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Environmental Tax Reform: Principles from Theory and Practice


  • Ian W.H. Parry

    () (Fiscal Affairs Department, International Monetary Fund, Washington, DC 20431)

  • John Norregaard

    (Fiscal Affairs Department, International Monetary Fund, Washington, DC 20431)

  • Dirk Heine

    (E3 Foundation, Cambridge CB5 8AF, United Kingdom)


On the basis of the environmental tax literature, this article recommends a system of upstream taxes on fossil fuels, combined with refunds for downstream emissions capture, to reduce carbon and local pollution emissions. Motor fuel taxes should also account for congestion and other externalities associated with vehicle use, at least until mileage-based taxes are widely introduced. An examination of existing energy/environmental tax systems in Germany, Sweden, Turkey, and Vietnam suggests that there is substantial scope for policy reform. Policy options include harmonizing taxes for pollution content across different fuels and end users, better aligning tax rates with (albeit crude) values for externalities, and scaling back excise taxes on vehicle ownership and electricity use that are redundant (on environmental grounds) in the presence of more targeted taxes.

Suggested Citation

  • Ian W.H. Parry & John Norregaard & Dirk Heine, 2012. "Environmental Tax Reform: Principles from Theory and Practice," Annual Review of Resource Economics, Annual Reviews, vol. 4(1), pages 101-125, August.
  • Handle: RePEc:anr:reseco:v:4:y:2012:p:101-125

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Austin, David & Dinan, Terry, 2005. "Clearing the air: The costs and consequences of higher CAFE standards and increased gasoline taxes," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 50(3), pages 562-582, November.
    2. Christopher R. Knittel, 2011. "Automobiles on Steroids: Product Attribute Trade-Offs and Technological Progress in the Automobile Sector," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 101(7), pages 3368-3399, December.
    3. Rubin, Jonathan & Leiby, Paul N. & Greene, David L., 2009. "Tradable fuel economy credits: Competition and oligopoly," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 58(3), pages 315-328, November.
    4. Shanjun Li, 2012. "Traffic safety and vehicle choice: quantifying the effects of the ‘arms race’ on American roads," Journal of Applied Econometrics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 27(1), pages 34-62, January.
    5. Thomas Klier & Joshua Linn, 2012. "New‐vehicle characteristics and the cost of the Corporate Average Fuel Economy standard," RAND Journal of Economics, RAND Corporation, vol. 43(1), pages 186-213, March.
    6. Antonio M. Bento & Lawrence H. Goulder & Mark R. Jacobsen & Roger H. von Haefen, 2009. "Distributional and Efficiency Impacts of Increased US Gasoline Taxes," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 99(3), pages 667-699, June.
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    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.

    Cited by:

    1. World Bank, 2014. "Restructuring Corporate Income Tax and Value Added Tax in Vietnam : An Analysis of Current Changes and Agenda for the Future," World Bank Other Operational Studies 17832, The World Bank.
    2. Milan Ščasný & Emanuele Massetti & Jan Melichar & Samuel Carrara, 2015. "Quantifying the Ancillary Benefits of the Representative Concentration Pathways on Air Quality in Europe," Environmental & Resource Economics, Springer;European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 62(2), pages 383-415, October.
    3. Santos, Georgina, 2017. "Road fuel taxes in Europe: Do they internalize road transport externalities?," Transport Policy, Elsevier, vol. 53(C), pages 120-134.
    4. Alberto Gago & Xavier Labandeira & Xiral López Otero, 2014. "A Panorama on Energy Taxes and Green Tax Reforms," Hacienda Pública Española, IEF, vol. 208(1), pages 145-190, March.
    5. Paul J. Burke, 2014. "Green Pricing in the Asia Pacific: An Idea Whose Time Has Come?," Asia and the Pacific Policy Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 1(3), pages 561-575, September.
    6. Suphi Sen & Herman R. J. Vollebergh, 2016. "The Effectiveness of Taxing Carbon Content of Energy Consumption," CESifo Working Paper Series 6003, CESifo Group Munich.
    7. Schleiniger, Reto, 2016. "Implicit CO2 prices of fossil fuel use in Switzerland," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 96(C), pages 411-420.
    8. Hagem, Cathrine & Hoel, Michael & Holtsmark, Bjart & Sterner, Thomas, 2015. "Refunding Emissions Payments," Discussion Papers dp-15-05, Resources For the Future.

    More about this item


    environmental taxes; design principles; externalities; fuel taxes; country evaluation;

    JEL classification:

    • H23 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - Externalities; Redistributive Effects; Environmental Taxes and Subsidies
    • Q38 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Nonrenewable Resources and Conservation - - - Government Policy (includes OPEC Policy)
    • Q48 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Energy - - - Government Policy
    • Q58 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Environmental Economics: Government Policy


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