Archive for the ‘Fiscal Policy’ Category
The latest report from the FAC is available here.
Using standard provisions in tax codes internet companies face low or no corporation tax bills in the countries of their customers. This issue has been repeatedly raised in the UK by Margaret Hodge, chair of the Westminster Public Accounts Committee. In relation to Google in particular much of the focus has been on whether Google has a permanent establishment in the UK.
This issue is also agitating the chair of the Italian lower house Budget Committee, Francesco Boccia, who has drafted a bill to try and force companies like Google to engage with their customers in Italy through a party that has a permanent establishment in Italy. See this report from Reuters.
The proposal would not tax the multinationals directly but would force them to use Italian companies to place their advertisements, rather than doing so through third parties based in low-tax countries like Luxembourg, Ireland or outside the European Union.
Doubts about the feasibility of such a proposal seem justified but it does show someone trying to take some action on this issue.
The Staff Report on the Commission’s latest review of Ireland’s EU/IMF programme is now available. It does not contain much that is new. There is this on page 20.
Ireland’s fiscal stance has not been overtly pro-cyclical since the beginning of the crisis. Using conventional metrics, discretionary fiscal policy has been clearly leaning against the wind in 2008 and 2009, and did not move openly or blatantly into the wind in 2010 and after, in spite of the significant budgetary adjustment efforts put in place by the Irish government (Graph 2.1) (14). Fiscal policy remained, and is expected to remain broadly in line with the stabilisation function of discretionary fiscal policy, or at least not to run counter that function. In the early years (2008-2009) when fiscal policy was incontrovertibly counter-cyclical, the fiscal policy strategy mainly consisted of correcting previous policy commitments built on optimistic growth projections accompanied by the fact that in a deflationary environment, nominal expenditure freezes implied increases in real terms. Since 2011, the improvement of the structural deficit has taken place in an environment of slightly improving economic conditions.
This is Graph 2.1. Click here to enlarge.
Maybe footnote 14 is important:
(14) The structural changes of the economy during the economic crisis are beyond normal business cycle fluctuations. Therefore, potential growth and structural government balance estimates need to be treated with caution.
Representatives of the UK’s Revenue and Customs appeared yesterday before the Public Accounts Committee of the Houses of Parliament. The exchanges were interesting though the evidence from the HMRC officials was sometimes confusing. Following on from previous work done by the committee much of the focus was on corporation tax with issues relating to tax residency, tax compliance, the tax gap and permanent establishment among those referred to.
The questioning from the committee chair, Margaret Hodge, was forthright but at times slipped into grandstanding, primarily a suggestion that the Revenue show take “a few show cases”. Ms Hodge also wanted the Revenue to estimate how much the tax gap would be if it was calculated “between the money that you collect and the money if everyone paid their fair share”. Of course, “fair share” is an alien concept to tax collectors; their job is to collect what the tax code prescribes. Unless something illegal is being undertaken the answer to such a question in relation to MNCs will be close to zero. If the UK wishes to collect more corporation tax Parliament changing the tax laws would be more effective than the Revenue undertaking some show cases.
An investigation into Google’s activities was alluded to through an exploration of documents provided by a former employee but it is not clear that it will lead to a change in the judgement that Google does not have a permanent establishment in the UK.
I don’t know if the Houses of Parliament make transcripts of the committee sessions available. The transcript of a recent appearance by our Revenue Commissioners at a sub-committee of the Oireachtas Finance Committee is available here.
A Bloomberg feature on some elements of the Irish corporation tax regime was also published yesterday.
UPDATE: A transcript of yesterday’s Commons PAC hearing is here (H/T Gavin).
Òscar Jordà, Moritz Schularick, Alan Taylor have a new piece on the issue, available here.
The Dutch Sandwich and Double Irish figure prominently in this FT article about Google’s tax returns for 2012.
It seems that Google Netherlands Holdings, which represents the Dutch part of the sandwich, received €8.6bn in royalties from Google Ireland Ltd last year.
