Tax Cannibalization and State Government Tax Incentive Programs

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States and localities offer businesses an enormous amount of tax incentives to locate within their jurisdictions despite: 1) the mass of evidence that suggests that these incentives are not particularly effective and, 2) substantial doubts about their constitutionality.

In this essay, we develop a new critical perspective on state tax incentives. We argue that offering these incentives permits states to offer lower taxes to more mobile businesses while keeping their overall corporate tax rates high. This is arguably not the best choice for the states, but it is definitely not the best choice for the federal government. Because the states share the corporate income tax base with the federal government, higher overall state corporate income tax rates results in more cannibalization of federal corporate income tax revenue.