The two-part instrument in a second-best world

Don Fullerton, Ann Wolverton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Standard Pigovian tax theory has been extended in two directions. First, many polluting activities are difficult to tax because they are not market transactions, and so recent papers have shown that the same effects can be achieved by use of a two-part instrument (2PI): a tax on output or income and a subsidy for clean alternatives to pollution. It is a generalization of a deposit-refund system (DRS). Second, a different literature concerns the second-best pollution tax in the presence of other tax distortions. Here, we combine the two extensions by looking at the second-best 2PI. When government needs revenue, is the deposit larger and the rebate smaller? We find explicit solutions for each tax and subsidy in a general equilibrium model with other tax distortions, and we compare these to the rates in a first-best model. The tax-subsidy combination is explained in terms of a tax effect, an environmental effect and a revenue effect. The model allows for flexible interpretation to show various applications of the 2PI. We also discuss important caveats.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1961-1975
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Public Economics
Issue number9-10
StatePublished - Sep 2005
Externally publishedYes


  • Deposit-refund system
  • Tax-subsidy
  • Two-part instrument

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Finance
  • Economics and Econometrics


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