25 Years IWH

Fiscal Federalism and Institutional Change

This research group belongs to the IWH Research Cluster Institutions and Social Norms. European governments must simultaneously reduce public deficits, comply with new budget rules, and overcome pressures from a changing demography or globalisation. In order to master these fiscal challenges, governments at all levels need to increase efficiency in the public sector and to target resources to primary policy fields. Relating to a new generation of the literature on fiscal federalism, research in this group addresses the question how appropriate fiscal governance structures can support governments to reduce the frictional losses with regard to planning and implementing fiscal policy. Thereby the group refers to the current reform issues of fiscal federalism in Germany and Europe. These include the redesign of inter-regional redistribution and risk-sharing programmes as well as the implementation of stable debt limits at the national and sub-national level.

IWH Data Project:

  • Stated preference data on the willingness-to-pay for catering in Kindergartens (data generated from a discrete choice experiment in Saxony-Anhalt) (joint with Professor Marlies Ahlert, Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg)

  • Laboratory experiments studying the willingness-to-invest in endogenous institution formation (joint with Otto von Guericke University Magdeburg and Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg)

Research Cluster
Institutions and Social Norms

Your contact

Dmitri Bershadskyy
Dmitri Bershadskyy
Mitglied - Department Macroeconomics
Send Message +49 345 7753-863

Refereed Publications


On the Distribution of Refugees in the EU

Martin Altemeyer-Bartscher Oliver Holtemöller Axel Lindner Andreas Schmalzbauer Götz Zeddies

in: Intereconomics, No. 4, 2016


The current situation regarding the migration of refugees can only be handled efficiently through closer international cooperation in the field of asylum policy. From an economic point of view, it would be reasonable to distribute incoming refugees among all EU countries according to a distribution key that reflects differences in the costs of integration in the individual countries. An efficient distribution would even out the marginal costs of integrating refugees. In order to reach a political agreement, the key for distributing refugees should be complemented by compensation payments that distribute the costs of integration among countries. The key for distributing refugees presented by the EU Commission takes account of appropriate factors in principle, but it is unclear in terms of detail. The compensation payments for countries that should take relatively high numbers of refugees for cost efficiency reasons should be financed by reallocating resources within the EU budget.

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International Side-payments to Improve Global Public Good Provision when Transfers are Refinanced through a Tax on Local and Global Externalities

Martin Altemeyer-Bartscher A. Markandya Dirk T. G. Rübbelke

in: International Economic Journal, No. 1, 2014


This paper discusses a tax-transfer scheme that aims to address the under-provision problem associated with the private supply of international public goods and to bring about Pareto optimal allocations internationally. In particular, we consider the example of the global public good ‘climate stabilization’, both in an analytical and a numerical simulation model. The proposed scheme levies Pigouvian taxes globally, while international side-payments are employed in order to provide incentives to individual countries for not taking a free-ride from the international Pigouvian tax scheme. The side-payments, in turn, are financed via environmental taxes. As a distinctive feature, we take into account ancillary benefits that may be associated with local public characteristics of climate policy. We determine the positive impact that ancillary effects may exert on the scope for financing side-payments via environmental taxation. A particular attractive feature of ancillary benefits is that they arise shortly after the implementation of climate policies and therefore yield an almost immediate payback of investments in abatement efforts. Especially in times of high public debt levels, long periods of amortization would tend to reduce political support for investments in climate policy.

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A Macroeconomist’s View on EU Governance Reform: Why and How to Establish Policy Coordination?

Hubert Gabrisch

in: Economic Annals, No. 191, 2011


This paper discusses the need for macroeconomic policy coordination in the E(M)U. Coordination of national policies with cross-border effects does not exist at the macroeconomic level, although requested by the EU Treaty. The need for coordination stems from current account imbalances, which origin in market-induced capital flows, destabilizing the real exchange rates between low and high wage countries. The recent attempts of the Commission and the European Council to reform E(M)U governance do not address this problem and thus remain incapable to protect against future instability.

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Environmental Protection and the Private Provision of International Public Goods

Martin Altemeyer-Bartscher Dirk T. G. Rübbelke E. Sheshinski

in: Economica, 2010


International environmental protection like the combat of global warming exhibits properties of public goods. In the international arena, no coercive authority exists that can enforce measures to overcome free-rider incentives. Therefore decentralized negotiations between individual regions serve as an approach to pursue efficient international environmental protection. We propose a scheme which is based on the ideas of Coasean negotiations and Pigouvian taxes. The negotiating entities offer side-payments to counterparts in order to influence their taxation of polluting consumption. Side-payments, in turn, are self-financed by means of externality-correcting taxes. As we show, a Pareto-efficient outcome can be attained.

