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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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  8. MARCHAND, Maurice & PESTIEAU, Pierre & DEL MAR RACIONERO, Maria, 2003. "Optimal redistribution when different workers are indistinguishable," CORE Discussion Papers 2003018, Université catholique de Louvain, Center for Operations Research and Econometrics (CORE).
  9. Bovenberg, A. Lans & Goulder, Lawrence H., 2002. "Environmental taxation and regulation," Handbook of Public Economics, in: A. J. Auerbach & M. Feldstein (ed.), Handbook of Public Economics, edition 1, volume 3, chapter 23, pages 1471-1545 Elsevier.
  10. 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.
  11. Bovenberg, A.L. & de Mooij, R.A., 1994. "Environmental levies and distortionary taxation," Other publications TiSEM 4b32deaa-ec2f-4de7-b59b-9, Tilburg University, School of Economics and Management.
  12. Hylland, Aanund & Zeckhauser, Richard, 1979. " Distributional Objectives Should Affect Taxes but not Program Choice or Design," Scandinavian Journal of Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 81(2), pages 264-84.
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  16. Louis Kaplow, 2004. "On the Undesirability of Commodity Taxation Even When Income Taxation is Not Optimal," NBER Working Papers 10407, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  17. Saez, Emmanuel, 2004. "Direct or indirect tax instruments for redistribution: short-run versus long-run," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 88(3-4), pages 503-518, March.
  18. Atkinson, A. B. & Stiglitz, J. E., 1976. "The design of tax structure: Direct versus indirect taxation," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 6(1-2), pages 55-75.
  19. Cremer, Helmuth & Pestieau, Pierre & Rochet, Jean-Charles, 2001. "Direct versus Indirect Taxation: The Design of the Tax Structure Revisted," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 42(3), pages 781-99, August.
  20. Casler, Stephen D. & Rafiqui, Aisha, 1993. "Evaluating Fuel Tax Equity: Direct and Indirect Distributional Effects," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association, vol. 46(2), pages 197-205, June.
  21. 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.
  22. Sarah E. West & Roberton C. Williams III, 2004. "Empirical Estimates for Environmental Policy Making in a Second- Best Setting," Public Economics 0402005, EconWPA.
  23. Bovenberg, A Lans & de Mooij, Ruud A, 1997. "Environmental Levies and Distortionary Taxation: Reply," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 87(1), pages 252-53, March.
  24. West, Sarah E., 2004. "Distributional effects of alternative vehicle pollution control policies," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 88(3-4), pages 735-757, March.
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  26. 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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