The IMF Working Papers series is designed to make IMF staff research available to a wide audience. Almost 300 Working Papers are released each year, covering a wide range of theoretical and analytical topics, including balance of payments, monetary and fiscal issues, global liquidity, and national and international economic developments.
The earmarking (or setting aside) of revenues from various taxes for specific types of expenditure is a much maligned fiscal practice. The paper examines a number of theoretical arguments and institutional circumstances under which earmarking (even widespread earmarking) may be welfare enhancing. The paper also questions the criticism that earmarking seriously erodes budgetary efficiency, and draws on the experience of Colombia to demonstrate that the worst fears of critics do not necessarily come to pass.