The Effect of Direct Democracy on the Level and Structure of Local Taxes
41 Pages Posted: 23 Jan 2014
Date Written: January 15, 2014
We study the effect of direct democracy on local taxation. Our setting is the German federal state of Bavaria, where in 1995 a state-wide referendum introduced the possibility to initiate direct democratic legislation into the local government code. Relying on a sample of all Bavarian municipalities over the period 1980-2011, we hypothesize that complementing a representative form of government with direct democratic elements leads to (i) higher local tax rates and (ii) a shift of the local tax mix from taxes with broader (property taxes) to taxes with narrower bases (business taxes). For identification, we implement selection on observables and difference-in-discontinuity designs. Our results show that both actual direct democratic activity - measured by the number of initiatives - and the ease with which direct democratic legislation can be implemented - measured by signature and quorum requirements - increase local tax rates and shift the tax mix toward taxes with narrower bases.
Keywords: Direct democracy, taxation, regression discontinuity, Bavaria
JEL Classification: D72, D78, H71
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation