OECD Environment Working Papers n° 88: COMPETITIVENESS IMPACTS OF THE GERMAN ELECTRICITY TAX. Proposals to increase environmentally related taxes are often challenged on competitiveness grounds. The concern is that value creation in certain sectors might decline domestically if a country introduces environmentally related taxes unilaterally. Furthermore, environmental goals might not be reached if pollution shifts abroad. A competing view argues that properly implemented environmentally related taxes foster innovation, thereby boosting productivity and competitiveness. Empirical research is needed to gain insight into the strength of these various effects. This paper provides evidence on the short-term competitiveness impacts of the German electricity tax introduced unilaterally in 1999. Germany’s manufacturing sector uses significant amounts of electricity, and to counteract potential negative effects on competitiveness, relief was provided: firms using more electricity than specified thresholds benefitted from reduced electricity tax rates. The tax reduction amounted up to EUR 14.6 per megawatt hour, about 80% of the full tax rate. When measured as an effective rate on the carbon content in the average unit of electricity, the electricity tax translates into EUR 44.4 per tonne of carbon dioxide, indicating the magnitude of the tax. The econometric analysis – a regression discontinuity design – shows no robust effects in either direction of the reduced electricity tax rates on firms’ competitiveness. Firms subject to the full tax rates, but otherwise similar to firms facing reduced rates, did not perform worse in terms of turnover, exports, value added, investment and employment. The analysis questions the relevance of the tax reduction for competitiveness reasons and suggests that it could be gradually removed. The energy use threshold, above which a reduced tax rate applies, could be raised over time and competitiveness impacts monitored. (…) The German electricity tax was introduced in 1999 with the goal of improving energy efficiency and allowing a lowering of labour costs. The new electricity tax increased the price on electricity, thus providing incentives to reduce electricity-use. The revenues are utilised to lower social security contributions, and thereby overall labour costs. The electricity tax is levied on electricity-use as an ad-quantum excise duty. The current full rate is EUR 20.5 per MWh. Compared to the average yearly wholesale price for electricity, which ranged from about EUR 30 to EUR 65 per MWh between 2003 and 2010 (EEX, 2014), the tax rate is significant in size. It implies an effective tax on the carbon content in the average unit of electricity of EUR 44.4 per tonne of carbon dioxide (CO2). Although this calculation boldly assumes that the generation mix of electricity would not change, if the tax was levied on CO2 instead of on electricity, it gives an alternative indication of the significance of the electricity tax. The government, which was concerned that the electricity tax could harm the competitiveness of the most energy-intensive firms, took at least two measures. First, it introduced the electricity tax in several steps until the full rate was reached in 2003, giving firms time to adjust to higher electricity prices. Second, it provided relief to manufacturing sectors through reduced tax rates. The reduced tax rates apply from certain thresholds of electricity-use onwards. While every electricity-user has to pay the same tax rate for any use below the threshold, firms in the manufacturing sector are eligible for a reduced marginal tax rate for any use above the threshold. Table 1 provides an overview of the development of the full and reduced marginal tax rates, as well as the electricity-use thresholds for reduced marginal tax rates. The electricity tax is an indirect tax that is levied on the supply of electricity. Consequently, every firm pays the full tax rate when it settles the invoice of the electricity provider. The tax reduction scheme is implemented through reimbursement. Firms whose electricity-use exceeds the threshold may request reimbursement from the local tax and customs agency. Flues, F. and B. Lutz (2015).