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Optimal Environmental Taxation in the Presence of Other Taxes: General Equilibrium Analyses

  • A. Lans Bovenberg
  • Lawrence H. Goulder

This paper examines the optimal setting of environmental taxes in economies where other, distortionary taxes are present. We employ analytical and numerical models to explore the degree to which, in a second best economy, optimal environmental tax rates differ from the rates implied by the Pigovian principle (according to which the optimal tax rate equals the marginal environmental damages). Both models indicate, contrary to what several analysts have suggested, that the optimal tax rate on emissions of a given pollutant is generally less than the rate supported by the Pigovian principle. Moreover, the optimal rate is lower the larger are the distortions posed by ordinary taxes. Numerical results indicate that previous studies may have seriously overstated the size of the optimal carbon tax by disregarding pre-existing taxes.

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File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w4897.pdf
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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 4897.

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Date of creation: Oct 1994
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Publication status: published as American Economic Review, Vol. 86, no. 4 (September 1996): 985-1006. Published as "Costs of Environmentally Motivated Taxes in the Presence of Other Taxes: General Equilibrium Analyses", NTJ, Vol. 50, no. 1 (March 1997.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:4897
Note: PE
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  1. Parry Ian W. H., 1995. "Pollution Taxes and Revenue Recycling," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 29(3), pages S64-S77, November.
  2. Bovenberg, A.L. & Van Der Ploeg, F., 1992. "Environmental Policy, Public Finance and the Labour Market in a Second- Best World," Papers 9243, Tilburg - Center for Economic Research.
  3. John P. Weyant, 1993. "Costs of Reducing Global Carbon Emissions," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 7(4), pages 27-46, Fall.
  4. Lee, Dwight R. & Misiolek, Walter S., 1986. "Substituting pollution taxation for general taxation: Some implications for efficiency in pollutions taxation," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 13(4), pages 338-347, December.
  5. Auerbach, Alan J., 1985. "The theory of excess burden and optimal taxation," Handbook of Public Economics, in: A. J. Auerbach & M. Feldstein (ed.), Handbook of Public Economics, edition 1, volume 1, chapter 2, pages 61-127 Elsevier.
  6. Goulder Lawrence H., 1995. "Effects of Carbon Taxes in an Economy with Prior Tax Distortions: An Intertemporal General Equilibrium Analysis," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 29(3), pages 271-297, November.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. Stephen C Peck & Thomas J. Teisberg, 1992. "CETA: A Model for Carbon Emissions Trajectory Assessment," The Energy Journal, International Association for Energy Economics, vol. 0(Number 1), pages 55-78.
  10. repec:ner:tilbur:urn:nbn:nl:ui:12-152985 is not listed on IDEAS
  11. James M. Poterba & Lawrence H. Summers, 1984. "The Economic Effects of Dividend Taxation," Working papers 343, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Department of Economics.
  12. 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.
  13. Alan Manne & Richard Richels, 1992. "Buying Greenhouse Insurance: The Economic Costs of CO2 Emission Limits," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 026213280x, June.
  14. James M. Poterba, 1993. "Global Warming Policy: A Public Finance Perspective," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 7(4), pages 47-63, Fall.
  15. Revesz, Richard L. & Stavins, Robert N., 2007. "Environmental Law," Handbook of Law and Economics, Elsevier.
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