By Ronan LyonsTuesday, October 1st, 2013
The end of one quarter and the start of another sees the usual slew of economic reports and the start of Q4 is no exception. Today sees the launch of the Q3 Daft.ie Report. In line with other reports in the last week or so, and indeed with the last few Daft.ie Reports, there is evidence of strong price rises in certain Dublin segments. What is new this quarter is the clarity of the divide between Dublin and elsewhere: all six Dublin regions analysed show year-on-year gains in asking prices (from 1.4% in North County Dublin to 12.7% in South County Dublin), while every other region analysed (29 in total) continues to show year-on-year falls (from 3.1% in Galway city to 19.5% in Laois).
The substantial increases in South Dublin over the last 12 months have led to talk of “yet another bubble” emerging, with internet forums awash with sentiment such as “Not again!” and “Will we never learn?”. To me, this is largely misplaced, mistaking a house price boom for a house price bubble. Let me explain.
Firstly, I should state that, unlike “recession” which is taken to mean two consecutive quarters of negative growth, there is no agreement among economists on what exactly constitutes a bubble, in house prices or in other assets, but the general rule is that prices have to detach from “fundamentals”. For example, the Congressional Budget Office defines an asset bubble as an economic development where the price of an asset class “rises to a level that appears to be unsustainable and well above the assets’ value as determined by economic fundamentals”. Charles Kindleberger wrote the book on bubbles and his take on it is that almost always credit is at the heart of bubbles: it’s hard for prices to detach from fundamentals if people only have their current income to squander. If you give them access to their future income also, through credit, that’s when prices can really detach.
Alan Taylor has a piece on Vox today that is a nice contribution to the debate on the output effects of austerity. That debate has largely been about the endogeneity of fiscal policy: the more you take this into account, the more contractionary austerity becomes. He and Oscar Jorda show that if you give less weight to episodes where the austerity/no austerity policy choice was more predictable (i.e. more endogenous) and more weight to episodes where the policy choice was less predictable (i.e. more exogenous) then you find that austerity was extremely contractionary in slumps. This does not mean that fiscal consolidation is never necessary, but that the time for consolidation is when times are good, not when times are bad. It would be nice if Austerians could display a similar recognition that context matters.
In a statement issued at the end of this Review yesterday, we were given the by-now familiar plaudits for achieving various benchmarks. Going forward, ’strict implementation’ of this year’s budgetary targets is urged.
The gravity of the unemployment situation is acknowledged. ‘Swift action needed to deal with unemployment’ the newspaper headlines proclaimed. The onus for this is placed on the Irish government and a familiar list of policies proposed, including for example ‘the need for enhanced engagement with the unemployed and the opening up of competition in sheltered sectors like legal services’.
I wonder how much our readers think increased competition between lawyers will contribute to lowering our unemployment rate.
Eurostat have published a news release with some summary tables of taxation trends in the EU. The data are taken from the 2013 Statistical Book on the same topic. The section on Ireland in the book opens with the following summary.
At 28.9 % in 2011, the total tax-to-GDP ratio in Ireland is the sixth lowest in the Union and the second lowest in the euro area. In recent years this ratio gradually decreased from a 2006 high of 32.1 %, but has increased again in 2011, apparently on foot of budgetary measures aimed at raising tax receipts.
The taxation structure is characterised by a strong reliance on taxes rather than social contributions. Direct and indirect taxation make up 43.4 % and 39.4 % of the total revenue in 2011 respectively, whereas the social contributions raise only 17.2 % of total tax revenue. The share of social contributions is the second lowest in the EU. The structure of taxation differs considerably from the typical structure of the EU-27, where each item contributes roughly a third of the total. As in the majority of Member States, the largest share of indirect taxes is constituted by VAT receipts, which provide 54.1 % of total indirect taxes (53.3 % for the EU-27). The structure of direct taxation is similar to that found in the EU-27. The shares of personal income taxes and corporate income taxes are in line with the EU-27 average and represent 9.2 % and 2.4 % of GDP. Social contributions represent a meagre 5 % of GDP (second lowest in the Union after Denmark), compared to an EU-27 average of 12.7 %. Employers’ and employees’ contributions are at 3.5 % and 1.3 % of GDP, respectively.
