Highway Accessibility, Location Rents, and the Efficiency of Metropolitan Area Tax Base Sharing



One solution that has been proposed for the fiscal disparities in fragmented metropolitan areas is the sharing of taxes generated by commercial and industrial property. A criticism of this proposal is that it distorts the efficient pattern of business locations resulting when an implicit market for business locations is allowed to develop through the independent fiscal behavior of communities and the optimizing location behavior of businesses. Critics recognize that the efficiency argument against sharing a metropolitan area's business tax base must be qualified to the extent that local governments possess location advantages which enable them to extract rents from business firms. This paper presents an empirical analysis which permits a partition of the local property tax payments from industrial firms into accessibility location rents and compensation payments to the community for the negative externalities of industrial development. The empirical analysis suggests that approximately 40 percent of the industrial taxes received by communities in this analysis represents accessibility location rents. It is concluded that these receipts could be redistributed through a metropolitan area tax base sharing program without affecting the efficiency of the implicit market for business locations.