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Taxing Consumption and Other Sins

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  • James R. Hines Jr.

Abstract

Throughout American history, the U.S. federal and state governments have imposed excise taxes on commodities such as alcohol and tobacco (and more recently, gasoline and firearms). Rates of such "sin" taxation, and consumption taxation broadly (including sales taxes and value-added taxes), are currently much lower in the United States than they are in Europe, Japan, and other affluent parts of the world. In part, this reflects relative government sizes, but that is not the whole story, since even controlling for total tax collections, levels of national income, government decentralization, and openness to international trade, the United States imposes unusually low excise and consumption taxes. As a result, the United States relies to a much greater degree than other countries on personal and corporate income taxes, thereby affording fewer opportunities to use the tax system to protect individuals and the environment by discouraging the consumption of "sinful" commodities, and instead simply discouraging saving and investment.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 12730.

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Date of creation: Dec 2006
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Publication status: published as James R. Hines, 2007. "Taxing Consumption and Other Sins," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 21(1), pages 49-68, Winter.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:12730

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  1. Don Fullerton, 1996. "Why Have Separate Environmental Taxes?," NBER Chapters, in: Tax Policy and the Economy, Volume 10, pages 33-70 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  20. Gilbert E. Metcalf, 2006. "Value-Added Tax," Discussion Papers Series, Department of Economics, Tufts University 0608, Department of Economics, Tufts University.
  21. Auerbach, Alan J. & Hines, James Jr., 2002. "Taxation and economic efficiency," Handbook of Public Economics, in: A. J. Auerbach & M. Feldstein (ed.), Handbook of Public Economics, edition 1, volume 3, chapter 21, pages 1347-1421 Elsevier.
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Cited by:
  1. N. Gregory Mankiw & Matthew C. Weinzierl & Danny Yagan, 2009. "Optimal Taxation in Theory and Practice," Harvard Business School Working Papers 09-140, Harvard Business School.
  2. Laurence Seidman, 2014. "Medicare For All: A Public Finance Analysis," Working Papers 14-02, University of Delaware, Department of Economics.
  3. Bernardi, Luigi, 2009. "Le tasse in Europa dagli anni novanta
    [Taxation in Europe since the Years 1990s]
    ," MPRA Paper 23441, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  4. Laurence Seidman, 2014. "Overcoming The Fiscal Trilemma With Two Progressive Consumption Tax Supplements," Working Papers 14-04, University of Delaware, Department of Economics.
  5. Christian Baker & Jeremy Bejarano & Richard W. Evans & Kenneth L. Judd & Kerk L. Phillips, 2014. "A Big Data Approach to Optimal Sales Taxation," BYU Macroeconomics and Computational Laboratory Working Paper Series 2014-03, Brigham Young University, Department of Economics, BYU Macroeconomics and Computational Laboratory.
  6. DeCicca, Philip & Kenkel, Donald & Liu, Feng, 2013. "Excise tax avoidance: The case of state cigarette taxes," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 32(6), pages 1130-1141.
  7. Kevin Callison & Robert Kaestner, 2014. "Do Higher Tobacco Taxes Reduce Adult Smoking? New Evidence Of The Effect Of Recent Cigarette Tax Increases On Adult Smoking," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 52(1), pages 155-172, 01.
  8. Mathieu-Bolh, Nathalie, 2010. "Welfare improving distributionally neutral tax reforms," Economic Modelling, Elsevier, vol. 27(5), pages 1253-1268, September.

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