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Environmental Taxation and the "Double Dividend:" A Reader's Guide

  • Lawrence H. Goulder
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    In recent years there has been great interest in the possibility of substituting environmentally motivated or 'green' taxes for ordinary income taxes. Some have suggested that such revenue-neutral reforms might offer a 'double dividend:' not only (1) improve the environment but also (2) reduce certain costs of the tax system. This paper articulates different notions of 'double dividend' and examines the theoretical and empirical evidence for each. It also draws connections between the double dividend issue and principles of optimal environmetal taxation in a second-best setting. A weak double dividend claim is that returning tax revenues through cuts in distortionary taxes leads to cost savings relative to the case where revenues are returned lump sum. This claim is easily defended on theoretical grounds and (thankfully) receives wide support from numerical simulations.The stronger versions contend that revenue-neutral swaps of environmental taxes for ordinary distortionary taxes involve zero or negative gross costs.Analyses numerical results tend to cast doubt on the strong double dividend claim.Yet the theoretical case against the strong form is not air-tight, and numerical dividend claim is dividend claim is rejected (upheld) are related to the conditions where the second-best optimal environmental tax is less than (greater than) the marginal environmental damages.The difficulty of establishing a strong double dividend claim heightens the importance of attending to and evaluating the (environmental) benefits from environmental taxes.

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    File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w4896.pdf
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    Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 4896.

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    Date of creation: Oct 1994
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    Publication status: published as ITPF, Vol. 2, no. 2 (August 1995): 157-183.
    Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:4896
    Note: PE EEE
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    1. Peter A. Diamond & J. A. Mirrlees, 1968. "Optimal Taxation and Public Production," Working papers 22, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Department of Economics.
    2. Carraro, Carlo & Galeotti, Marzio & Gallo, Massimo, 1996. "Environmental taxation and unemployment: Some evidence on the 'double dividend hypothesis' in Europe," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 62(1-2), pages 141-181, October.
    3. Shah, Anwar & Larsen, Bjorn, 1992. "Carbon taxes, the greenhouse effect, and developing countries," Policy Research Working Paper Series 957, The World Bank.
    4. Ballard, Charles L & Shoven, John B & Whalley, John, 1985. "General Equilibrium Computations of the Marginal Welfare Costs of Taxes in the United States," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 75(1), pages 128-38, March.
    5. Charles L. Ballard & Don Fullerton, 1992. "Distortionary Taxes and the Provision of Public Goods," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 6(3), pages 117-131, Summer.
    6. Nordhaus, William D, 1993. "Optimal Greenhouse-Gas Reductions and Tax Policy in the "Dice" Model," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 83(2), pages 313-17, May.
    7. Jerry A. Hausman, 1983. "Taxes and Labor Supply," NBER Working Papers 1102, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    8. Pearce, David W, 1991. "The Role of Carbon Taxes in Adjusting to Global Warming," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 101(407), pages 938-48, July.
    9. Bertrand, Trent J & Vanek, Jaroslav, 1971. "The Theory of Tariffs, Taxes, and Subsidies: Some Aspects of the Second Best," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 61(5), pages 925-31, December.
    10. Dixit, Avinash, 1975. "Welfare effects of tax and price changes," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 4(2), pages 103-123, February.
    11. repec:cup:cbooks:9780521297615 is not listed on IDEAS
    12. Bovenberg, A.L. & De Mooij, R., 1992. "Environmental Taxation and Labour-Market Distortions," Papers 9252, Tilburg - Center for Economic Research.
    13. Parry Ian W. H., 1995. "Pollution Taxes and Revenue Recycling," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 29(3), pages S64-S77, November.
    14. Terkla, David, 1984. "The efficiency value of effluent tax revenues," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 11(2), pages 107-123, June.
    15. Hackett Steven & Schlager Edella & Walker James, 1994. "The Role of Communication in Resolving Commons Dilemmas: Experimental Evidence with Heterogeneous Appropriators," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 27(2), pages 99-126, September.
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