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Distributional implications of environmental taxation in Denmark

Klinge Jacobsen, Henrik and Birr-Pedersen, Katja and Wier, Mette (2003): Distributional implications of environmental taxation in Denmark. Published in: Fiscal Studies , Vol. 24, No. 4 (2003): pp. 477-499.


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Environmental taxes imposed on households have been introduced in many countries. However, few countries have reached the level of environmental taxation that is seen in Denmark today, although many are considering shifting the tax burden towards the consumption that is harming the environment. The total tax burden imposed on households in Denmark in the form of taxes on energy use of all kinds, water consumption and waste production, etc., is considerable. This paper analyses the individual taxes as well as the combination of all these taxes and duties related to environmental concerns, including taxes on heating, transport fuels, electricity, water, waste, plastic bags, registration of cars, annual car use, pesticides, etc. The distributional effect of taxes is examined in relation to household income, socio-economic class, residential location and family status. The shifting of the tax structure from high marginal income tax to consumption-based taxes, especially environmental taxes, might have distributional impacts amongst income groups which have not been considered part of the tax policy. The taxes are compared with respect to distributional impact. Do the effects of the different taxes vary to such an extent that this should be considered when designing tax policies? The hypothesis is that some environmental taxes associated with luxury income are less regressive than the average environmental tax. The results suggest that in Denmark taxes on petrol and registration duties for cars are progressive, whereas most other environmental taxes are regressive, especially the green taxes on water, retail containers and CO2. The distributional impacts are illustrated using household consumption survey data and data covering household expenditures on energy. The energy taxes and the more recently introduced green taxes are compared.

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