1887

OECD Environment Working Papers

This series is designed to make available to a wider readership selected studies on environmental issues prepared for use within the OECD. Authorship is usually collective, but principal authors are named. The papers are generally available only in their original language English or French with a summary in the other if available.

English

Tax Preferences for Environmental Goals

Use, Limitations and Preferred Practices

This paper reviews the use of tax preferences to achieve environmental policy objectives. Tax preferences involve using the tax system to adjust relative prices with a view to influencing producer or consumer behaviour in favour of goods or services that are considered to be environmentally beneficial. They take various forms, typically a partial or total exemption from a specified tax. Because tax preferences help to avoid or reduce costs for businesses or consumers, there are often pressures on governments to favour them over other instruments. As a result, they are sometimes used inappropriately, typically to address negative externalities for which they are not well suited. The paper suggests that the comparative advantage of tax preferences is in providing support for positive externalities, that is situations in which a subsidy would help to deliver more social benefits than would otherwise be the case. When designing tax preferences, care must be taken to ensure that they do not encourage technological lock-in, provide perverse incentives for environmentally harmful activities (the rebound effect), or reward producers or consumers for actions they would have taken anyway. Since tax preferences are a form of subsidy, they should be subject to the same degree of scrutiny and oversight as other forms of public expenditure.

English

Keywords: environmental effects, environmentally motivated tax preferences, tax induced behaviour
JEL: H25: Public Economics / Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue / Business Taxes and Subsidies including sales and value-added (VAT); H30: Public Economics / Fiscal Policies and Behavior of Economic Agents / Fiscal Policies and Behavior of Economic Agents: General; H20: Public Economics / Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue / Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue: General; H23: Public Economics / Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue / Taxation and Subsidies: Externalities; Redistributive Effects; Environmental Taxes and Subsidies; Q58: Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics / Environmental Economics / Environmental Economics: Government Policy
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