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Environmental Levies and Distortionary Taxation: Pigou, Taxation, and Pollution

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  • Gilbert E. Metcalf

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Abstract

Bovenberg and de Mooij (1994) showed that, in the presence of preexisting distorting taxes, the optimal pollution tax typically lies below social marginal damages. Many have viewed this result as a refutation of the so-called double dividend hypothesis,' which suggests that a tax on pollution can both improve the environment and reduce distortions in the tax system. Bovenberg and de Mooij's paper triggered a large literature on optimal environmental tax rates in a second-best world. In this note, I argue that the emphasis on tax rates is misguided. Using an analytical general equilibrium model, I show that for reasonable parameter values, an increase in tax distortions (arising from an increase in required tax revenues) leads to a fall in the optimal Pigouvian tax rate even while environmental quality improves. In general, knowledge of the direction of changes in optimal environmental tax rates due to changes in the economy is not sufficient for understanding the impact on environmental quality.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Department of Economics, Tufts University in its series Discussion Papers Series, Department of Economics, Tufts University with number 0004.

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Date of creation: 2000
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Handle: RePEc:tuf:tuftec:0004

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  1. Bovenberg, A.L. & Ploeg, F. van der, 1992. "Environmental policy, public finance and the labour market in a second-best world," Discussion Paper 1992-43, Tilburg University, Center for Economic Research.
  2. 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.
  3. Gaube, Thomas, 1998. "Distortionary Taxes Preserve the Environment," Discussion Paper Serie A 579, University of Bonn, Germany.
  4. Don Fullerton & Gilbert Metcalf, 1997. "Environmental Controls, Scarcity Rents, and Pre-Existing Distortions," NBER Working Papers 6091, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Lee, Dwight R. & Misiolek, Walter S., 1986. "Substituting pollution taxation for general taxation: Some implications for efficiency in pollutions taxation," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 13(4), pages 338-347, December.
  6. Ronnie Schöb, 1997. "Environmental Taxes and Pre-Existing Distortions: The Normalization Trap," International Tax and Public Finance, Springer, vol. 4(2), pages 167-176, May.
  7. Don Fullerton & Inkee Hong & Gilbert E. Metcalf, 2001. "A Tax on Output of the Polluting Industry Is Not a Tax on Pollution: The Importance of Hitting the Target," NBER Chapters, in: Behavioral and Distributional Effects of Environmental Policy, pages 13-44 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. 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.
  9. Fullerton, Don, 1997. "Environmental Levies and Distortionary Taxes: Comment," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 87(1), pages 245-51, March.
  10. Atkinson, Anthony B & Stern, N H, 1974. "Pigou, Taxation and Public Goods," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 41(1), pages 119-28, January.
  11. Arnold C. Harberger, 1962. "The Incidence of the Corporation Income Tax," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 70, pages 215.
  12. 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.
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Cited by:
  1. Fullerton, Don & Kim, Seung-Rae, 2008. "Environmental investment and policy with distortionary taxes, and endogenous growth," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 56(2), pages 141-154, September.
  2. Parry, Ian & Small, Kenneth, 2002. "Does Britain or the United States Have the Right Gasoline Tax?," Discussion Papers dp-02-12-, Resources For the Future.
  3. Gonzalez, Fidel, 2012. "Distributional effects of carbon taxes: The case of Mexico," Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 34(6), pages 2102-2115.
  4. Hoel , Michael, 2008. "Environmental Taxes in an Economy with Distorting Taxes and a Heterogeneous Population," Memorandum 04/2008, Oslo University, Department of Economics.
  5. Kurtyka, Oliwia & Mahenc, Philippe, 2011. "The switching effect of environmental taxation within Bertrand differentiated duopoly," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 62(2), pages 267-277, September.
  6. Heutel, Garth, 2011. "Plant vintages, grandfathering, and environmental policy," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 61(1), pages 36-51, January.
  7. Lynne Pepall & Daniel Richards, 2000. "Merger Wars: Bidding for Complementary Assets," Discussion Papers Series, Department of Economics, Tufts University 0020, Department of Economics, Tufts University.
  8. Goel, Rajeev K. & Hsieh, Edward W.T., 2006. "On coordinating environmental policy and technology policy," Journal of Policy Modeling, Elsevier, vol. 28(8), pages 897-908, November.
  9. Ronnie Schöb, 2003. "The Double Dividend Hypothesis of Environmental Taxes: A Survey," CESifo Working Paper Series 946, CESifo Group Munich.
  10. Taheripour, Farzad & Khanna, Madhu & Nelson, Charles, 2005. "Welfare Impacts of Alternative Public Policies for Environmental Protection in Agriculture in an Open Economy: A General Equilibrium Framework," 2005 Annual meeting, July 24-27, Providence, RI 19317, American Agricultural Economics Association (New Name 2008: Agricultural and Applied Economics Association).
  11. Saveyn, Bert & Van Regemorter, Denise & Ciscar, Juan Carlos, 2011. "Economic analysis of the climate pledges of the Copenhagen Accord for the EU and other major countries," Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 33(S1), pages S34-S40.

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