Sunday, 24 April 2011

Government Intervention - Taxation (Microeconomics)

Another way the government can intervene to correct market failure is through taxation. Basically, the government will try to tax goods with lots of negative externalities to attempt to discourage consumers from buying them, thus lowering consumption and somewhat correcting the market failure.

The government has two forms of taxation at its disposal, these being direct and indirect.

  1. Direct Taxes - These are taxes off the incomes of individuals and firms. So examples of these would be income tax and corporation tax. Direct taxes cannot be avoided.
  2. Indirect Taxes - These are taxes charged locally on goods and services. Examples would be VAT (Value added tax) and council tax (Tax on your house).

The aim of the tax is to try to reduce the consumption of the good by raising the price. So, the tax shifts the supply curve leftwards, moving the equilibrium point to a higher price and lower quantity. The tax that is imposed should equal the value of the negative externality. The price rises and the price then takes into account the full cost of the negative externality, this is known as the polluter pays principle. Basically, the polluter is now paying for all the pollution caused. 

There are problems with taxation however. Firstly, the amount to tax is difficult to workout. As it is hard to estimate the exact cost of a negative externality it means it is difficult to tax the absolute correct amount, most of the time its either too much or too little. Price elasticity of demand comes into play too. A rise in price caused by the taxation may not cause a big enough fall in demand because the goods PED may be inelastic. This is another problem. 

That's all for this topic, next is 'Government Intervention - Subsidies'. Stay tuned. :-)


  1. hey, nice to meet u :D i read some of ur economic posts in this blog... they're really good ^^