Revenue-Recycling and the Efficiency and Spatial Distributional Impacts of Development Taxes

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Abstract

Recent studies that compare the efficiency and distributional impacts of alternative instruments to curb sprawl typically ignore what to do with the revenues from anti-sprawl policies, such as development taxes. This paper extends first-best analysis of development taxes aimed at preserving land at the urban fringe to account for interactions with other distortions within the urban system. By incorporating urban decline at the city core, which in turn, generates negative neighborhood spillover effects and extra pressure for development at the urban fringe, we provide a more complete framework to evaluate the efficiency and distributional impacts of development taxes. We consider three potential alternative schemes to recycle the revenues: lump sum recycling, earmarked revenues to purchase conservation easements that permanently save open space and earmarked revenues to subsidize a revitalization program at the city core. In this setting, when revenues from the development tax are earmarked to fund a conservation easement there is an additional welfare gain (relative to the lump sum case) because the threat of future conversation of open space is fully eliminated. Similarly, when revenues are earmarked to fund a revitalization program at the city core, there are additional sources of welfare that make this policy preferred relative to the lump-sum recycling scheme. Finally, we also explore the spatial distributional impacts of these three alternative recycling schemes.

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WP 2008-02 January 2008
JEL Classification Codes: Q31; R14; R38
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2008-01-01
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Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management, Cornell University
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Urban Sprawl; Revenue-Recycling; Regional Coordination; Spatial Modeling
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