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Optimal Environmental Taxation in the Presence of Other Taxes: General-Equilibrium Analyses

  • Bovenberg, A Lans
  • Goulder, Lawrence H

This paper examines the optimal setting of environmental taxes in economies where other, distortionary taxes are present. We employ analytical and numerical models to explore the degree to which, in a second best economy, optimal environmental tax rates differ from the rates implied by the Pigovian principle (according to which the optimal tax rate equals the marginal environmental damages). Both models indicate, contrary to what several analysts have suggested, that the optimal tax rate on emissions of a given pollutant is generally less than the rate supported by the Pigovian principle. Moreover, the optimal rate is lower the larger are the distortions posed by ordinary taxes. Numerical results indicate that previous studies may have seriously overstated the size of the optimal carbon tax by disregarding pre-existing taxes.

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Article provided by American Economic Association in its journal American Economic Review.

Volume (Year): 86 (1996)
Issue (Month): 4 (September)
Pages: 985-1000

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Handle: RePEc:aea:aecrev:v:86:y:1996:i:4:p:985-1000
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  1. Alan Manne & Richard Richels, 1992. "Buying Greenhouse Insurance: The Economic Costs of CO2 Emission Limits," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 026213280x, June.
  2. Charles L. Ballard & Don Fullerton, 1992. "Distortionary Taxes and the Provision of Public Goods," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 6(3), pages 117-131, Summer.
  3. Goulder Lawrence H., 1995. "Effects of Carbon Taxes in an Economy with Prior Tax Distortions: An Intertemporal General Equilibrium Analysis," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 29(3), pages 271-297, November.
  4. 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.
  5. Auerbach, Alan J., 1985. "The theory of excess burden and optimal taxation," Handbook of Public Economics, in: A. J. Auerbach & M. Feldstein (ed.), Handbook of Public Economics, edition 1, volume 1, chapter 2, pages 61-127 Elsevier.
  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. James M. Poterba, 1993. "Global Warming Policy: A Public Finance Perspective," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 7(4), pages 47-63, Fall.
  8. James M. Poterba & Lawrence H. Summers, 1984. "The Economic Effects of Dividend Taxation," Working papers 343, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Department of Economics.
  9. Bovenberg, A Lans & van der Ploeg, Frederick, 1992. "Environmental Policy, Public Finance and the Labour Market in a Second-best World," CEPR Discussion Papers 745, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  10. Pearce, David W, 1991. "The Role of Carbon Taxes in Adjusting to Global Warming," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 101(407), pages 938-48, July.
  11. Stephen C Peck & Thomas J. Teisberg, 1992. "CETA: A Model for Carbon Emissions Trajectory Assessment," The Energy Journal, International Association for Energy Economics, vol. 0(Number 1), pages 55-78.
  12. 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.
  13. John P. Weyant, 1993. "Costs of Reducing Global Carbon Emissions," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 7(4), pages 27-46, Fall.
  14. Revesz, Richard L. & Stavins, Robert N., 2007. "Environmental Law," Handbook of Law and Economics, Elsevier.
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