Ireland is one of the most fiscally centralised countries in Europe; local government has only low revenues (3.5 % of tax revenues). The social security fund receives just 16.4 % of tax revenues (EU-27 37.3%), while the vast majority (79.2 %) of tax revenue accrues to central government. This ratio is exceeded only by Malta and the UK.
The latest Assessment Report from the Fiscal Advisory Council can be accessed here.
Paul de Grauwe and Yuemei Ji have an interesting commentary on the causes and effects of austerity here.
On behalf of the EUROFRAME group of research institutes, the ESRI today published a report entitled “Economic Assessment of the Euro Area”.
Among the findings contained in the report are the following:
· As a result of relatively weak external demand, continuing financial uncertainty and the contractionary stance of fiscal policy, output fell in the Euro Area in 2012 (-0.5 per cent). Over the course of 2012 there was a slowdown in some key economies, which were previously contributing much of the growth. This slowdown has carryover effects into 2013.
· Even though we anticipate a recovery in confidence in some major economies over the course of this year, the outcome for the Euro Area as a whole is still likely to be a further limited fall in GDP in 2013 of 0.3 per cent. Weak external demand will not be enough to compensate for the fall in domestic demand.
· For 2014, a recovery in domestic demand should see a return to significant growth in GDP of around 1.3 per cent. However, this forecast must be considered in the light of the continuing vulnerability to financial shocks of a number of the Euro Area member states.
· This vulnerability of countries in financial distress is being addressed through a continuing major fiscal adjustment. However, the fiscal adjustment under way across other members of the Area is also having a substantial negative effect on growth, particularly in the crisis countries. Without this fiscal adjustment the Euro Area would be looking to growth this year at around 1½ per cent and next year at approximately 2 per cent.
Last week the latest ESRI Quarterly Economic Commentary was published. It includes 5 research notes including one by myself on the regional dimension of the unemployment crisis.
While there is a lot of discussion about unemployment, the differences across regions have not received much attention. The note shows that the differences are significant. It also shows that things would look a lot worse if it had not been for a drop in labour force participation - in the Border region the unemployment rate could have reached 27%. Not surprisingly a sharp drop in employment is the major cause of the increase in unemployment, but a look at the sectoral breakdown of employment changes gives some interesting results. Firstly, construction employment appears to have contracted quite uniformly across the country. Secondly, employment in education and health actually grew. Thirdly, there are some interesting differences across the regions with respect to other sectors. For example, manufacturing declined much more in Dublin than elsewhere. Most importantly the analysis suggests that the underlying factors that are responsible for the differences in unemployment rates across the regions are very persistent but were hidden during the boom. You can expect some more analysis on this in the near future.
The other notes are:
Tax and Taxable Capacity: Ireland in Comparative Perspective
Comparing Public and Private Sector Pay in Ireland: Size Matters
Trends in Consumption since the Crisis
Revisions to Population, Migration and the Labour Force, 2007-2011
By Tim CallanWednesday, October 10th, 2012
Further information on Geary Lecture and seminar by Tim Besley below. To reserve a place at either/both event(s) please email firstname.lastname@example.org and state clearly which event(s) you wish to attend.
Geary Lecture: Tim Besley
4pm Friday 19 October at ESRI
Making and Breaking Tax Systems: The Institutional Foundations of Fiscal Capacity
We have become accustomed to governments having the fiscal capacity to support revenue raising of more than 40% of GDP. But such levels of taxation were unheard of before the 20th century. This lecture will review some of the trends in taxation over the past one hundred years and how the tax systems were created which support the needs of modern governments. It will use this historical perspective to reflect on the challenges that need to be confronted in trying to build a centralized fiscal state in Europe.
