The Two-Part Instrument in a Second-Best World

22 Pages Posted: 11 Dec 2003 Last revised: 17 Sep 2010

See all articles by Don Fullerton

Don Fullerton

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign - Department of Finance; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); CESifo (Center for Economic Studies and Ifo Institute)

Maryann Wolverton

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency - National Center for Environmental Economics

Date Written: December 2003

Abstract

The standard theory that the first-best tax on pollution is equal to marginal environmental damages has been extended in two directions. First, many polluting activities are difficult to tax because they are not market transactions, and so recent papers have shown that the same effects can be achieved by use of a two-part instrument a tax on one market transaction such as output or income and a subsidy to a different market transaction that is a clean alternative to pollution. It is a generalization of a deposit-refund system. Second, a different literature concerns the second-best optimal pollution tax in the presence of other tax distortions. Here, we combine the two extensions by looking at the second-best two-part instrument (2PI). When government needs revenue, is the deposit larger and the rebate smaller? We find explicit solutions for each tax and subsidy in a general equilibrium model with other tax distortions, and we compare these to the rates in a first-best model. The tax-subsidy combination is explained in terms of a tax effect, an environmental effect, and a revenue effect. The model allows for flexible interpretation, to show various applications of the 2PI. We also discuss important caveats, cases where the 2PI may not be appropriate.

Suggested Citation

Fullerton, Don and Wolverton, Maryann (Ann), The Two-Part Instrument in a Second-Best World (December 2003). NBER Working Paper No. w10140. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=476097

Don Fullerton (Contact Author)

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign - Department of Finance ( email )

1206 South Sixth Street
Champaign, IL 61820
United States
(217) 244-3621 (Phone)

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

CESifo (Center for Economic Studies and Ifo Institute)

Poschinger Str. 5
Munich, DE-81679
Germany

Maryann (Ann) Wolverton

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency - National Center for Environmental Economics ( email )

Washington, DC 20460
United States

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