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Health Effects in a Model of Second-Best Environmental Taxation or Reconsidering "Reconsidering the Tax-Interaction Effect"


  • Roberton C. Williams


The literature on environmental taxation in the presence of pre-existing distortionary taxes has shown that the interactions with pre-existing taxes tend to raise the cost of an environmental tax, and thus that the optimal environmental tax in that context is less than marginal environmental damages. A recent paper by Schwartz and Repetto (2000) challenges this finding, arguing that the health benefits from reduced pollution will also interact with pre-existing taxes, possibly causing the optimal environmental tax to exceed marginal environmental damages. Schwartz and Repetto's analysis aimed to account for health effects by representing environmental quality and leisure as substitutes in utility. The present paper employs an analytically tractable general equilibrium model that, in contrast with Schwartz and Repetto's analysis, explicitly considers health effects. It shows that interactions with health effects from pollution actually will tend to reduce the optimal environmental tax. This result contradicts Schwartz and Repetto's conclusion. This demonstrates the usefulness of explicitly modeling health effects, and it reinforces the general notion that tax-interactions tend to raise the costs of an environmental tax.

Suggested Citation

  • Roberton C. Williams, 2000. "Health Effects in a Model of Second-Best Environmental Taxation or Reconsidering "Reconsidering the Tax-Interaction Effect"," NBER Working Papers 8048, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:8048
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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. de Bovenberg, A Lans & Mooij, Ruud A, 1994. "Environmental Levies and Distortionary Taxation," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 84(4), pages 1085-1089, September.
    2. 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.
    3. Victor R. Fuchs & Alan B. Krueger & James M. Poterba, 1998. "Economists' Views about Parameters, Values, and Policies: Survey Results in Labor and Public Economics," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 36(3), pages 1387-1425, September.
    4. Lawrence Goulder, 1995. "Environmental taxation and the double dividend: A reader's guide," International Tax and Public Finance, Springer;International Institute of Public Finance, vol. 2(2), pages 157-183, August.
    5. Bovenberg, A Lans & de Mooij, Ruud A, 1997. "Environmental Levies and Distortionary Taxation: Reply," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 87(1), pages 252-253, March.
    6. Oates, Wallace E. & Schwab, Robert M., 1988. "Economic competition among jurisdictions: efficiency enhancing or distortion inducing?," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 35(3), pages 333-354, April.
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    Cited by:

    1. Fischer, Carolyn & Fox, Alan K., 2009. "Combining Rebates with Carbon Taxes: Optimal Strategies for Coping with Emissions Leakage and Tax Interactions," Discussion Papers dp-09-12, Resources For the Future.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • H21 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - Efficiency; Optimal Taxation
    • H23 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - Externalities; Redistributive Effects; Environmental Taxes and Subsidies


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