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Green Taxes and Administrative Costs: The Case of Carbon Taxation

In: Behavioral and Distributional Effects of Environmental Policy


  • Sjak Smulders
  • Herman R. J. Vollebergh


This paper explores the trade-off between incentive effects and administrative costs associated with the implementation of various environmental tax instruments, with special reference to carbon taxes. In a simple model, we show under what conditions it is optimal to use input rather than emission taxes to internalize environmental externalities. Mixed tax regimes are also studied. If linkage of emissions to inputs is close, if abatement possibilities are costly, and if administrative costs of emission taxes are high, emission taxes should not be introduced. It is shown that these conditions directly apply to current tax policies toward CO2 emissions in several European countries that harness pre-existing energy taxes. First, there is a one-to-one correspondence between carbon content of energy and CO2 emissions. Second, only few possibilities exist to abate CO2 emissions separately. Third, energy excises allow to save on administrative costs. Broadening the carbon tax base by removing certain widely-used exemptions for energy production (and possibly adding emission taxes or abatement subsidies for selected industries) is likely to increase incentives for carbon reduction without significant additional administrative costs.
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  • Sjak Smulders & Herman R. J. Vollebergh, 2001. "Green Taxes and Administrative Costs: The Case of Carbon Taxation," NBER Chapters,in: Behavioral and Distributional Effects of Environmental Policy, pages 91-130 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberch:10606

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    6. Don Fullerton, 1996. "Why Have Separate Environmental Taxes?," NBER Chapters,in: Tax Policy and the Economy, Volume 10, pages 33-70 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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    10. Mitchell Polinsky, A. & Shavell, Steven, 1982. "Pigouvian taxation with administrative costs," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 19(3), pages 385-394, December.
    11. Don Fullerton & Ann Wolverton, 1997. "The Case for a Two-Part Instrument: Presumptive Tax and Environmental Subsidy," NBER Working Papers 5993, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    12. James M. Poterba, 1991. "Tax Policy to Combat Global Warming: On Designing a Carbon Tax," NBER Working Papers 3649, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    13. Stephen Smith, 1992. "Taxation and the environment: a survey," Fiscal Studies, Institute for Fiscal Studies, vol. 13(4), pages 21-57, January.
    14. Don Fullerton & Inkee Hong & Gilbert E. Metcalf, 2001. "A Tax on Output of the Polluting Industry Is Not a Tax on Pollution: The Importance of Hitting the Target," NBER Chapters,in: Behavioral and Distributional Effects of Environmental Policy, pages 13-44 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    15. Pearce, David W, 1991. "The Role of Carbon Taxes in Adjusting to Global Warming," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 101(407), pages 938-948, July.
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    Cited by:

    1. James Boyce & Matthew Riddle & Mark D. Brenner, 2005. "A Chinese Sky Trust? Distributional Impacts of Carbon charges and Revenue Recycling in China," Working Papers wp_brenner_riddle_boyce, Political Economy Research Institute, University of Massachusetts at Amherst.
    2. Brenner, Mark & Riddle, Matthew & Boyce, James K., 2007. "A Chinese sky trust?: Distributional impacts of carbon charges and revenue recycling in China," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 35(3), pages 1771-1784, March.
    3. Pope, Jeff & Owen, Anthony D., 2009. "Emission trading schemes: potential revenue effects, compliance costs and overall tax policy issues," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 37(11), pages 4595-4603, November.
    4. repec:eee:enepol:v:113:y:2018:i:c:p:239-248 is not listed on IDEAS
    5. DAUBANES Julien, 2009. "Changement climatique, instruments économiques et propositions pour un accord post-Kyoto : une synthèse," LERNA Working Papers 09.19.295, LERNA, University of Toulouse.
    6. Ben Youssef, Adel & Hammoudeh, Shawkat & Omri, Anis, 2016. "Simultaneity modeling analysis of the environmental Kuznets curve hypothesis," Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 60(C), pages 266-274.
    7. John Stranlund & Carlos Chávez, 2013. "Who should bear the administrative costs of an emissions tax?," Journal of Regulatory Economics, Springer, vol. 44(1), pages 53-79, August.
    8. Herman R. J. Vollebergh, 2005. "Should Energy Taxation “Go Dutch†?," ifo DICE Report, ifo Institute - Leibniz Institute for Economic Research at the University of Munich, vol. 3(1), pages 60-66, 04.
    9. Jan Pavel & Leoš Vítek, 2015. "Vyvolané náklady daňového systému v ČR
      [Compliance Costs of the Czech Tax System]
      ," Politická ekonomie, University of Economics, Prague, vol. 2015(3), pages 317-330.
    10. Vollebergh, Herman R.J., 2008. "Lessons from the polder: Energy tax design in The Netherlands from a climate change perspective," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 64(3), pages 660-672, January.
    11. Herman Vollebergh, 2004. "Lessons from the Polder: Is Dutch CO2-Taxation Optimal?," Working Papers 2004.6, Fondazione Eni Enrico Mattei.

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