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Taxes, Tradable Rights and Transaction Costs

 Evy Crals and Lode Vereeck (2005)

With respect to market-based policy approaches, it is a widely held view that corrective taxation entails substantial, though far fewer transaction costs than tradable permit systems. This conclusion is largely mistaken and only holds if set-up costs are singled out. This paper explores all relevant market, managerial and political transaction costs associated with environmental taxes and tradable emission rights. It is argued that the prevalence of transaction costs is largely dependent on the design of the policy instrument, respectively the tax base or the trading regime chosen. Comparative analysis further shows that a cap-and-trade program of emission permits distributed for free, traded on a brokered market and monitored upstream is not only more effective, but also likely to entail fewer transaction costs than environmental taxes. Any attempt, in turn, to save the huge information, enforcement and compliance costs incurred by corrective taxation impairs its efficacy by severing the link between the environmental externality and the tax base.

European Journal of Law and Economics 20/2, p. 199-223.

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