Tax Expenditures and the Carbon Audit

30 Pages Posted: 12 Oct 2009

Date Written: October 12, 2009


In the Emergency Improvement and Extension Act of 2008, Congress called for a $1.5 million carbon audit of the Internal Revenue Code, to be conducted by the National Academy of Sciences (NAS). This article offers some suggestions concerning the approach the NAS should take in conducting the audit. It argues that tax expenditure analysis should play no role in the audit. Instead of first identifying tax expenditures and then evaluating those expenditures for their environmental impacts, the NAS should include in its carbon audit any existing tax provision which satisfies two criteria: that there is a technically and politically realistic alternative to the provision, and that the choice between the current provision and the alternative would be likely to have a significant impact on greenhouse gas emissions. A provision that does not currently exist in the Code should also be included in the study if it satisfies the same two criteria - that is, if its enactment is technically and politically realistic, and if its enactment would be likely to have a significant effect (good or bad) on greenhouse gas emissions.

Suggested Citation

Zelenak, Lawrence, Tax Expenditures and the Carbon Audit (October 12, 2009). Tax Notes, Vol. 122, No. 13, pp. 67-76, 2009, Available at SSRN: or

Lawrence Zelenak (Contact Author)

Duke University School of Law ( email )

210 Science Drive
Box 90362
Durham, NC 27708
United States

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