Research Seminar, 1pm Friday 19 October, at ESRI
The Welfare Cost of Lawlessness: Evidence from Somali Piracy
This paper estimates the effect of piracy attacks on shipping costs using a unique data set on shipping contracts in the dry bulk market. We look at shipping routes whose shortest path exposes them to piracy attacks and find that the increase in attacks in 2008 lead to around a eight to twelve percent increase in shipping costs. We use this estimate to get a sense of the welfare loss imposed by piracy. Depending on what is included, we estimate that generating around 120 USD million of revenue for pirates in the Somalia area led to a welfare loss of anywhere between 0.9 and 3.3 USD billion. Even at the lower bound, therefore, piracy is an expensive way of making transfers.
By Tim CallanWednesday, October 3rd, 2012
This year’s Geary Lecture will be delivered by Tim Besley, Professor of Economics and Political Science, LSE. He will speak on
“Making and Breaking Tax Systems: Institutional Foundations of the Fiscal State”
Date: Friday 19th October
Venue: ESRI, Sir John Rogerson’s Quay
Attendance at the event is free but must be pre-booked. There are a limited number of places available and early booking is encouraged. To book a place, please send details of attendee’s name, organisation and contact telephone number by email to email@example.com
We have a narrow definition of whingeing in this country, it appears.
You might think that someone who represents a rich constituency complaining about value-based property taxes “punishing people for their address” could be fairly described as whingeing. Indeed, you might think that such a person should be reminded that “The country’s in crisis. We can’t put our fingers to our ears and pretend it’s not happening”.
Apparently not. Whingeing, it seems, is a concept that only applies to people complaining about cuts to the public services on which poor people rely, not to people complaining about higher taxes on people in expensive neighbourhoods.
..is discussed in the Irish Times today by my UL colleague Donal Donovan. From the piece:
The prospects for Ireland being able to access sufficient market funding by late 2013 do not appear favourable. The lending environment for sovereigns in much of the euro zone has worsened steadily and, barring miracles in Greece and Spain, is unlikely to improve sharply soon. Notwithstanding Ireland’s Yes vote and continued adherence to the troika programme, we can’t avoid being affected by the general market nervousness. Ireland’s budget deficit, at 8-9 per cent of gross domestic product, remains the highest among debt-distressed euro zone members.
Even under favourable assumptions, without specific debt-alleviation measures, the debt to GDP ratio will be over 100 per cent – second only to Greece – for some time.
Despite encouraging words from European Central Bank president Mario Draghi, it is hard to be confident that the estimated €40 billion needed to cover the budget deficit and repay maturing debt obligations in 2014-2015 can be obtained at affordable market terms.
The issue of whether the Fiscal Compact will mean additional austerity in the post-2015 period has generated some heat in the referendum debate. John has usefully provided some light to this issue in a previous post. This post adds little to the conclusions there on the “1/20th” rule but relays a similar point in a slightly different way. Based on IMF projections Ireland will satisfy the debt reduction rule in 2015.
The debt reduction benchmark is calculated as an average over a three-year period. One of two averages can be used to satisfy the rule. There is a backward-looking average covering the years t-1, t-2 and t-3 with a benchmark calculated for year t, and there is also a partially-forward-looking average for the years t-1, t and t+1 with a benchmark calculated for year t+2.
The formula for the benchmark is in the Code of Conduct for the Stability and Growth Pact and for the retrospective average it can be seen on page 8 to be:
where bb is the benchmark or target debt ratio and b is the debt-to-GDP ratio in other years. Although there is a bit to the formula all that is needed is the debt ratios for three years in order to calculate the benchmark for the next year.
If the debt ratio for the current year is expected to be below the benchmark level given by the formula then the conditions of the debt reduction rule are satisfied.
To simulate the impact of the rule on Ireland we can use the IMF’s forecasts of the general government gross debt from the recent update of the World Economic Outlook as these extend out to 2017. We will use these to gauge Ireland’s performance to the rule beginning in 2012.
The debt ratio column are actual data up to 2010 and are the IMF’s projections from 2011 to 2017. The benchmark column are the targets for each year and is calculated by putting the debt ratios for the preceding three years into the formula shown above. Compliance is true if the debt ratio for any year is less than the benchmark calculated for that year. Under current assumptions and IMF projections Ireland will satisfy the retrospective version of the debt reduction rule in 2017.
