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Tax evasion and optimal environmental taxes


  • Liu, Antung Anthony


This paper introduces a new argument to the debate about the role of environmental taxes in modern tax systems. Some environmental taxes, particularly taxes on gasoline or electricity, are more difficult to evade than taxes on labor or income. When the tax base is shifted in a revenue-neutral manner toward these environmental taxes, the result is a net reduction in the amount of tax evasion. Using a carbon tax as a motivating example, the “tax evasion effect” is shown to sharply reduce the welfare cost of controlling emissions. A simple computable general equilibrium model suggests that the impact of considering tax evasion can be large: costs are lowered by 28% in the United States, by 89% in China, and by 97% in India. In countries with high levels of pre-existing tax evasion, a carbon tax will pay for itself through improvements in the efficiency of the tax system.

Suggested Citation

  • Liu, Antung Anthony, 2013. "Tax evasion and optimal environmental taxes," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 66(3), pages 656-670.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:jeeman:v:66:y:2013:i:3:p:656-670
    DOI: 10.1016/j.jeem.2013.06.004

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Munnings, Clayton & Morgenstern, Richard D. & Wang, Zhongmin & Liu, Xu, 2016. "Assessing the design of three carbon trading pilot programs in China," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 96(C), pages 688-699.
    2. Jun E Rentschler & Nobuhiro Hosoe, 2017. "Illicit dealings: Fossil fuel subsidy reforms and the role of tax evasion and smuggling," GRIPS Discussion Papers 17-05, National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies.
    3. Chu, Hsun & Lai, Ching-chong & Liao, Chih-hsing, 2016. "A Note On Environment-Dependent Time Preferences," Macroeconomic Dynamics, Cambridge University Press, vol. 20(06), pages 1652-1667, September.
    4. Kalkuhl, Matthias & Fernandez Milan, Blanca & Schwerhoff, Gregor & Jakob, Michael & Hahnen, Maren & Creutzig, Felix, 2017. "Fiscal Instruments for Sustainable Development: The Case of Land Taxes," MPRA Paper 78652, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    5. Jan Siegmeier & Linus Mattauch & Max Franks & David Klenert & Anselm Schultes & Ottmar Edenhofer, 2015. "A Public Finance Perspective on Climate Policy: Six Interactions That May Enhance Welfare," Working Papers 2015.31, Fondazione Eni Enrico Mattei.
    6. Maria Chistyakova & Philippe Mahenc, 2015. "Free-Riding on Environmental Taxation," CEEES Paper Series CE3S-02/15, European University at St. Petersburg, Department of Economics.
    7. Garth Heutel & David L. Kelly, 2016. "Incidence, Environmental, and Welfare Effects of Distortionary Subsidies," Journal of the Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, University of Chicago Press, vol. 3(2), pages 361-415.
    8. Munnings, Clayton & Morgenstern, Richard & Wang, Zhongmin & Liu, Xu, 2014. "Assessing the Design of Three Pilot Programs for Carbon Trading in China," Discussion Papers dp-14-36, Resources For the Future.
    9. Jacobs, Bas & de Mooij, Ruud A., 2015. "Pigou meets Mirrlees: On the irrelevance of tax distortions for the second-best Pigouvian tax," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 71(C), pages 90-108.
    10. Bak, Céline & Bhattacharya, Amar & Edenhofer, Ottmar & Knopf, Brigitte, 2017. "Towards a comprehensive approach to climate policy, sustainable infrastructure, and finance," Economics - The Open-Access, Open-Assessment E-Journal, Kiel Institute for the World Economy (IfW), vol. 11, pages 1-13.


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