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The tax treatment of company cars, commuting and optimal congestion taxes


  • DE BORGER, Bruno
  • WUYTS, Bart


In Europe, the preferential tax treatment of company cars implies that many employees receive a company car as part of their compensation package. In this paper, we consider a model in which wages and the decision whether or not to provide a company car are the result of direct negotiation between employer and employee. Using this framework, we theoretically and numerically study first- and second-best optimal tax policies on labour and transport markets, focusing on the role of the tax treatment of company cars. We show that higher labour taxes and a more favourable tax treatment of company cars raise the fraction employees that receives a company car; congestion and congestion tolls reduce it. More importantly, we find that earlier models that ignored the preferential tax treatment of company cars may have substantially underestimated optimal congestion tolls in Europe. The numerical illustration, calibrated using Belgian data, suggests that about one third of the optimal congestion toll is due to the current tax treatment of company cars. We further find that eliminating the preferential tax treatment of company cars is an imperfect -- but easy to implement -- substitute for currently unavailable congestion tolls: it yields about half the welfare gain attainable through optimal congestion taxes. Finally, the favourable tax treatment of company cars justifies large public transport subsidies; the numerical results are consistent with zero public transport fares.

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  • DE BORGER, Bruno & WUYTS, Bart, 2010. "The tax treatment of company cars, commuting and optimal congestion taxes," Working Papers 2010017, University of Antwerp, Faculty of Applied Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:ant:wpaper:2010017

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. DE BORGER, Bruno & GLAZER, Amihai, 2010. "Subsidizing consumption to signal quality of workers," Working Papers 2010016, University of Antwerp, Faculty of Applied Economics.
    2. Long, James E & Scott, Frank A, 1982. "The Income Tax and Nonwage Compensation," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 64(2), pages 211-219, May.
    3. Clotfelter, Charles T, 1983. "Tax-Induced Distortions and the Business-Pleasure Borderline: The Case of Travel and Entertainment," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 73(5), pages 1053-1065, December.
    4. Eva Gutiérrez-i-Puigarnau & Jos van Ommeren, 2007. "Welfare Effects of Distortionary Company Car Taxation," Tinbergen Institute Discussion Papers 07-060/3, Tinbergen Institute, revised 20 Mar 2009.
    5. Zax, Jeffrey S., 1988. "Fringe benefits, income tax exemptions, and implicit subsides," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 37(2), pages 171-183, November.
    6. Copenhagen Economics, 2010. "Company Car Taxation," Taxation Papers 22, Directorate General Taxation and Customs Union, European Commission.
    7. Gerard de Jong & Hugh Gunn, 2001. "Recent Evidence on Car Cost and Time Elasticities of Travel Demand in Europe," Journal of Transport Economics and Policy, University of Bath, vol. 35(2), pages 137-160, May.
    8. Hashimoto, Masanori & Zhao, Jingang, 2000. "The labor market effects of non-wage compensations," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 7(1), pages 55-78, January.
    9. 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 645-671, December.
    10. DE BORGER, Bruno, "undated". "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.
    11. repec:ucp:bkecon:9781884829987 is not listed on IDEAS
    12. Royalty, Anne Beeson, 2000. "Tax preferences for fringe benefits and workers' eligibility for employer health insurance," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 75(2), pages 209-227, February.
    13. Jos van Ommeren & Arno van der Vlist & Peter Nijkamp, 2006. "Transport-Related Fringe Benefits: Implications For Moving And The Journey To Work," Journal of Regional Science, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 46(3), pages 493-506.
    14. David Bernstein, 2002. "Fringe benefits and small businesses: evidence from the federal reserve board small business survey," Applied Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 34(16), pages 2063-2067.
    15. Kurt Van Dender, 2003. "Transport Taxes with Multiple Trip Purposes," Scandinavian Journal of Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 105(2), pages 295-310, June.
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    Cited by:

    1. Fetene, Gebeyehu M. & Hirte, Georg & Kaplan, Sigal & Prato, Carlo G. & Tscharaktschiew, Stefan, 2016. "The economics of workplace charging," Transportation Research Part B: Methodological, Elsevier, vol. 88(C), pages 93-118.
    2. Eren Inci & Jos N. van Ommeren & Martijn Kobus, 2015. "The External Cruising Costs of Parking," Tinbergen Institute Discussion Papers 15-117/VIII, Tinbergen Institute.
    3. Bruno De Borger & Stef Proost, 2015. " Tax and regulatory policies for European Transport – getting there, but in the slow lane," Working Papers Department of Economics 497597, KU Leuven, Faculty of Economics and Business, Department of Economics.
    4. Jos Ommeren & Eva Gutiérrez-i-Puigarnau, 2013. "Distortionary company car taxation: deadweight losses through increased car ownership," Empirical Economics, Springer, vol. 45(3), pages 1189-1204, December.
    5. DE BORGER, Bruno & GLAZER, Amihai, 2010. "Subsidizing consumption to signal quality of workers," Working Papers 2010016, University of Antwerp, Faculty of Applied Economics.
    6. Benoît Laine & Alex Van Steenbergen, 2016. "Working Paper 03-16 - The fiscal treatment of company cars in Belgium: effects on car demand, travel behaviour and external costs," Working Papers 1603, Federal Planning Bureau, Belgium.
    7. Georg Hirte & Stefan Tscharaktschiew, 2015. "Why not to choose the most convenient labor supply model? The impact of labor supply modeling on policy evaluation," ERSA conference papers ersa15p303, European Regional Science Association.
    8. Nijland, Linda & Dijst, Martin, 2015. "Commuting-related fringe benefits in the Netherlands: Interrelationships and company, employee and location characteristics," Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice, Elsevier, vol. 77(C), pages 358-371.

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