After Brexit the UK could cut VAT on energy – but should it?

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During the EU referendum, one of Vote Leave’s promises was that “fuel bills will be lower for everyone”. Specifically, Boris Johnson and others argued that: “In 1993, VAT on household energy bills was imposed. This makes gas and electricity much more expensive. EU rules mean we cannot take VAT off those bills. The least wealthy … Continued

A welcome boost for ‘just about managing’ families in Scotland

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Yesterday started with a bleak assessment by the Child Poverty Action Group of the impact of ongoing welfare cuts – specifically how the two-child limit on support, which began to be implemented in 2017, is set to push 300,000 children into poverty. But there was better news for Scottish parents later in the day, as … Continued

CB40: Happy 40th birthday to child benefit! But will it last another twenty?

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Yesterday, the minimum wage celebrated its 20th birthday. Today, child benefit is having a 40th birthday bash. But, as this analysis shows, it’s become a somewhat modest affair, with (record) low generosity, fewer people invited than in earlier years, and particularly complicated arrangements. So today is a good time to step back and take stock … Continued

Torsten Bell

How wealth taxes can raise billions more without scaring any horses

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Raising taxes is never easy. Raising taxes with the government’s slim parliamentary majority is harder still. Raising taxes on wealth in those circumstances, given our diverging senses of fairness is…  not a walk in the park. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t need doing, and the good news is that significant progress can be made … Continued

Boosting benefit take-up is critical to the success of Universal Credit, but we might not be able to measure whether it’s working

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Benefit take-up rates matter. A lot. If households aren’t actually receiving the benefits that government policy entitles them to, their incomes will be lower and the social safety net will not work as intended. The government’s own estimates of benefits take-up suggest that billions of pounds worth of benefits probably go unclaimed each year. Take-up … Continued

The Chancellor may have one arm tied behind his back, but there are still tax levers he can pull

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How can a government with a tenuous majority, an intra-party feud and Brexit uncertainty find the money to ‘end austerity’ on top of more than £20 billion a year it has promised for the NHS? The safe bet is that it won’t find anywhere near all of it in the Budget. This can – like … Continued

Should the Office for Budget Responsibility also forecast inequality?

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The strengths and weaknesses of economic forecasting are under scrutiny, perhaps like never before. How might GDP perform under different Brexit policies compared to a world with no Brexit? Is unemployment now likely to rise or fall? What will public borrowing in 2022 be? Whatever your politics, such modelling and forecasting is indispensable – so … Continued

‘The rise of the robots’ and ‘productivity pessimism’ can’t both be right

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Talk of looming automation, AI and robots is pervasive in public policy chat – including in the government’s new industrial strategy. Almost as common are projections that the weak growth of the past decade is here to stay – including in the latest official economic outlook. Sometimes these assumptions are even mentioned in the same … Continued

Did raising tuition fees flatter measurements of young people’s incomes?

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The government has announced that the maximum annual tuition fee will be frozen at £9,250; and that the earnings threshold for repayment will jump from £21,000 to £25,000. What’s more, there will be a wide review of student finances to “look again” at this turbulent political issue. While they’re doing that, government statisticians should look … Continued

Vast gaps in living standards between ethnic groups persist — and recent progress could yet be undone

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We talk a lot about certain types of income inequality—the recent outcry over unequal pay at the BBC springs to mind—but the specifics of ethnic economic inequalities rarely get enough air time. Though only scratching the surface of such a complex topic, my recent Resolution Foundation briefing on the gaps in household incomes for different ethnicities sought … Continued

Public spending
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Economy and public finances
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Political parties and elections

How do the main parties’ fiscal policies compare?

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The parties’ manifestos cover a lot of ground. But what would their fiscal policies mean for the country? As we set out in an earlier report, boring-sounding rules about the deficit matter hugely for the country’s public debt trajectory, the parties’ delivery of services and tax and benefit policies, and for accommodating coming demographic challenges. … Continued

Is the Prime Minister right to say that inequality has gone down?

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In the brave new world of ‘alternative facts’, it’s natural to take politicians’ claims with more than the usual dose of salt. That’s particularly true when rivals appear to take very different positions on verifiable points of fact. With the Prime Minister claiming yesterday that “inequality has gone down under this government” and Jeremy Corbyn … Continued

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