How (Not) To Do Public Policy: Water Charges and Local Property Tax

Jim O’Leary has an op-ed about the Local Property Tax  in today’s Irish Times, based on his recent report, How (Not) To Do Public Policy: Water Charges and Local Property Tax, published by the Whitaker Institute at NUI Galway. The report was launched at a conference last month at NUI Galway featuring senior policymakers, public servants, academics and other experts who evaluated the strengths and weaknesses of the policy-making process in Ireland with a view to suggesting how the quality of policy-making might be improved. Highlights from that conference, including videos of Jim’s presentation and Robert Watt’s keynote speech as well as audio of the panel sessions can be found here on the Whitaker Institute website.

How (Not) To Do Public Policy

Conference and launch of new report on water charges and the local property tax

1:30pm, Thursday, 13 September 2018
Aula Maxima, The Quadrangle, NUI Galway

Why do some public policy measures succeed while others fail? Why, for example, has the Local Property Tax been a policy success, while the attempt to introduce water charges was a policy disaster? What can we learn from successful and failed policies about the policy-making process in Ireland and how to make that process more effective?

This conference will gather senior policymakers, public servants, academics, and other experts to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of the policy-making process in Ireland with a view to suggesting how the quality of policy-making might be improved. Although much analytical attention has been paid to the effects of public policies in Ireland and to the macroeconomic context in which they are set, there has been very little analysis of the policy-making process: How policies are conceived, designed, implemented, communicated, and reviewed. This conference is an attempt to address this gap. View the conference programme here.

The conference will feature the launch of a new Whitaker Institute report by economist Jim O’Leary on water charges and the local property tax. This report, meticulously researched based on exceptional access to senior policymakers, looks back forensically at these two recent policy initiatives and explores what it was about the policy-making process in each case that contributed to success or failure.

This conference is aimed at a general audience and will appeal to anyone with an interest in how public policy is made in Ireland. The event is free and open to the public, however those who wish to attend must pre-register at: https://www.eventbrite.ie/e/how-not-to-do-public-policy-tickets-48552806752

Revenue Annual Report 2017 and New Research

This morning Revenue published our Annual Report for 2017. The report contains lots of information on Revenue’s activities and outputs last year that contributed to the collection of €50.8 billion in net receipts for the Exchequer, as well as delivering on service to support compliance, the implementation of customs controls and facilitation of trade.

Also published today are a series of research papers that may interest readers of this blog:

Updated Corporation Tax research profiles tax payments received in 2017 as well as analysis of 2016 tax returns. This includes significant new analysis of multinational companies in Ireland.

An analysis of Income Dynamics and Mobility based on Revenue micro data. This examines the distribution of incomes by decile and percentile as well as tracking mobility of income earners over time.

Profiles of Excise Duty and Capital Taxes receipts. Excise, Capital Acquisitions Tax , Stamp Duty, Capital Gains Tax and Local Property Tax cover wide ranging activities, transactions and products. The profiles document these in detail and show changes in core components in recent years.  For the first time, information on capital taxes are combined together with location and earnings data to present new perspectives on the taxes.

Revenue’s latest customer survey, of small to medium sized enterprises in 2017, is Revenue’s fourth SME survey. Responses show that customer satisfaction with Revenue service remains high across a range of headings. The survey also includes a behavioural experiment to test the impact of personalisation on response rates.

Also published is the annual illegal tobacco survey results for 2017 and the first quarterly Local Property Tax statistics for 2018.

 

The taxation of profits from intangible assets and Ireland’s contribution to the EU Budget

In last weekend’s Sunday Independent Richard Curran had a piece the start of which looked at a measure passed via Financial Resolution No. 3 on the night of the Budget speech. He says:

Multinationals make very real profits from charging for the use of their IP. In 2015, the trading profit made by multinationals in Ireland on their IP shot up by €26bn. This was completely offset by capital allowances they received - basically reducing their taxable profit on that to close to zero.

To put it in perspective if we had allowed just 80pc of that to be set against capital allowances, we could have taxed 20pc of it at 12.5pc. It could have yielded around €650m in tax.

