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The Design of a Carbon Tax

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  • Gilbert Metcalf
  • David Weisbach

Abstract

We consider the design of a tax on greenhouse gas emissions for a developed country such as the United States. We consider three sets of issues: the optimal tax base, issues relating to the rate (including the use of the revenues and rate changes over time) and trade. We show that a well-designed carbon tax can capture about 80% of U.S. emissions by taxing fewer than 3,000 taxpayers and up to almost 90% with a modest additional cost. We recommend full or partial delegation of rate setting authority to an agency to ensure that rates reflect new information about the costs of carbon emmissions and of abatement. Adjustments should be made to the income tax to ensure that a carbon tax is revenue neutral and distributionally neutral. Finally, we propose an origin-based system for trades with countries that have an adequate carbon tax. We suggest a system that imposes presumptive border tax adjustments with the ability of an individual firm to prove that a different rate should apply. The presumptive tax could be based either on average emissions for production of the item by the exporting country or by the importing country.

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File URL: http://ase.tufts.edu/econ/research/documents/2008/metcalfCarbonTax.pdf
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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 0728.

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Date of creation: 2008
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Handle: RePEc:tuf:tuftec:0728

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Web page: http://ase.tufts.edu/econ

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References

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  1. Hassett, Kevin A. & Metcalf, Gilbert E., 1995. "Energy tax credits and residential conservation investment: Evidence from panel data," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 57(2), pages 201-217, June.
  2. Louis Kaplow, 2004. "On the Undesirability of Commodity Taxation Even When Income Taxation is Not Optimal," NBER Working Papers 10407, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Louis Kaplow & Steven Shavell, 1999. "Economic Analysis of Law," NBER Working Papers 6960, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Mitchell Polinsky, A. & Shavell, Steven, 1982. "Pigouvian taxation with administrative costs," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 19(3), pages 385-394, December.
  5. Gilbert E. Metcalf, 2006. "Federal Tax Policy Towards Energy," NBER Working Papers 12568, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Bovenberg, A. Lans & Goulder, Lawrence H., 2002. "Environmental taxation and regulation," Handbook of Public Economics, in: A. J. Auerbach & M. Feldstein (ed.), Handbook of Public Economics, edition 1, volume 3, chapter 23, pages 1471-1545 Elsevier.
  7. Hoel, Michael & Karp, Larry, 2002. "Taxes versus quotas for a stock pollutant," Resource and Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 24(4), pages 367-384, November.
  8. Amy Finkelstein, 2007. "E-ZTax: Tax Salience and Tax Rates," NBER Working Papers 12924, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. 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.
  10. M. L. Weitzman, 1973. "Prices vs. Quantities," Working papers 106, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Department of Economics.
  11. Curtis Carlson & Gilbert Metcalf, 2008. "Energy Tax Incentives and the Alternative Minimum Tax," Discussion Papers Series, Department of Economics, Tufts University 0722, Department of Economics, Tufts University.
  12. Kevin A. Hassett & Aparna Mathur & Gilbert E. Metcalf, 2009. "The Incidence of a U.S. Carbon Tax: A Lifetime and Regional Analysis," The Energy Journal, International Association for Energy Economics, vol. 0(Number 2), pages 155-178.
  13. Ellerman,A. Denny & Buchner,Barbara K. & Carraro,Carlo (ed.), 2007. "Allocation in the European Emissions Trading Scheme," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521875684, October.
  14. Annegrete Bruvoll & Bodil Merethe Larsen, 2002. "Greenhouse gas emissions in Norway Do carbon taxes work?," Discussion Papers 337, Research Department of Statistics Norway.
  15. Kevin A. Hassett & Gilbert E. Metcalf, 1995. "Energy Tax Credits and Residential Conservation Investment," NBER Working Papers 4020, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  16. Gilbert E. Metcalf & Sergey Paltsev & John Reilly & Henry Jacoby & Jennifer F. Holak, 2008. "Analysis of U.S. Greenhouse Gas Tax Proposals," NBER Working Papers 13980, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  17. Baranzini, Andrea & Goldemberg, Jose & Speck, Stefan, 2000. "A future for carbon taxes," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 32(3), pages 395-412, March.
  18. Corrado Maria & Edwin Werf, 2008. "Carbon leakage revisited: unilateral climate policy with directed technical change," Environmental & Resource Economics, European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 39(2), pages 55-74, February.
  19. Ian W. H. Parry & Kenneth A. Small, 2005. "Does Britain or the United States Have the Right Gasoline Tax?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 95(4), pages 1276-1289, September.
  20. Raj Chetty & Adam Looney & Kory Kroft, 2009. "Salience and Taxation: Theory and Evidence," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 99(4), pages 1145-77, September.
  21. Ekins, Paul & Barker, Terry, 2001. " Carbon Taxes and Carbon Emissions Trading," Journal of Economic Surveys, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 15(3), pages 325-76, July.
  22. Sergey Paltsev & John M. Reilly & Henry D. Jacoby & Angelo C. Gurgel & Gilbert E. Metcalf & Andrei P. Sokolov & Jennifer F. Holak, 2007. "Assessment of U.S. Cap-and-Trade Proposals," NBER Working Papers 13176, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  23. Atkinson, A. B. & Stiglitz, J. E., 1976. "The design of tax structure: Direct versus indirect taxation," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 6(1-2), pages 55-75.
  24. Bovenberg, A.L. & Mooij, R.A. de, 1994. "Environmental levies and distortionary taxation," Open Access publications from Tilburg University urn:nbn:nl:ui:12-152985, Tilburg University.
  25. Gilbert Metcalf, 2007. "Policy Options for Controlling Greenhouse Gas Emissions: Implications for Agriculture," Discussion Papers Series, Department of Economics, Tufts University 0710, Department of Economics, Tufts University.
  26. Larry Karp & Jiangfeng Zhang, 2005. "Regulation of Stock Externalities with Correlated Abatement Costs," Environmental & Resource Economics, European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 32(2), pages 273-300, October.
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Citations

