Environmental Tax Policy Institute
Vermont Law School's Environmental Tax Policy Institute analyzes the ways in which taxation can be used to address environmental problems. By serving as a resource for the public and private sectors, non-governmental organizations, the press and academia, the Institute seeks to better inform the public policy debate about the role of environmental taxes at the local, state and federal levels.
New and Noteworthy
15th Global Conference on Environmental Taxation
The conference this year will be held in Copenhagen, Denmark, on September 24-26, 2014. The conference is a unique forum for people to share analyses of the theory and practice of environmental taxation and other market-based instruments. This year’s conference, hosted by Aarhus University, will focus on environmental taxation and emissions trading in an era of climate change. Click here for details. If you would like to be added to the mailing list for the conference series, please send an email to Prof. Janet Milne, firstname.lastname@example.org, with the caption “mailing list.”
The Handbook of Research on Environmental Taxation Just published in 2013, the Handbook provides an interdisciplinary, international tour of the key areas of research on environmental taxation. Edited by Janet E. Milne (the Director of the Environmental Tax Policy Institute) and Mikael Skou Andersen, the Handbook contains chapters written by 36 environmental tax specialists from 16 countries. Click here for more information.
Environmental Taxation and the US Supreme Court When the US Supreme Court reviewed President Obama’s health care reforms, it offered some very interesting perspectives on the question, “what is a tax?”. Professor Janet Milne offers an analysis of the implications of that decision for environmental taxation in the May 2013 issue of the Environmental Law Reporter. If you are interested, click here to view the article.
The Reality of Carbon Taxes in the 21st Century In 2009, the Environmental Tax Policy Institute published a book containing four articles that provide international perspectives on the use of carbon taxes to address climate change. Professor Janet Milne, Director of the Environmental Tax Policy Institute, offers the US context for considering carbon taxes. Two European specialists in environmental taxation-Prof. Mikael Skou Andersen from Denmark and Dr. Stefan Speck from Austria-discuss European countries' experiences with carbon taxes, including their relationship to the European Union's Emissions Trading Scheme. Canada's Prof. David Duff analyzes the carbon tax that British Columbia enacted in 2008. The publication is a joint project with the Vermont Journal of Environmental Law.
Critical Issues in Environmental Taxation: International and Comparative Perspectives Professor Janet Milne is a co-editor of the book series, Critical Issues in Environmental Taxation, which publishes articles about the use of environmental taxation and other economic instruments around the world. Two new volumes were published by Edward Elgar in 2012: Carbon Pricing, Growth and the Environment (Vol. XI) and Green Taxation and Environmental Sustainability (Vol. XII). For more information on Volumes IX through XII, visit the Edward Elgar website. For more information on earlier volumes, visit the Oxford University Press website.
What is Environmental Taxation?
People often think of taxation and the environment as two entirely different worlds—two circles that do not intersect. Governments impose taxes to raise the revenues they need to operate; governments get involved in environmental matters to protect the public interest. However, the two circles do intersect. Governments can—and do—use tax policies to achieve environmental goals.
Environmental taxes come in many different forms, but as a general matter environmental tax measures either impose a tax cost on some product or activity that is environmentally damaging, or they give a tax benefit to some product or activity that is environmentally beneficial.
For example, the federal government imposes a significant excise tax on ozone-depleting chemicals, and it offers a tax credit to people who buy electric vehicles. In both instances, the tax code has altered the "price" of the commodity, injecting an important signal into the economic calculations that affect behavior.
All types of tax systems—income tax, estate tax, property tax, and excise tax—potentially can incorporate environmental tax measures, and all levels of government—local, state, and federal—can consider environmental taxes. Environmental taxes will not necessarily replace traditional environmental regulation. In some instances, they may complement regulation, and in others they may provide an option when regulation is not appropriate.
The Institute's Services
On a project-by-project basis, Vermont Law School's Environmental Tax Policy Institute will conduct research on a wide range of environmental tax issues. Potential projects could include:
- the application of environmental taxation to specific environmental issues, such as energy consumption, toxic waste, sprawl, water and air quality, and habitat protection;
- issues involved in the design of sound environmental taxes;
- constitutional questions raised by the use of environmental taxes;
- assessments of the extent to which governments in the United States and around the world are using environmental taxes; and
- the role of environmental taxation compared with other approaches to environmental problems.
The projects may result in publications, white papers, and conferences or workshops. Anyone interested in exploring the potential for a project is invited to contact the Institute.