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Optimal Control of Externalities in the Presence of Income Taxation

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  • Louis Kaplow

Abstract

A substantial literature examines second-best environmental policy, focusing particularly on how the Pigouvian directive that marginal taxes should equal marginal external harms needs to be modified in light of the preexisting distortion due to labor income taxation. Additional literature is motivated by the possibility that distributive concerns should amend the internalization prescription. It is demonstrated, however, that simple first-best rules %u2013 unmodified for labor supply distortion or distribution %u2013 are correct in a natural, basic formulation of the problem. Specifically, setting all commodity taxes equal to marginal harms (and subsidies equal to marginal benefits) can generate a Pareto improvement. Likewise, a marginal reform in the direction of the first-best can yield a Pareto improvement. For other reforms, a simple efficiency test characterizing when a Pareto improvement is possible is offered. Qualifications and explanations for the substantial departure from results in previous work are also elaborated.

Suggested Citation

  • Louis Kaplow, 2006. "Optimal Control of Externalities in the Presence of Income Taxation," NBER Working Papers 12339, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:12339
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Bas Jacobs & Rick van der Ploeg, 2010. "Precautionary Climate Change Policies and Optimal Redistribution," OxCarre Working Papers 049, Oxford Centre for the Analysis of Resource Rich Economies, University of Oxford.
    2. Raj Chetty & Emmanuel Saez, 2007. "An Agency Theory of Dividend Taxation," NBER Working Papers 13538, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Louis Kaplow, 2008. "Optimal Policy with Heterogeneous Preferences," NBER Working Papers 14170, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. James R. Hines Jr., 2007. "Taxing Consumption and Other Sins," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 21(1), pages 49-68, Winter.
    5. Hoffmann, Florian & Inderst, Roman & Moslener, Ulf, 2013. "Taxing Externalities under Financing Constraints," MPRA Paper 53855, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    6. Claus Thustrup Kreiner & Nicolaj Verdelin, 2012. "Optimal Provision of Public Goods: A Synthesis," Scandinavian Journal of Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 114(2), pages 384-408, June.
    7. Gauthier, Stéphane & Laroque, Guy, 2009. "Separability and public finance," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 93(11-12), pages 1168-1174, December.
    8. Antonio Russo, 2015. "Pricing of Transport Networks, Redistribution, and Optimal Taxation," Journal of Public Economic Theory, Association for Public Economic Theory, vol. 17(5), pages 605-640, October.
    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.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D61 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Allocative Efficiency; Cost-Benefit Analysis
    • D62 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Externalities
    • D63 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Equity, Justice, Inequality, and Other Normative Criteria and Measurement
    • H21 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - Efficiency; Optimal Taxation
    • H23 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - Externalities; Redistributive Effects; Environmental Taxes and Subsidies
    • K32 - Law and Economics - - Other Substantive Areas of Law - - - Energy, Environmental, Health, and Safety Law

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