Distributional Impacts of Energy Taxes
33 Pages Posted: 10 Apr 2017 Last revised: 20 Mar 2022
Date Written: April 2017
Despite popularity among economists for their efficiency, energy pollution taxes enjoy less political support than standards-based regulation because of common perceptions that they burden the poor relative to the rich. However, the literature on pollution tax incidence and consumption surveys in Mexico, the United Kingdom, and the United States, suggest energy taxes need not be as regressive as often assumed. This paper demonstrates that the incidence of such taxes varies according to the energy commodities that are taxed, the physical, social and climatic characteristics of jurisdictions in which they are implemented, and how the revenue is used. It is also shown that the variation in household energy expenditure within income groups is greater than variation across income groups in many cases. These horizontal equity impacts are reviewed, as are their implications for policy making.
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