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A Tax on Output of the Polluting Industry is Not a Tax on Pollution: The Importance of Hitting the Target

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  • Don Fullerton
  • Inkee Hong
  • Gilbert E. Metcalf

Abstract

We explore the effects of environmental taxes that imprecisely target pollution. A review of actual policies indicates few (if any) examples of a true tax on pollution. More typically, environmental taxes target an input or output that is correlated with pollution. We construct a simple analytical general equilibrium model to calculate the optimum tax rate on the input of the polluting industry, in terms of key behavioral parameters, and we compare this imprecisely-targeted tax to an ideal tax on pollution. Finally, we consider incremental tax reforms such as a change in either tax from some pre-existing level. Using a utility-based money-metric measure of welfare, we examine the losses that arise from not taxing pollution directly. With no existing tax, under our plausible parameters, the welfare gain from an output tax is less that half the gain from an emissions tax.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 7259.

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Date of creation: Jul 1999
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Publication status: published as Distributional and Behavioral Effects of Environmental Policy, Carraro, C.and G. Metcalf, eds., Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000,forthcoming.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:7259

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  1. Lawrence Goulder, 1995. "Environmental taxation and the double dividend: A reader's guide," International Tax and Public Finance, Springer, vol. 2(2), pages 157-183, August.
  2. Bovenberg, A Lans & de Mooij, Ruud A, 1997. "Environmental Levies and Distortionary Taxation: Reply," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 87(1), pages 252-53, March.
  3. Thomas A. Barthold, 1994. "Issues in the Design of Environmental Excise Taxes," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 8(1), pages 133-151, Winter.
  4. Cropper, Maureen L & Oates, Wallace E, 1992. "Environmental Economics: A Survey," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 30(2), pages 675-740, June.
  5. Bovenberg, A. Lans & van der Ploeg, Frederick, 1996. "Optimal taxation, public goods and environmental policy with involuntary unemployment," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 62(1-2), pages 59-83, October.
  6. Parry Ian W. H., 1995. "Pollution Taxes and Revenue Recycling," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 29(3), pages S64-S77, November.
  7. A. Lans Bovenberg & Lawrence H. Goulder, 1994. "Optimal Environmental Taxation in the Presence of Other Taxes: General Equilibrium Analyses," NBER Working Papers 4897, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Don Fullerton & Gilbert E. Metcalf, 1997. "Environmental Controls, Scarcity Rents, and Pre-Existing Distortions," Discussion Papers Series, Department of Economics, Tufts University 9703, Department of Economics, Tufts University.
  9. Agnar Sandmo & David Wildasin, 1999. "Taxation, Migration, and Pollution," International Tax and Public Finance, Springer, vol. 6(1), pages 39-59, February.
  10. Don Fullerton & Gilbert E. Metcalf, 1997. "Environmental Taxes and the Double Dividends Hypothesis: Did You Really Expect Something for Nothing?," Discussion Papers Series, Department of Economics, Tufts University 9706, Department of Economics, Tufts University.
  11. Metcalf, Gilbert E. & Dudek, Daniel J. & Willis, Cleve E., 1984. "Cross-Media Transfers Of Hazardous Wastes," Northeastern Journal of Agricultural and Resource Economics, Northeastern Agricultural and Resource Economics Association, vol. 13(2), October.
  12. Don Fullerton, 1995. "Why Have Separate Environmental Taxes?," NBER Working Papers 5380, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  13. Don Fullerton & Andrew Leicester & Stephen Smith, 2008. "Environmental Taxes," NBER Working Papers 14197, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  14. de Bovenberg, A Lans & Mooij, Ruud A, 1994. "Environmental Levies and Distortionary Taxation," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 84(4), pages 1085-89, September.
  15. Hahn, Robert W, 1989. "Economic Prescriptions for Environmental Problems: How the Patient Followed the Doctor's Orders," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 3(2), pages 95-114, Spring.
  16. Devlin, R.A. & Grafton, R.Q., 1993. "Tradeable Permits, Missing Markets, and Technology," Working Papers 9301e, University of Ottawa, Department of Economics.
  17. Lawrence H. Goulder & Ian W. H. Parry & Dallas Burtraw, 1996. "Revenue-Raising vs. Other Approaches to Environmental Protection: The Critical Significance of Pre-Existing Tax Distortions," NBER Working Papers 5641, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  18. Lawrence H. Goulder & Ian W.H. Parry & Dallas Burtraw, 1997. "Revenue-Raising versus Other Approaches to Environmental Protection: The Critical Significance of Preexisting Tax Distortions," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 28(4), pages 708-731, Winter.
  19. Schmutzler, Armin & Goulder, Lawrence H., 1997. "The Choice between Emission Taxes and Output Taxes under Imperfect Monitoring," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 32(1), pages 51-64, January.
  20. Lawrence H. Goulder & Roberton C. Williams III, 1999. "The Usual Excess-Burden Approximation Usually Doesn't Come Close," NBER Working Papers 7034, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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Cited by:
  1. Sjak Smulders & Herman R.J. Vollebergh, 1999. "Green Taxes and Administrative Costs: The Case of Carbon Taxation," NBER Working Papers 7298, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Gilbert E. Metcalf, 2000. "Environmental Levies and Distortionary Taxation: Pigou, Taxation, and Pollution," Discussion Papers Series, Department of Economics, Tufts University 0004, Department of Economics, Tufts University.
  3. Oladosu, Gbadebo & Rose, Adam, 2007. "Income distribution impacts of climate change mitigation policy in the Susquehanna River Basin Economy," Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 29(3), pages 520-544, May.
  4. Milyo, Jeffrey, 2000. "A problem with Euclidean preferences in spatial models of politics," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 66(2), pages 179-182, February.
  5. Navajas, Fernando H. & Panadeiros, Monica & Natale, Oscar, 2011. "Environmentally Related Energy Taxes in Argentina, Bolivia and Uruguay," MPRA Paper 37829, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  6. Herman Vollebergh, 2004. "Lessons from the Polder: Is Dutch CO2-Taxation Optimal?," Working Papers 2004.6, Fondazione Eni Enrico Mattei.
  7. Cremer, Helmuth & Gahvari, Firouz, 2002. "Imperfect observability of emissions and second-best emission and output taxes," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 85(3), pages 385-407, September.

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