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On Fiscal Illusion in Local Public Finance: Re-Examining Ricardian Equivalence and the Renter Effect

Spencer Banzhaf () and Wallace Oates

National Tax Journal, 2013, vol. 66, issue 3, 511-540

Abstract: We reevaluate fiscal illusion in local public finance. The Ricardian Equivalence Theorem suggests that the financing of a public program using either taxation or debt shouldn’t affect outcomes, because debt is capitalized into property values. In contrast, we show individuals may rationally prefer public debt if governments can borrow on more favorable terms. We also propose a new test for the renter effect: controlling for differences in demand, the renter effect suggests renters prefer property taxes to sales taxes. Using data from U.S. open space referenda, we find that households do prefer debt financing, but find no evidence of the renter effect.

Date: 2013
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