One of the assumptions the IMF makes is that we undertake the €8.6 billion of fiscal adjustment planned for 2013-15. Projections after that are based on a “no policy change” scenario. Under IMF projections we will satisfy the debt brake rule in 2017 with no additional fiscal effort above what has already been provided for up to 2015 with neutral budgets after that.
The debt reduction rule can be satisfied while running deficits and does not require any debt repayments. The IMF project that there will be an overall budget deficit of 1.9% of GDP in 2017.
The gross debt continues to rise and in the years from 2014 to 2017 (the years used in the 2017 comparison) the gross debt increases from €201.0 billion in 2014 to €213.5 billion in 2017.
If the alternative forward-looking version of the rule was applied it would actually show that we would be in compliance with the rule from 2015, as the benchmark calculation is based on the debt ratios in the same three years, 2014, 2015 and 2016 and again compared to the ratio in 2017. Using the forward looking version of the rule in 2015 will also give a benchmark of 109.6% of GDP for 2017 which is, of course, above the projected debt ratio for 2017.
Although this is only a simulation it does show that we would not need additional fiscal adjustment to satisfy the debt brake rule. In fact, using IMF projections it can be shown that we will be able to satisfy the rule before we even leave the Excessive Deficit Procedure (EDP). The debt brake rule doesn’t actually become effective until three years after a country leaves the EDP. We have until 2018 to become compliant with the debt reduction rule but we may actually be compliant by as early as 2015.
One reason for this is that the “1/20th” rule is actually relatively benign and according to Karl Whelan in section 2.1 of this paper the “rate of progress that is deemed satisfactory is still very slow.” We have plenty to be worrying about but satisfying the conditions of the debt brake is not one of them. In fact, it is likely that we will want to reduce the debt ratio at a rate faster than that required by the rule.
In the Irish Times, Michael Noonan is quoted as saying:
“On next year’s profiles we’re looking at 2.2 per cent of growth in GDP. The uncertainty caused by a No vote will cause that to come down and consequently that would make my job more difficult in planning the next budget. I don’t want to be put in a position where we have to increase the pace of the correction and, simply, the electorate are entitled to that information.”
I am curious. Am I the only one who thinks that plus 2.2 per cent is wildly over-optimistic, unless there is a radical change of direction in Eurozone macroeconomic policy?
Since the beginning of February the Committee Rooms in LH2000 have been busy holding meetings on the Treaty on Stability, Coordination and Governance. The table below the fold gives a list of the witnesses who have been before the Joint Committee on EU Affairs and the Sub-Committee on the Fiscal Treaty of the same membership.
Links to the presentations made by some of the witnesses can be found here, with webcasts here. The dates in the table are links to the transcripts of each session. More will be added as they become available.
By Tim CallanThursday, April 19th, 2012
A conference paper provides evidence relevant to some key choices in the design of a new property tax. While the paper does not recommend a specific blueprint, it draws on evidence from other countries as to “what works” and analyses the impact of different forms of property tax on a nationally representative sample of households.
Ronan Lyons post yesterday contained three main comments on the paper. Because some of these appear to have drawn primarily on an Irish Independent report that contained inaccuracies, rather than on the paper itself, it seemed best to issue this as a new post.
1. The first comment is that “there should be no exemptions from a property tax, only deferrals”. The SWITCH model is set up to analyse policy choices. As I see it, the level of an income exemption limit is a choice variable, and in this context, zero would be Ronan’s preferred option. Our research found a range of positive values in evidence in many countries. For example, the UK Council Tax Benefit effectively exempts those with incomes close to minimum social security levels. In Northern Ireland, they have set a higher income limit than in the rest of the UK. In our analysis we report income distribution impacts for the zero case, and also for levels at the State Contributory Pension and State Pension+25%. Our work points out the implications of the different choices. Making such a choice is a matter for public debate and government decision. Our paper aims to inform that choice.
