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Tax Evasion and Optimal Environmental Taxes

  • Liu, Antung Anthony

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    (Resources for the Future)

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    This paper introduces a new argument to the debate about the role of environmental taxes in modern tax systems. Some environmental taxes, particularly taxes on gasoline or electricity, are more difficult to evade than taxes on labor or income. When the tax base is shifted in a revenue-neutral manner toward these environmental taxes, the result is a net reduction in the amount of tax evasion. Using a carbon tax as a motivating example, the "tax evasion effect" is shown to sharply reduce the welfare cost of controlling emissions. A simple computable general equilibrium model suggests that the impact of considering tax evasion can be large: costs are lowered by 28 percent in the United States, by 89 percent in China, and by 97 percent in India. In countries with high levels of pre-existing tax evasion, a carbon tax will pay for itself through improvements in the efficiency of the tax system.

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    File URL: http://www.rff.org/RFF/documents/RFF-DP-12-37.pdf
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    Paper provided by Resources For the Future in its series Discussion Papers with number dp-12-37.

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    Date of creation: 14 Sep 2012
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    Handle: RePEc:rff:dpaper:dp-12-37
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    1. Nicodeme, Gaetan, 2001. "Computing effective corporate tax rates: comparisons and results," MPRA Paper 3808, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    2. Raymond Fisman & Shang-Jin Wei, 2004. "Tax Rates and Tax Evasion: Evidence from "Missing Imports" in China," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 112(2), pages 471-500, April.
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    4. Gorodnichenko, Yuriy & Martinez-Vazquez, Jorge & Peter, Klara Sabirianova, 2007. "Myth and Reality of Flat Tax Reform: Micro Estimates of Tax Evasion Response and Welfare Effects in Russia," IZA Discussion Papers 3267, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    5. Torrini, Roberto, 2005. "Cross-country differences in self-employment rates: the role of institutions," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 12(5), pages 661-683, October.
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    7. Parry Ian W. H., 1995. "Pollution Taxes and Revenue Recycling," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 29(3), pages S64-S77, November.
    8. Joseph E. Aldy & Alan J. Krupnick & Richard G. Newell & Ian W.H. Parry & William A. Pizer, 2009. "Designing Climate Mitigation Policy," NBER Working Papers 15022, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    9. Roger Gordon & Wei Li, 2005. "Tax Structure in Developing Countries: Many Puzzles and a Possible Explanation," NBER Working Papers 11267, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    10. Parry, Ian W. H. & Bento, Antonio M., 2000. "Tax Deductions, Environmental Policy, and the "Double Dividend" Hypothesis," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 39(1), pages 67-96, January.
    11. Lawrence Goulder, 1995. "Environmental taxation and the double dividend: A reader's guide," International Tax and Public Finance, Springer, vol. 2(2), pages 157-183, August.
    12. A. Lans Bovenberg & Lawrence H. Goulder, 1994. "Optimal Environmental Taxation in the Presence of Other Taxes: General Equilibrium Analyses," NBER Working Papers 4897, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    13. Cremer, Helmuth & Gahvari, Firouz, 1993. "Tax evasion and optimal commodity taxation," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 50(2), pages 261-275, February.
    14. Joel Slemrod, 2007. "Cheating Ourselves: The Economics of Tax Evasion," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 21(1), pages 25-48, Winter.
    15. Allingham, Michael G. & Sandmo, Agnar, 1972. "Income tax evasion: a theoretical analysis," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 1(3-4), pages 323-338, November.
    16. Dieter Helm, 2008. "Climate-change policy: why has so little been achieved?," Oxford Review of Economic Policy, Oxford University Press, vol. 24(2), pages 211-238, Summer.
    17. Williams III, Roberton C., 2003. "Health effects and optimal environmental taxes," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 87(2), pages 323-335, February.
    18. Bovenberg, A.L. & Goulder, L.H., 1996. "Optimal environmental taxation in the presence of other taxes : General equilibrium analyses," Other publications TiSEM 5d4b7517-c5c8-4ef6-ab76-3, Tilburg University, School of Economics and Management.
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