Facts and figures about UK taxes, benefits and public spending.
Income distribution, poverty and inequality.
Analysing government fiscal forecasts and tax and spending.
Analysis of the fiscal choices an independent Scotland would face.
Case studies that give a flavour of the areas where IFS research has an impact on society.
Reforming the tax system for the 21st century.
A peer-reviewed quarterly journal publishing articles by academics and practitioners.
In these frequent observations, we look at aspects of topical issues related to our research programme. To sign up to receive email alerts when new observations are posted, please email Bonnie Brimstone.
The UK is in the fourth year of a planned eight-year fiscal tightening. Following further announcements made in Budget 2013, this fiscal consolidation is now forecast to total £143 billion by 2017–18. The UK is intending the fourth largest fiscal consolidation among the 29 advanced economies for which comparable data are available. By the end of this financial year, half of the total consolidation is expected to have been implemented. However, within this tax increases and cuts to investment spending have been relatively front-loaded, while cuts to welfare spending and other non-investment spending have been relatively back-loaded.
The March Budget forecast that borrowing would fall by £0.1 billion from £121.0 billion in 2011–12 to £120.9 billion in 2012–13. On Tuesday, the Office for National Statistics is due to release its first estimate of public sector net borrowing in March 2013 and, therefore, for the whole of 2012–13. Borrowing could easily end up being higher or lower than it was in the previous year, either due to backwards revisions, the uncertainty inherent in forecasting borrowing even a month in advance, or both. However, whether borrowing is slightly up or down in cash terms is economically irrelevant. Either way, the bigger picture is that having fallen by roughly a quarter between 2009–10 and 2011–12, borrowing is forecast to be broadly constant through to 2013–14.
Employment rates through the recession have been remarkably robust, with today’s ONS figures showing employment remaining close to 30 million. The young have experienced historically low employment rates and high unemployment rates but the employment rate of women aged 60 to 64 has increased as fast since 2010 as it did during the 2000s. An important explanation is the gradual increase in the state pension age for women since 2010, which has led to more older women being in paid work. Without this policy change, the employment rate for 60 to 64 year women would have been broadly flat since 2010.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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