The measure is linked to the recently published Review of Ireland’s Corporation Tax Code and Richard Curran’s piece throws light on most of the key issues, except one: the link to Ireland’s contribution to the EU budget.  This is referenced in paragraph 9.3.11 of the review:

Figures from the Revenue Commissioners and Tancred (2017) show that there was a €26 billion increase in intangible-asset related gross trading profits in 2015. This was offset by an increase in the amount of capital allowances for intangible assets of a similar scale. These gross trading profits are included in Ireland’s Gross National Income but the use of capital allowances results in a much smaller amount being included in the taxable income base for Ireland’s Corporation Tax. Given Ireland’s contribution to the EU Budget is calculated by reference to Gross National Income, this increase in profits has an impact.

Assessing this impact was beyond the scope of the review but is something which the seven-page note linked below attempts to address.  With lots of moving parts precision is difficult to achieve but the broad elements of the issue should hopefully stand out.

A note on intangibles, the taxation of their profits, and Ireland’s contribution to the EU budget

Update: Here is a bullet-point summary

  • In 2015 intangible-asset-related gross trading profits of multinationals operating in Ireland increased by €26 billion.
  • In the same year claims for capital allowances related to expenditure on intangible assets increased by €26 billion.
  • No Corporation Tax is due on the gross profits offset by capital allowances
  • Using estimates from the Department of Finance implies that these figures have risen to around €35 billion for 2017.
  • These untaxed profits are included in Ireland’s Gross National Income which adds about €200 million to the country’s contribution to the EU budget.
  • A cap on the amount of capital allowances that can be used in a single year is to be introduced for new claims for capital allowances on intangibles.
  • Based on patterns for the past two years the Department of Finance forecast that this will result in €150 million of additional Corporation Tax being paid in 2018.
  • The Revenue Commissioners figures for 2015 and the Department of Finances estimates of the impact of recent onshoring imply that  intangible-asset-related gross trading profits are expected to be around €40 billion in 2018 (with a further €36 million added to the EU contribution).
  • If the cap applied to all claims, existing and new, then the additional Corporation Tax to be collected in 2018 could be up to €1 billion using the 2015 figure published by Revenue and estimates from that time used by Finance.
  • If companies who are expected to move IP here in future years are happy to pay the tax now why doesn’t the same apply for companies who already have IP here?

Rewriting the rules

From an Irish perspective the most significant announcement made yesterday by Commissioner Vestager was in relation to Amazon not Apple.  The Commission announced that Luxembourg had granted €250 million of illegal sate aid to Amazon.  The structure used by Amazon in Luxembourg is close to a replica of that used by US companies in Ireland.  It is a double-luxembourgish.  Here is the Commission’s description of the Amazon structure:

Continue reading “Rewriting the rules”

Miriam Hederman O’Brien Prize 2017

The presentation of the 2017 Miriam Hederman O’Brien prize awarded by the Foundation for Fiscal Studies will take place on the Monday 2nd October from 8:00 -9:30am in the Grafton Suite, The Westbury Hotel, Dublin 2.

The aim of the prize is to recognise outstanding original work from new contributors in the area of Irish fiscal policy, to promote the study and discussion of matters relating to fiscal, economic and social policy and to reward those who demonstrate exceptional research promise. The prize forms an important part of the Foundation’s overall objective of promoting more widely the study and discussion of matters relating to fiscal, economic and social policy.

The shortlisted papers are shown here and past winners here.

There will be tea / coffee from 8.00 as well as an opportunity to view stands promoting some of the work and applications nominated for the Award.

The event is free but please register in advance to info@fiscal.ie.

Analysis of Low Pay Sectors

Readers may have seen that the Low Pay Commission recently published their report Recommendations on the National Minimum Wage for 2018.

Perhaps of most interest to readers of this blog are the detailed appendices, which include a study by Revenue and Irish Government Economic & Evaluation Service (IGEES) economists Seán Kennedy, Brian Stanley and Gerry McGuinness of the low pay sectors based on tax return microdata. This paper is also separately available here.

The paper examines the incomes and mobility of taxpayers and the profitability of employers in Ireland using Revenue’s tax record data. The distributional and mobility analysis of low income taxpayers is based on a longitudinal dataset, which follows approximately 100,000 taxpayers for 4 years from 2011 to 2014. These taxpayers are stratified random sample drawn from the entire population of 2.1 million tax units on Revenue records. While analysis of incomes in Ireland and internationally is often based on a snapshot at a moment in time, the longitudinal nature of this dataset allows measurement of income mobility over time.

