Taxation and Credible Commitment: Left, Right and Partisan Turnover

Comparative Politics, Forthcoming

44 Pages Posted: 27 Aug 2008 Last revised: 31 Jan 2010

Date Written: May 18, 2008


Building on the fiscal contract literature, this paper argues that taxation is partly a game of credible commitment. Using data for 18 OECD countries, it shows that partisan turnover systematically affects the long-run equilibrium mix of taxes and services. When partisan turnover is low, more right-wing influence permanently increases corporate tax revenue and the corporate share of pre-tax income; more left-wing influence, by contrast, permanently increases consumption tax revenue and social spending. When turnover is high, even powerful partisans do not increase taxes that disproportionately affect their supporters. When partisans tax their own supporters, they raise more revenue, even when we account for some plausible benefits. Our theoretical conjectures are consistent with the pattern of partisan behavior within countries, not just between them.

Keywords: taxes, parties, left, right, social spending, redistribution

JEL Classification: H11, H25

Suggested Citation

Timmons, Jeffrey F., Taxation and Credible Commitment: Left, Right and Partisan Turnover (May 18, 2008). Comparative Politics, Forthcoming, Available at SSRN:

Jeffrey F. Timmons (Contact Author)

NYU Abu Dhabi ( email )

PO Box 129188
Abu Dhabi
United Arab Emirates
(971) 262 84523 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://

Do you want regular updates from SSRN on Twitter?

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics