Fuel tax incidence in developing countries: The case of Costa Rica
Although fuel taxes are a practical means of curbing vehicular air pollution, congestion, and accidents in developing countries--all of which are typically major problems--they are often opposed on distributional grounds. Yet few studies have investigated fuel tax incidence in a developing country context. We use household survey data and income-outcome coefficients to analyze fuel tax incidence in Costa Rica. We find that the effect of a 10% fuel price hike through direct spending on gasoline would be progressive, its effect through spending on diesel--both directly and via bus transportation--would be regressive (mainly because poorer households rely heavily on buses), and its effect through spending on goods other than fuel and bus transportation would be relatively small, albeit regressive. Finally, we find that the overall effect of a 10% fuel price hike through all types of direct and indirect spending would be neutral and the magnitude of this combined effect would be modest. We conclude that distributional concerns need not rule out using fuel taxes to address pressing public health and safety problems, particularly if gasoline and diesel taxes can be differentiated.
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