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In these frequent and topical observations, we comment on policy issues related to our research programme. Sign up to receive email alerts when new observations are posted, or scroll down to subscribe to one of our RSS feeds.


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Year: 124 publications
18 March 2013
Rachel Griffith, Andrew Leicester and Martin O'Connell

Last week the Prime Minister David Cameron told MPs that he was determined to “deal with” the “problem of deeply discounted alcohol in supermarkets and other stores” and said that the Government was considering the results of a consultation into a proposed minimum unit price for alcohol. In this observation, IFS researchers consider the merits of such a policy and argue that taxing alcoholic drinks on the basis of their alcohol content, with higher tax rates on stronger than weaker drinks, would be more effective at targeting those drinking above recommended levels than would a minimum alcohol price.

20 February 2013

With exactly one month to go until the Budget, IFS and the Institute for Government are holding a joint event on how tax policy might be better made. In this observation, Paul Johnson, IFS director, reflects on why we still have a long way to go in designing a more coherent tax system and why the current policymaking process may be partly to blame.

14 February 2013

In a speech in Bedford today, the Leader of the Opposition, Ed Miliband, has proposed reintroducing a 10% income tax rate on a narrow band of income, to be paid for by a new ‘mansion tax’ on residential properties worth more than £2 million. In this observation, IFS researchers explain why there are better alternatives to both of these policies that would have similar distributional effects.

14 January 2013

Today the Government will publish a White Paper detailing plans to replace the current Basic State Pension and State Second Pension with a single state pension. The proposed reforms would be a welcome simplification of the current rather complex rules, particularly in the short run, but they also imply a reduction in the state pensions that most people born after around 1970 can expect to receive from the state. This cut in the generosity of pension benefits for currently young people will help reduce public spending on pensioners in the longer-run as pressures from an ageing population intensify. Reducing state support will also increase the incentives for younger cohorts to save privately for their retirement.

07 January 2013

The Welfare Benefits Up-rating Bill proposes to cap the annual increases in most working-age benefits at 1% in cash terms in 2014-15 and 2015-16, in addition to the 1% cap on increases already confirmed for 2013-14. This observation examines the effects of this proposal on incomes and work incentives, and puts this in the broader context of trends during the recession and subsequent fiscal tightening

04 January 2013

On Monday, Child Benefit will effectively become an income-related benefit for the first time. This observation reviews the key features of this new policy, highlights unaddressed issues regarding its operation in the long run, and considers how it will fit into the wider welfare system.

10 December 2012
Andrew Leicester and George Stoye

The government has committed itself to raising the share of revenues from green taxes over this Parliament. On its own definition of what constitutes a ‘green tax’, the pledge is on course to be met with ease. Alternative definitions of green taxes based on international convention, however, suggest that the pledge will be missed. We argue that such pledges are not a good guide to a government’s environmental credentials, and green tax policy should be justified by environmental issues rather than an arbitrary revenue target.

03 December 2012

Last week marked the 70th anniversary of the Beveridge report. Today’s social security system bears almost no resemblance to the one he envisaged. His ambition for a system of social insurance in which benefits would be paid in return for contributions to those experiencing unemployment, sickness or old age did not prove robust to changes in the economy, in demography and in the labour market. Other benefits, especially means-tested benefits, have been layered on top of the original social insurance benefits to create a system which is too complex and, at times, incoherent.

28 November 2012
Andrew Leicester and Martin O'Connell

The Home Office today released a consultation on policies aimed at reducing the social costs associated with alcohol consumption. The headline-grabbing proposal is a 45p minimum unit price for alcohol in England and Wales. We find the policy would have a significant impact, affecting almost six in ten off-licence alcohol units. However, it would be preferable to establish a price floor for alcohol through a restructured alcohol tax system in which tax is related to alcohol content more directly and retailers are banned from selling alcohol at less than the tax due.

27 November 2012

In October the Office for National Statistics announced a consultation on possible reforms to the way in which one measure of inflation used in the UK, the Retail Prices Index, is calculated. This observation discusses what the proposed changes are and highlights that they could have far-reaching consequences.

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