chapter  2
Theoretical perspectives on resource tax design
Pages 62

The coverage is also broad in terms of the design issues addressed. One, however, is given particular emphasis, running through much of the discussion. This is the question of whether or not resource tax regimes should incorporate some element of progressivity, in the broad sense (rarely defined more precisely) of implying an average tax rate that rises with the realized profitability of the underlying project. This naturally rises to special prominence in public discussions in times of high resource prices, but more fundamentally goes to the heart of many of the basic questions of credibility, risk-sharing and efficiency that arise in designing efficient tax regimes for the sector. The focus of the chapter is limited, nevertheless. For the most part, the design problem considered is that of the country in which the resource deposits lie; we do not consider the pricing of final sales (the benchmark instead being one in which resources trade at world prices); governance issues are largely set aside; and so too are environmental considerations. This precludes significant policy problems: resource importing countries could choose to levy windfall taxes on rents earned on imports, for instance, or (perhaps in pursuit of energy security objectives) to impose tariffs; fuel subsidies remain a pressing concern in many countries; governance is a prevalent concern in the sector, whose nature and extent could depend on the tax regime in place; and environmental concerns are particularly prominent in the resource sector at both the local level and, for fossil fuels, through the global public bad of climate change. All these concerns could have powerful implications for efficient tax design, and are neglected here only because the issues that remain merit separate treatment. The chapter first reviews key features of the resource sector that shape the tax design problem, and the extent (or not) of their uniqueness. Section 3 then examines some of the key instruments that are or might be deployed, and how their combined impact may be measured. Some of the central challenges for tax design emerging from the features highlighted in Section 2 are considered in Section 4. Section 5 concludes. There is some algebra – but it is not in the main text, and can be skipped.