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Langfristige Wirkungen des Konjunkturpakets II am Beispiel der sächsischen Kommunen

Peter Haug

in: List Forum für Wirtschafts- und Finanzpolitik, 2010


The article discusses primarily the potential long-term (supply-side) effects of the public investments subsidized by the German „Economic Stimulus Package II“. Considering the allocative aspects, especially the productivity and financing effects of publicly provided capital as well as the factor price effects of investment grants (municipalities are „lured to the concrete“) have to be taken into account. The theoretical problems are supported empirically by the subsidy practice in Saxony and its focus on local consumer goods (sports and leisure facilities) and on not directly economy-related educational facilities (kindergartens, primary schools). From a distributive point of view no interdependence between the financial strength (or weakness) of the municipalities and the amount of their ESPII-grants received could be confirmed empirically. Finally, with respect to the economic short-term stabilization effects of the program a significant increase of the municipal investments – although with a time lag - was found for Saxony.

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Working Papers


Endogenous Institution Formation in Public Good Games: The Effect of Economic Education

Martin Altemeyer-Bartscher Dmitri Bershadskyy Philipp Schreck Florian Timme

in: IWH Discussion Papers, No. 29, 2017


In a public good experiment, the paper analyses to which extent individuals with economic education behave differently in a second-order dilemma. Second-order dilemmas may arise, when individuals endogenously build up costly institutions that help to overcome a public good problem (first-order dilemma). The specific institution used in the experiment is a communication platform allowing for group communication before the first-order public good game takes place. The experimental results confirm the finding of the literature that economists tend to free ride more intensively in public good games than non-economists. The difference is the strongest in the end-game phase, yielding in the conclusion that the magnitude of the end-game effect depends on the share of economists in the pool of participants. When it comes to the building-up of institutions, the individual efficiency gain of the institution and its inherent cost function constitute the driving forces for the contribution behaviour. Providing an investment friendly environment yields in economists contributing more to the institution than non-economists. Therefore, we make clear that first-order results of a simple public good game cannot be simply applied for second-order incentive problems.

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Bracket Creeps: Bane or Boon for the Stability of Numerical Budget Rules?

Martin Altemeyer-Bartscher Götz Zeddies

in: IWH Discussion Papers, No. 29, 2016


As taxpayers typically pay low attention to a small inflation-induced bracket creep of the income tax, policy-makers tend to postpone its correction into the future. However, the fiscal illusion fades away and political pressure for a tax relief arises since after some years the cumulative increase of the average tax rate exceeds a critical threshold. Using Germany as an example, this paper shows that bracket creeps can provoke revenue cycles in public budgets hindering governments’ compliance with the numerical budget rules. An indexation of the tax tariff could prevent such fluctuations and thus provides a favourable framework for the debt rule.

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Corporate Taxation and Firm Location in Germany

Götz Zeddies

in: IWH Discussion Papers, No. 2, 2015


German Fiscal Federalism is characterized by a high degree of fiscal equalization which lowers the efficiency of local tax administration. Currently, a reform of the fiscal equalization scheme is on the political agenda. One option is to grant federal states the right to raise surtaxes on statutory tax rates set by the central government in order to reduce the equalization rate. In such an environment, especially those federal states with lower economic performance would have to raise comparatively high surtaxes. With capital mobility, this could further lower economic performance and thus tax revenues. Although statutory tax rates are so far identical across German federal states, corporate tax burden differs for several reasons. This paper tries to identify the impact of such differences on firm location. As can be shown, effective corporate taxation did seemingly not have a significant impact on firm location across German federal states.

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Fiscal Equalization, Tax Salience, and Tax Competition

Martin Altemeyer-Bartscher

in: IWH Discussion Papers, No. 3, 2014


Jurisdictions that engage in inter-regional tax competition usually try to attenuate competitive pressures by substituting salient tax instruments with hidden ones. On this effect, we investigate the efficiency consequences of inter-regional tax competition and fiscal equalization in a federal system when taxpayers fail to optimally react on shrouded attributes of local tax policy. If the statuary tax rate is a relatively salient instrument and taxpayers pay low attention to the quality and the frequency of tax enforcement, the underlying substitution of tax instruments with the aim of reducing the perceived tax price may suppress the under-exploitation of tax bases that is typically triggered by fiscal equalization.

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The Dilemma of Delegating Search: Budgeting in Public Employment Services

Martin Altemeyer-Bartscher J. T. Addison T. Kuhn

in: IZA Discussion Papers, No. 5170, No. 5170, 2010


The poor performance often attributed to many public employment services may be explained in part by a delegation problem between the central office and local job centers. In markets characterized by frictions, job centers function as match-makers, linking job seekers with relevant vacancies. Because their search intensity in contacting employers and collecting data is not verifiable by the central authority, a typical moral hazard problem can arise. To overcome the delegation problem and provide high-powered incentives for high levels of search effort on the part of job centers, we propose output-related schemes that assign greater staff capacity to agencies achieving high strike rates.

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