Environmental Tax Law and Policy Specialization

We know that improving the environment requires changing the way we run our businesses, use our resources, and act as citizens. But how do we actually make that change occur? One lever for change has been taxation and at Vermont Law School, students learn how to utilize that tool to produce change in society.

Taxes can send strong messages. Whether we want to discourage a harmful behavior or encourage green choices, taxes on pollution can help businesses, organizations, and individuals think about the cost of social harms—and encourage them to act in ways that help society. For example, the U.S. federal government imposed a significant excise tax on ozone-depleting chemicals when it wanted to phase out those chemicals, and Canada’s British Columbia has placed a substantial tax on carbon emissions. The government can also offer tax benefits, such as the federal tax credit to individuals who reduce carbon emissions by purchasing an electric vehicle.

Environmental taxation is an intriguingly complex subject, and requires an understanding of both the desired outcome and the way that a tax can be proposed, administered, and evaluated. Since nearly all types of tax systems and levels of government can implement environmental tax policies, and because environmental tax policy can complement environmental regulation, the subject of environmental tax policy requires a sophisticated understanding of both taxation and the environment.

At Vermont Law School, students learn to navigate these fascinating waters. Here you learn to understand the reach and limits of tax systems and the environmental goals in need of support. Students contribute directly to the ongoing public policy debate through the Environmental Tax Policy Institute. Directed by Professor Janet Milne, the institute’s real world research considers constitutional questions raised by environmental taxation, the design of sound tax programs, the application of environmental taxation to specific issues—such as climate change, water pollution and land conservation, the merits of carbon taxes versus carbon trading programs, the impact of WTO trade rules on tax measures, and much more.