Some of the key findings are as follows:

  • One in three taxpayers are low paid, defined as those earning below two-thirds of median income.
  • The highest proportions of low paid taxpayers are in the wholesale & retail trade (23 per cent) and accommodation & food (19 per cent) sectors.
  • Five low pay sectors are identified, having median incomes that are substantially below the median income for all sectors. They include accommodation & food service activities, wholesale & retail trade and administrative & support service activities.  Slightly over one third of employments are in low pay sectors.
  •  Low pay sectors have the highest proportions of the youngest taxpayers. Two in five taxpayers are aged 24 and under in the accommodation & food sector.
  • In the low pay sectors, males earn slightly more than females while in the other sectors females earn more. The sectors with the highest ratio of males to females are construction, transport and agriculture (7.5, 2.9 and 2.8 times respectively).
  • In Dublin, median incomes in low pay sectors incomes are 7 per cent higher than those outside Dublin (compared to 9 per cent higher in the other sectors).

Based on an analysis of income mobility, lower paid taxpayers working in low paid sectors have a higher chance of increasing their incomes in future years relative to others within the same sector. For example, in the accommodation & food sector almost half moved upwards from the bottom quintile between 2013 and 2014.

Revenue’s Annual Report 2016

Revenue today published our Annual Report for 2016. The report itself contains a lot of interesting material on our activities and outputs last year. In addition, we have published research reports on Corporation Tax returns for 2015 and payments in 2016, the oil market in Ireland, our latest illicit tobacco survey results and a summary of lessons from the application of behavioural economics in Revenue. We have also updated our regular statistics on Local Property Tax.

The New Yorker on how Apple created Ireland’s real, and less real, economies

For readers who want a good summary of what’s going on with Apple, the EU Commission, etc., Adam Davidson of the New Yorker has a nice piece putting the decision in its historical and political context. From the piece:

Is the Ireland of the real Apple—the physical place with people doing things that produce profit—going to dominate, or will it be the Ireland of tax-free fictions and arbitraging loopholes in a complicated global economy?

Ireland’s economic transformation in the course of the past thirty-five years was remarkable in many ways. Up until the early nineteen-eighties, Ireland’s income per person was one of the lowest in Europe, right alongside Greece’s. Unemployment was well above sixteen per cent for much of the nineteen-eighties. The country’s income began to hurtle upward after 1995. Dell, Intel, and Microsoft joined Apple in Ireland. Large pharmaceutical firms also came, and now more than half of Irish exports are pharmaceuticals. At first, these big firms were excited to find people with advanced degrees willing to work at a fraction of what American, French, or German workers are paid. By the early two-thousands, Ireland’s per-capita gross domestic product was higher than that of the U.S. or the U.K., and fully a hundred and thirty per cent of the European average. For the first time in Ireland’s history, the country experienced net immigration. Alongside the new economy of high-tech and pharmaceutical companies, Ireland continued to develop its agricultural businesses, especially food manufacturing. Ireland is now a major exporter of snack foods and dairy products. For the first few decades, this growth seemed to have been based on something beautiful and right: the Irish had always been highly educated, clever, and hardworking, and they were now earning what they deserved.

How Does Ireland’s Income Tax Compare?

A great deal of political debate in Ireland rests on the assumption that Ireland’s rates of taxation are prohibitive. This is generally taken to mean that Irish taxes on income, specifically, are particularly onerous. This perception is rarely, however, assessed with reference to available statistics.

A new NERI Research inBrief by Paul Goldrick-Kelly uses the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD) data concerning estimates of the effective direct taxes paid by households of varying income and marital status in 2014 to assess Ireland’s rates of taxation on income relative to those observed in other comparable nations.

 

The NERI Research inBrief series are short four page research notes on various topics of socio-economic interest. Other contributions in the series are available here.

