What's in a name? The incidence of gasoline excise taxes versus gasoline carbon levies

Behzod B. Ahundjanov, Michael D. Noel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Legislators often attach specific names to individual taxes to help explain their purpose, increase transparency, and ease public backlash over tax increases. It may be politically beneficial, but does the simple act of naming a tax and attaching it to a specific set of benefits have an actual effect in the marketplace? Do consumers respond differently to tax-induced price increases depending on what that tax is? In this article, a natural experiment is used to evaluate tax incidence after the introduction of two gasoline taxes in Alberta - 1) an increase in the generic excise tax and 2) an environmentally-targeted “carbon levy”. While similar on the cost side, the taxes were very different in name and transparency on the benefit side. Results show that benefit-side transparency can matter – responses were lower and incidence higher for the more transparent carbon levy than with the less transparent excise tax.

Original languageEnglish
Article number102733
JournalInternational Journal of Industrial Organization
Volume76
DOIs
StatePublished - May 2021

Keywords

  • Cost passthrough
  • Elasticities
  • Retail gasoline
  • Tax burden
  • Tax incidence

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