The debate over fuel taxes has become more complex in recent years as the issue of environmental protection has entered the picture. No longer just a way to pay for roads or raise revenue, taxes on gasoline, diesel fuel, carbon emissions, and even plastic bags are proposed as a solution to global warming, pollution, and other environmental woes. Soaring gas prices have further complicated energy taxes, eliciting proposals for windfall profits taxes and gas tax holidays—both poor tax policy.
Whether they are looking for a way to pave roads or improve the environment, policymakers need to remember that taxes on companies that produce and use fuel will ultimately be passed on to individuals, whether as consumers, employees or shareholders.
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A new paper on wealth inequality from economists Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman – who have written frequently on the subject – was released earlier this month. This paper is far better than previous attempts to measure...