2. The second comment is that “a property tax should most certainly not be related back to income”. I’m not sure what he has in mind here but it is important not to misunderstand our analysis. Apart from income exemption limits and some marginal relief above this (necessary to prevent 100%+ tax rates), the property tax bill we consider is simply a flat percentage of market value. We analyse what the outcome is in terms of how the burden is spread across the income distribution – this depends on how, in practice, property values and incomes are related, as well as on the effects of exemption limit provisions. These are questions of legitimate interest for research and policy.
3. Thirdly, it is stated that our paper asserts that Ireland has “no database on site values”: This is not what we said – it reflects an inaccuracy in the Irish Independent’s report. What we said is that “to our knowledge, there is no data source which combines information on site characteristics (location and size) and household incomes, so that it is not possible to provide a clear picture of how a Site Value Tax relates to ability to pay or its impact on the distribution of income”. If there is such a source, we would be glad to hear of it.
By Ronan LyonsWednesday, April 18th, 2012
This is my first post on Irisheconomy.ie, having served my time as apprentice in the Keyboard Warrior army with my own blog, so hopefully it’s useful to set out how I envisage using this site. My research interests are urban economics (including property markets) and economic history. When it comes to the Irish economy, my interests are probably best categorised as follows (in no particular order):
- Irish government finances
- the property market
- Ireland’s international competitiveness
I had thought that maybe my best option to open my account on this site would be to do a post on each and start a conversation. Fortunately, the Irish policy debate is far too exciting and so this morning we have a story (see for example Charlie Weston’s article in the Independent) that covers all three areas: the property tax.
Venue: The ESRI, Whitaker Square, Sir John Rogerson’s Quay, Dublin 2
Time: 8.30 – 13.00
The fourth ESRI Renewal Conference will examine the best available domestic and international evidence relating to the need for rapid economic adjustment. Papers will address:
- What explains the apparent inflexibility of wages in the Irish labour market?
- How can competition and regulatory policies help in economic recovery?
- What does evidence tell us about designing a property tax?
Papers will be followed by a response from an expert in the field and an open Q&A session.
8.30 Registration & Refreshments
9.00 Opening remarks: Frances Ruane, Director, ESRI
9.05 Explaining Changes in Earnings and Labour Costs During the Recession
Adele Bergin, Elish Kelly, Seamus McGuinness (ESRI)
9.35 Response: Kieran Mulvey, The Labour Relations Commission
9.45 Audience discussion
10.10 Troubled Times: What role for Competition and Regulatory Policy?
Paul Gorecki (ESRI).
10.40 Response: Cathal Guiomard, Commission for Aviation Regulation
10.50 Audience Discussion
11.45 Property Tax in Ireland: Key Choices
Claire Keane, John Walsh, Tim Callan, Michael Savage (ESRI)
12.15 Response: Dr William McCluskey, University of Ulster
12.25 Audience Discussion
To book a place at this conference, please register here
For further information please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Economic Renewal Conference Series is supported by FBD Trust.
If you would like to receive our monthly eNewsletter with news of ESRI activities and publications, please subscribe here.
The Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform has announced the Government’s plans for the sale of state assets. Interestingly, rather than sell a minority stake in the ESB the plan now is to sell non-strategic power generation capacity – in my view a more sensible approach.
By Karl WhelanSaturday, January 21st, 2012
The Irish Times reports
NEARLY 50 hospital consultants and almost 1,000 nurses of different grades are set to leave the health service before new pension changes come into effect at the end of February, the first official figures show.
In other parts of the public service about 1,130 staff in the education sector are understood to have applied to leave
This brings back memories (misty water-coloured memories) of pre-election promises
Additional Reduction in Back-Office Public Sector Numbers: As set out in our Reinventing Government plan, Fine Gael will reduce the size of the public service by 10% – just over 30,000 – without undermining key front-line services in health, policing and education, through over 105 reforms to cut back-office bureaucracy and delivery improved value for money. This means that Fine Gael will reduce back-office administrative positions in the public service by an additional 18,000 over and above the 12,000 reduction partners to seek further efficiencies in work practices
I guess these are back-office consultants, nurses and teachers.