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Cited by:
  1. Arik Levinson, 2011. "Belts and Suspenders: Interactions among Climate Policy Regulations," NBER Chapters, in: The Design and Implementation of U.S. Climate Policy, pages 127-140 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Erin T. Mansur, 2010. "Upstream versus Downstream Implementation of Climate Policy," NBER Working Papers 16116, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Liu, Antung Anthony, 2013. "Tax evasion and optimal environmental taxes," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 66(3), pages 656-670.
  4. Gary D. Libecap, 2013. "Addressing Global Environmental Externalities: Transaction Costs Considerations," NBER Working Papers 19501, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Ley, Eduardo & Boccardo, Jessica, 2010. "The taxation of motor fuel : international comparison," Policy Research Working Paper Series 5212, The World Bank.
  6. Gilbert E. Metcalf, 2009. "Market-Based Policy Options to Control U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 23(2), pages 5-27, Spring.
  7. Kathy Baylis & Don Fullerton & Daniel H. Karney, 2013. "Leakage, Welfare, and Cost-Effectiveness of Carbon Policy," NBER Working Papers 18898, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Gilbert E. Metcalf, 2009. "Designing a Carbon Tax to Reduce U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions," Review of Environmental Economics and Policy, Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 3(1), pages 63-83, Winter.
  9. Liu, Antung Anthony, 2012. "Tax Evasion and Optimal Environmental Taxes," Discussion Papers dp-12-37, Resources For the Future.
  10. Alfredo Marvão Pereira & Rui M. Pereira, 2014. "What is it going to take to achieve 2020 Emission Targets? Marginal abatement cost curves and the budgetary impact of CO2 taxation in Portugal (," Working Papers 105, Department of Economics, College of William and Mary.
  11. Alfredo Marvão Pereira & Rui M. Pereira, 2013. "Environmental Fiscal Reform and Fiscal Consolidation: The Quest for the Third Dividend in Portugal," Working Papers 114, Department of Economics, College of William and Mary.
  12. Panzone, Luca A., 2013. "Saving money vs investing money: Do energy ratings influence consumer demand for energy efficient goods?," Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 38(C), pages 51-63.
  13. Joshua Elliott & Ian Foster & Samuel Kortum & Todd Munson & Fernando Pérez Cervantes & David Weisbach, 2010. "Trade and Carbon Taxes," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 100(2), pages 465-69, May.

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