The NERI is on twitter: @NERI_research

Thinking a little about indexation

The Minister for Social Protection wants to index many social protection payments to a cost of living index as an anti-poverty measure. This makes sense on the face of it, as long as that cost of living index is going up, and as long as the level of benefits fall when the cost of living falls. It’s also worth thinking about the virtues of indexation, as this was one of the main criticisms IFAC had of the fiscal space calculations during the last election.

Let’s say you index benefits to the consumer price measure of inflation.

Here’s what happened to that reading over the longer run.

Screen Shot 2016-07-22 at 11.29.28Just messing about with the idea a little more, imagine we ‘begin’ the Irish economy in year 1 with a CPI reading of 100, and grant benefits of €100. Then we can add in (say) the last 20 years of real CPI data from 1995 to 2015 to get a sense of what would have happened to benefits in a year-on-year basis as a result.

The line is the increase in benefits as a result of the indexation, and the bars are the changes in euros to the benefits as a result of the cost of living increase or decrease, measured on the right hand axis. The excel sheet I used to knock this up is here.

Picture1

Hopefully you can see two things. First, the measure is highly pro cyclical. Precisely when we want benefits to decrease a bit, because the economy is growing strongly, they go up, and when we want benefits to increase a bit to cover the cost of living during a crash, they go down. Second, in recent years inflation has either stagnated, or fallen, so you wouldn’t see a huge increase or decrease in benefits either way. Now you could smooth out some of these effects out with a moving average of, say, 3 years, but this little exercise shows, I think, that it’s worth looking carefully at indexation proposals.

(Updated with thanks to commenter Tony_Eire.)

“No recovery here”

One of the really interesting outcomes of the last election was the rejection by voters of the Fine Gael strap line: let’s keep the recovery going. As measured by GDP growth, Ireland was rebounding from its period of austerity very strongly, with the fastest GDP growth in Europe.

A household sector which had just received an income tax cut, child benefit increases, pension increases, social welfare increases, public sector pay increases (or restorations, whatever), threw the main party’s ‘recovery’ line back in its face at the doorsteps–what recovery, they asked. No recovery here.

This was taken to mean that there was no recovery outside of Dublin. Dan O’Brien’s series of columns have dispelled that myth. There is a recovery in rural Ireland, it’s just not happening as quickly as in the capital, where employment levels are now 96% of their 2008 peak. In the Mid-West employment levels are at 88% of their peak.

Source: CSO.ie
Source: CSO.ie

Then a long and rambling discussion on the corporate tax element of Ireland’s apparent rebound took place, largely on twitter. The volatility of the corporate tax take in Ireland is exceptional.

Yet another strand of the argument is given by thinking about Ireland in relation to Europe. Philip Connolly of the times in Ireland showed me these data of GDP per capita in purchasing power parity adjusted euros compare it with an actual income for consumption measure. The graph below is from Eurostat and shows the difference in the two measures  with Ireland and Luxemburg showing a very large difference between these two measures of household welfare. Using the AIC measure, Irish households are closer to Italian than Danish levels of welfare.

Source: Eurostat
Source: Eurostat

This may give a clue as to why we see such large differences between official rhetoric and the popular reaction to that rhetoric.

 

 

 

Reforming Ireland’s Budgetary Cycle

Via Commenter @DOCM:

The final report of the Oireachtas sub-committe on reform is now available here.

It represents a major, even historical, change, including the introduction by 2017 of an IPBO, which we discussed here.

There remain, however, a number of major ambiguities e.g. no definition of the “budgetary cycle”, lack of clarity in the role of the Budget Oversight Committee (BOC) and its relations ship with the the sectoral committee “shadowing” Finance, PER and the Taoiseach’s department and, in particular, the other sectoral committees (page 9) “Committee also to consider option where Departmental Estimates would be considered by sectoral committees which would make their views known to Budget Oversight Committee for its consideration of aggregate position.”

In short, plenty on the form but very little in the matter of the substance of the involvement of the Dáil in deciding the levels and allocation of expenditure and taxation. It seems. however, that the split between PER and Finance will be between these two issues cf. the remarks by the Minister of Finance:

“The Spring Economic Statement will become a summer statement and it should be ready by June. There will be a full debate in the House. I am providing all the text papers to the finance committee so that there will be a full debate on taxation at that point, in advance of the budget.”