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Externalities And Partial Tax Reform: Does It Make Sense To Tax Road Freight (But Not Passenger) Transport?

  • Edward Calthrop
  • Bruno De Borger
  • Stef Proost

Externalities such as pollution and road congestion are jointly produced by the use of intermediate inputs by firms and the consumption of final goods by households. To cope with such externalities, policy proposals often suggest partial tax reforms. This paper uses a simple general equilibrium model to explore the effects of a reform of taxes on freight transport in a second-best setting. The theoretical model shows that the welfare effect of higher freight taxes is positive, unless passenger transport is severely under-taxed and the tax reform attracts substantially more passenger transport. Moreover, the optimal freight tax may be below or above marginal external cost. Budgetary neutral tax reform exercises with a numerical simulation model for the U.K. suggest that, under a wide variety of parameter values, higher freight transport taxes are indeed welfare increasing. The welfare gain of freight tax reform rises with the level of the passenger tax, but the optimal freight tax declines at higher taxes on passenger transport. Substantial net benefits of tax reform are obtained only under labor tax recycling of the revenues. Copyright Blackwell Publishing, Inc. 2007

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Article provided by Wiley Blackwell in its journal Journal of Regional Science.

Volume (Year): 47 (2007)
Issue (Month): 4 ()
Pages: 721-752

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Handle: RePEc:bla:jregsc:v:47:y:2007:i:4:p:721-752
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  1. Richard Blundell & Thomas MaCurdy, 1998. "Labour supply: a review of alternative approaches," IFS Working Papers W98/18, Institute for Fiscal Studies.
  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. Small, Kenneth A., 2001. "The Value of Pricing," University of California Transportation Center, Working Papers qt0rm449sx, University of California Transportation Center.
  4. Parry, Ian W H & Bento, Antonio, 2001. " Revenue Recycling and the Welfare Effects of Road Pricing," Scandinavian Journal of Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 103(4), pages 645-71, December.
  5. DE BORGER, Bruno, . "Commuting, congestion tolls and noncompetitive labour markets: Optimal congestion pricing in a wage bargaining model," Working Papers 2006014, University of Antwerp, Faculty of Applied Economics.
  6. Richard Arnott, 2001. "The Economic Theory of Urban Traffic Congestion: A Microscopic Research Agenda," Boston College Working Papers in Economics 502, Boston College Department of Economics.
  7. Verhoef, Erik & Nijkamp, Peter & Rietveld, Piet, 1996. "Second-Best Congestion Pricing: The Case of an Untolled Alternative," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 40(3), pages 279-302, November.
  8. Kenneth A. Small & Clifford Winston & Jia Yan, 2005. "Uncovering the Distribution of Motorists' Preferences for Travel Time and Reliability," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 73(4), pages 1367-1382, 07.
  9. Small, Kenneth A. & Yan, Jia, 2001. "The Value of "Value Pricing" of Roads: Second-Best Pricing and Product Differentiation," University of California Transportation Center, Working Papers qt9569k1sz, University of California Transportation Center.
  10. Parry Ian W. H., 1995. "Pollution Taxes and Revenue Recycling," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 29(3), pages S64-S77, November.
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  12. Parry, Ian & Bento, Antonio, 2000. "Estimating the Welfare Effect of Congestion Taxes: The Critical Importance of Other Distortions within the Transport System," Discussion Papers dp-00-51, Resources For the Future.
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