IDEAS home Printed from
MyIDEAS: Login to save this paper or follow this series

The Design of a Carbon Tax

  • Gilbert Metcalf
  • David Weisbach

We consider the design of a tax on greenhouse gas emissions for a developed country such as the United States. We consider three sets of issues: the optimal tax base, issues relating to the rate (including the use of the revenues and rate changes over time) and trade. We show that a well-designed carbon tax can capture about 80% of U.S. emissions by taxing fewer than 3,000 taxpayers and up to almost 90% with a modest additional cost. We recommend full or partial delegation of rate setting authority to an agency to ensure that rates reflect new information about the costs of carbon emmissions and of abatement. Adjustments should be made to the income tax to ensure that a carbon tax is revenue neutral and distributionally neutral. Finally, we propose an origin-based system for trades with countries that have an adequate carbon tax. We suggest a system that imposes presumptive border tax adjustments with the ability of an individual firm to prove that a different rate should apply. The presumptive tax could be based either on average emissions for production of the item by the exporting country or by the importing country.

If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.

File URL:
Download Restriction: no

Paper provided by Department of Economics, Tufts University in its series Discussion Papers Series, Department of Economics, Tufts University with number 0728.

in new window

Date of creation: 2008
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:tuf:tuftec:0728
Contact details of provider: Postal: Medford, MA 02155, USA
Phone: (617) 627-3560
Fax: (617) 627-3917
Web page:

References listed on IDEAS
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:

as in new window
  1. Babiker, Mustafa H., 2005. "Climate change policy, market structure, and carbon leakage," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 65(2), pages 421-445, March.
  2. Baranzini, Andrea & Goldemberg, Jose & Speck, Stefan, 2000. "A future for carbon taxes," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 32(3), pages 395-412, March.
  3. Amy Finkelstein, 2009. "E-ZTAX: Tax Salience and Tax Rates," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 124(3), pages 969-1010, August.
  4. Kevin A. Hassett & Aparna Mathur & Gilbert E. Metcalf, 2008. "The Consumer Burden of a Cap-and-Trade System with Freely Allocated Permits," Working Papers 49489, American Enterprise Institute.
  5. Gilbert E. Metcalf & Sergey Paltsev & John Reilly & Henry Jacoby & Jennifer F. Holak, 2008. "Analysis of U.S. Greenhouse Gas Tax Proposals," NBER Working Papers 13980, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. 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.
  7. M. L. Weitzman, 1973. "Prices vs. Quantities," Working papers 106, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Department of Economics.
  8. A. Lans Bovenberg & Lawrence H. Goulder, 2001. "Environmental Taxation and Regulation," NBER Working Papers 8458, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. Di Maria, C. & van der Werf, E.H., 2005. "Carbon Leakage Revisited : Unilateral Climate Policy with Directed Technical Change," Discussion Paper 2005-68, Tilburg University, Center for Economic Research.
  10. Hoel, Michael & Karp, Larry, 2002. "Taxes versus quotas for a stock pollutant," Resource and Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 24(4), pages 367-384, November.
  11. Larry Karp & Jiangfeng Zhang, 2005. "Regulation of Stock Externalities with Correlated Abatement Costs," Environmental & Resource Economics, European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 32(2), pages 273-300, October.
  12. Gilbert Metcalf, 2007. "Policy Options for Controlling Greenhouse Gas Emissions: Implications for Agriculture," Discussion Papers Series, Department of Economics, Tufts University 0710, Department of Economics, Tufts University.
  13. Annegrete Bruvoll & Bodil Merethe Larsen, 2002. "Greenhouse gas emissions in Norway Do carbon taxes work?," Discussion Papers 337, Statistics Norway, Research Department.
  14. Kevin A. Hassett & Aparna Mathur & Gilbert E. Metcalf, 2009. "The Incidence of a U.S. Carbon Tax: A Lifetime and Regional Analysis," The Energy Journal, International Association for Energy Economics, vol. 0(Number 2), pages 155-178.
  15. Raj Chetty & Adam Looney & Kory Kroft, 2007. "Salience and Taxation: Theory and Evidence," NBER Working Papers 13330, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  16. Kaplow, Louis, 2006. "On the undesirability of commodity taxation even when income taxation is not optimal," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 90(6-7), pages 1235-1250, August.
  17. Hassett, Kevin A. & Metcalf, Gilbert E., 1995. "Energy tax credits and residential conservation investment: Evidence from panel data," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 57(2), pages 201-217, June.
  18. Gilbert E. Metcalf, 2006. "Federal Tax Policy Towards Energy," Discussion Papers Series, Department of Economics, Tufts University 0612, Department of Economics, Tufts University.
  19. Don Fullerton & Gilbert E. Metcalf, 1997. "Environmental Taxes and the Double-Dividend Hypothesis: Did You Really Expect Something for Nothing?," NBER Working Papers 6199, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  20. Sergey Paltsev & John M. Reilly & Henry D. Jacoby & Angelo C. Gurgel & Gilbert E. Metcalf & Andrei P. Sokolov & Jennifer F. Holak, 2007. "Assessment of U.S. Cap-and-Trade Proposals," NBER Working Papers 13176, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  21. Kaplow, Louis & Shavell, Steven, 2002. "Economic analysis of law," Handbook of Public Economics, in: A. J. Auerbach & M. Feldstein (ed.), Handbook of Public Economics, edition 1, volume 3, chapter 25, pages 1661-1784 Elsevier.
  22. Curtis Carlson & Gilbert E. Metcalf, 2008. "Energy Tax Incentives and the Alternative Minimum Tax," NBER Working Papers 14110, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  23. Kevin A. Hassett & Gilbert E. Metcalf, 1992. "Energy Tax Credits and Residential Conservation Investment," NBER Working Papers 4020, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  24. Lawrence H. Goulder & Ian W. H. Parry & Dallas Burtraw, 1996. "Revenue-Raising vs. Other Approaches to Environmental Protection: The Critical Significance of Pre-Existing Tax Distortions," NBER Working Papers 5641, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  25. Parry, Ian & Small, Kenneth, 2002. "Does Britain or the United States Have the Right Gasoline Tax?," Discussion Papers dp-02-12-, Resources For the Future.
  26. Ekins, Paul & Barker, Terry, 2001. " Carbon Taxes and Carbon Emissions Trading," Journal of Economic Surveys, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 15(3), pages 325-76, July.
  27. Roberts, Marc J. & Spence, Michael, 1976. "Effluent charges and licenses under uncertainty," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 5(3-4), pages 193-208.
  28. Mitchell Polinsky, A. & Shavell, Steven, 1982. "Pigouvian taxation with administrative costs," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 19(3), pages 385-394, December.
Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.

When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:tuf:tuftec:0728. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Caroline Kalogeropoulos)

If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

This information is provided to you by IDEAS at the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis using RePEc data.