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Greening the Tax Code

This policy brief, authored by The Brookings Institution and World Resources Institute, examines fiscal intruments that both raise revenue and help improve environmental quality.

Executive Summary

In recent years several Republican and Democratic governors have imposed new pollution taxes, often winning bipartisan acclaim. A growing number of commentators have supported such measures at the federal level.

Analysis indicates that taxes on air and water pollution could generate substantial revenue for the U.S. Treasury while improving environmental quality, stimulating technological innovation and enhancing energy security. Reducing tax expenditures with adverse impacts on natural resources could do the same. As lawmakers explore ways to reduce federal budget deficits and reform the tax code, they should consider measures that shift more of the tax burden onto activities—such as pollution—that make the economy unproductive or reduce quality of life.

This policy brief examines fiscal instruments that both raise revenue and help improve environmental quality. The paper analyzes several different types of pollution taxes, considers current tax expenditures with adverse environmental impacts, discusses ways of integrating these instruments into tax reform packages and suggests directions for further research.

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