Hungary has undertaken a bold and far-ranging reform of its system of subnational finances. This paper outlines the changes introduced in the system of local finance as a result of the 1990 Local Self-Government Act, and the 1990 Act on Local Taxes and provides a preliminary assessment of their implications as well as the need for further reform. These Acts, together with the annual Act on the Budget, define the overall scope and authorities of Hungary's approximately 3100 new local self-governments. These Acts: (i) define the new assignment of expenditures between central and local government; (ii) define the new local revenue sources; and (iii) establish the economic foundation, property rights and entrepreneurial functions of the localities. The paper outlines the historical evolution of the system, provides international comparisons, and describes its present-day form. Drawing on this background, it suggests some revised policies that should not only both help avert the potentially undesirable outcomes of the current system but, more positively, help Hungary to achieve its goal of a smaller, more efficient government sector without unduly exacerbating social inequalities. In turn, issues and recommendations are discussed in the following areas: local finance; assignment of expenditures; assignment of taxes; design of the transfer system; role of the localities in property management; capital investment; and other requisites for sound local finance.
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