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Optimal Control of Externalities in the Presence of Income Taxation

  • Louis Kaplow

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.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 12339.

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Date of creation: Jun 2006
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Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:12339
Note: LE PE
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  3. Maurice Marchand & Pierre Pestieau & María Racionero, 2003. "Optimal redistribution when different workers are indistinguishable," Canadian Journal of Economics, Canadian Economics Association, vol. 36(4), pages 911-922, November.
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  10. Sam Allgood & Arthur Snow, 1998. "The Marginal Cost of Raising Tax Revenue and Redistributing Income," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 106(6), pages 1246-1273, December.
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  12. Bovenberg, A.L. & de Mooij, R.A., 1994. "Environmental levies and distortionary taxation," Other publications TiSEM 4b32deaa-ec2f-4de7-b59b-9, School of Economics and Management.
  13. Sarah E. West & Roberton C. Williams, 2004. "Empirical Estimates for Environmental Policy Making in a Second-Best Setting," NBER Working Papers 10330, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  19. Mirrlees, J. A., 1976. "Optimal tax theory : A synthesis," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 6(4), pages 327-358, November.
  20. Naito, Hisahiro, 1999. "Re-examination of uniform commodity taxes under a non-linear income tax system and its implication for production efficiency," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 71(2), pages 165-188, February.
  21. Kaplow, Louis, 2006. "On the undesirability of commodity taxation even when income taxation is not optimal," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 90(6-7), pages 1235-1250, August.
  22. Louis Kaplow, 2004. "On the (Ir)Relevance of Distribution and Labor Supply Distortion to Government Policy," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 18(4), pages 159-175, Fall.
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  24. Emmanuel Saez, 2000. "The Desirability of Commodity Taxation under Non-Linear Income Taxation and Heterogeneous Tastes," NBER Working Papers 8029, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  25. Cremer, Helmuth & Gahvari, Firouz & Ladoux, Norbert, 1998. "Externalities and optimal taxation," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 70(3), pages 343-364, December.
  26. Cordes, Joseph J. & Nicholson, Eric & Sammartino, Frank, 1990. "Raising Revenue by Taxing Activities with Social Costs," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association, vol. 43(3), pages 343-56, September.
  27. Ballard, Charles L. & Medema, Steven G., 1993. "The marginal efficiency effects of taxes and subsidies in the presence of externalities : A computational general equilibrium approach," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 52(2), pages 199-216, September.
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