVERNMENT TRANSFERS

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1628/001522106776667004

Publication date: March 1, 2006

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  • FinanzArchiv founded in 1884 is one of the world's oldest professional journals in public finance.

    FinanzArchiv publishes original work from all fields of public economics which are of interest to an international readership, e.g. taxation, public debt, public goods, public choice, federalism, market failure, social policy, and the welfare state. Special emphasis is on high-quality theoretical and empirical papers on current policy issues.

    FinanzArchiv is a well-established, internationally oriented journal in the field of public economics, widely read in Europe and all over the world.

    FinanzArchiv is listed in the Social Science Citation Index (SSCI, JCR impact factor 2007 0,296), in Current Contents/Social and Behavioral Sciences, in IDEAS and RePEc (IDEAS/RePEc simple impact factor 2008 1.177), in the Journal of Economic Literature (CD and online), and in the International Bibliography of the Social Sciences.

    FinanzArchiv is a fully peer-reviewed journal committed to a prompt turnaround of submissions. No more than four months should pass between online submission of a manuscript and the editor's decision on acceptance, revision, or rejection.
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