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The Window of Opportunity

How the Obstacles to the Introduction of the Swiss Heavy Goods Vehicle Fee have been Overcome

The national referendum on the introduction of a distance-related fee for heavy goods vehicles (HVF) was one of the most controversial referenda Switzerland has ever seen. This is not surprising inasmuch as the HVF was considered as a new tax affecting – at least indirectly – almost all citizens. What is astonishing, at least at first sight, is the fact that a clear majority of 57% voted in favour of the new fee. The question is why a population which is neither fond of new taxes nor known for being particularly progressive accepted a new fee.

The present study tries to highlight the reasons for the outcome of the vote. The study is part of an OECD-wide project on how obstacles to the introduction of economic instruments that could promote sustainable development have been overcome. It is a project undertaken under the auspices of the OECD’s “Joint Meetings of Tax and Environment Experts” which mainly comprise delegates from the Ministries of Finance and the Environment in member countries. The project aims to obtain a clearer picture of both the drivers that helped to facilitate the introduction of the fee and those that could have prevented it. In addition, the case study is to evaluate the economic efficiency and the environmental effectiveness of the fee.

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