A policy that introduces taxes intended to promote ecologically sustainable activities via economic incentives. Such a policy can complement or avert the need for regulatory approaches. Often, such a policy intends to maintain overall tax revenue by proportionately reducing other taxes, e.g. on human labor and renewable resources, in which case it is known as the green tax shift towards ecological taxation. The Pigovian taxes that are introduced by such a policy - see below.
Examples of ecotaxes which could be implemented or increased:
Tax shifting usually includes balancing taxation levels to be revenue-neutral for government and to maintain overall progressivity. It also usually includes measures to protect the most vulnerable, such as raising the minimum income to file income tax at all, or an increase to pension and social assistance levels to offset increased costs of fuel consumption.
Basic economic theory recognizes the existence of externalities and their potential negative effects. To the extent that green taxes correct for externalities such as pollution, they correspond with mainstream economic theory. In practice, however, setting the correct taxation level or the tax collection system needed to do so is difficult, and may lead to further distortions or unintended consequences.
Taxes on consumption may take the feebate approach advocated by Amory Lovins in which additional fees on less sustainable products — such as sport utility vehicles — are pooled to fund subsidies on more sustainable alternatives — such as hybrid electric vehicles.
However, they may simply act as incentives to change habits and make capital investments in newer more efficient vehicles or appliances or to upgrade buildings. Small changes in corporate tax rates for instance can radically change return on investment of capital projects, especially if the averted costs of future fossil fuel use are taken into account.
The same logic applies to major consumer purchases. A "green mortgage" for instance recognizes that persons who don't drive cars and live generally energy-efficient lifestyles pay far less per month than others and accordingly have more to pay a heftier mortgage bill with. This justifies lending them much more money to upgrade a house to use even less energy overall. The result is a bank taking more per month from a consumer's income as utilities and car insurance companies take less, and housing stock upgraded to use the minimum energy feasible with current technology.
Aside from energy, the refits will generally be those required to be maximally accommodating to telework, permaculture gardens for example green roofs, and a lifestyle that is generally localized in the community not based on commuting. The last, especially, raises real state valuations for not only the neighborhood but the entire surrounding region. Consumers living sustainable lifestyles in upgraded housing will generally be unwilling to drive around aimlessly shopping, for instance, to save a few dollars on their purchases. Instead, they'll stay nearer to home and create jobs in grocery delivery and small organic grocers, spending substantially less money on gasoline and car operation costs even if they pay more for food.
However, conventional regulatory approaches can affect prices in much the same way, while lacking the revenue-recycling potential of ecotaxes. Moreover, correctly assessing distributive impact of any tax shift requires an analysis of the specific instrument design features. For example, an ecotax can have a "lifeline" design, in which modest consumption levels are priced relatively low (even zero, in the case of water), and higher consumption levels are priced at a higher rate. Furthermore, an ecotax policy package can include revenue recycling to reduce or eliminate any regressivity; an increase in an ecotax could be more than offset by a decrease in a (regressive) payroll or consumption tax. Some proponents claim a second benefit of increased employment or lower health care costs as the market and society adjust to the new fiscal policy (these claims, as with the claim "tax cuts create jobs," are often difficult to prove or disprove even after the fact).
Furthermore, pollution and other forms of environmental harm are often felt more acutely by the poor, who cannot "buy their way out" of being receptors of air pollution, water pollution, etc. Such losses, although externalities, have real economic welfare impacts. Thus by reducing environmental harm, such instruments have a progressive effect.
In the Netherlands, the new registration taxes, payable when a car is sold to its first buyer, can earn the owner of a hybrid a discount up to €6000. Spain reduced taxes for cars that produced less CO2 (some of which will be exempted), while the more consuming, like SPV and 4WD saw their taxes increased.
Austria has had a registration tax based on fuel consumption for several years.
See also : Vehicle registration plate