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Environmental Taxes: Dead or Alive?

By Richard Morgenstern


Both theory and recent trends suggest some optimism for the future of environment-related taxes. While new research emphasizes the potentially significant distortions created by environmental taxes and appears to undermine the so-called "double dividend" theory, it also suggests that virtually any environmental policy, including regulations, taxes, and tradable permits, can compound existing distortions in the tax system. Currently, direct environmental taxes, such as per-unit charges on emissions, are only in limited use; however, indirect environmental levies, including taxes on fuels, vehicles, beverage containers, and fertilizers, are growing in importance across the OECD nations. Over the period 1990-1993, environmental taxes as a share of total revenue increased while taxes on personal and corporate income declined slightly, indicating a modest tax shift.

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