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Observations

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.
Observation
The Scotland Bill, currently making its way through the Houses of Parliament, will transfer a range of tax and spending powers from Westminster to the Scottish Parliament. At the same time, an adjustment will have to be made to Scotland’s block grant funding from Westminster – a key part of the ...
Observation
As George Osborne prepares for next week’s combined Autumn Statement and Spending Review announcement, figures released today by the Office for National Statistics suggest that he is on course to slightly overshoot the latest official forecast for borrowing this year of £69.5 billion. To meet ...
Observation
James Browne
The Institute for Fiscal Studies has published a comprehensive analysis of the impact of the government’s current tax and benefit plans and the National Living Wage on household incomes and financial work incentives. This Observation article summarises the main findings of that report ahead of ...
Observation
Rowena Crawford, Richard Disney and David Innes
Public spending on the police was cut by 14% in real terms between 2010–11 and 2014–15. This Observation article, which summarises the main findings of new IFS research, places these spending cuts in the context of the large spending increases over the 2000s, and explores the differences ...
Observation
All ethnic minority groups in England are now, on average, more likely to go to university than their White British peers. This is the case even amongst groups who were previously under-represented in higher education, such as those of Black Caribbean ethnic origin, a relatively recent change. ...
Observation
Like the NHS, day-to-day spending on schools was protected from cuts in the last parliament and the new Conservative government has announced protections for schools spending in this parliament too. However, rising costs mean that schools are likely to face real-terms cuts on spending per pupil for ...
Observation
This Observation comes from an article published in a special edition of Fiscal Studies, based on IFS analysis for the 2015 general election.
Observation
Gemma Tetlow
Last week’s Budget was the first of the new Parliament and the first by a Conservative government for nearly two decades. Following the pattern of all other general elections since 1987, the government announced a package of tax measures raising in excess of £5 billion a year. But there were ...
Observation
The 8 July Budget may prove to be George Osborne’s best chance to bring in some much-needed reforms to our creaking and increasingly incoherent tax system. This observation suggests some important directions for reform and calls for an improvement in the way policy is made. If this is to be a ...
Observation
Productivity is currently the most talked about topic in town, and for good reason. At the end of 2014 UK productivity remained below its pre-recession level and 16% below where it would have been had the pre-recession trend continued. Looking forward, it is only productivity growth that is likely ...
Observation
The Department for Work and Pensions has published its annual statistics on the distribution of household income in the UK. This latest release covers the years up to and including 2013–14. In this Observation, we briefly outline some of the key information contained in the DWP publication.
Observation
Gemma Tetlow
This week has seen various statements by public figures about borrowing and debt. George Osborne announced that the government will legislate to require the UK government to run a budget surplus ‘in normal times’. Meanwhile, the Scottish National Party have tabled an amendment to the Scotland ...
Observation
The Conservative Party manifesto committed to eliminate the deficit by 2018–19, largely through reductions in public spending. David Cameron has implied that these cuts would be relatively easy to achieve because they mean “saving £1 a year in every £100 that government spends”. ...
Observation
The Conservatives’ victory in the general election means that we should shortly find out how they will find the additional benefit cuts to which they have committed. This observation, funded by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, briefly summarises previous IFS analysis of the context for these ...
Observation
The 125th anniversary of the Economic Journal provided an opportunity to look back on several of the journal’s important papers and reflect on how these papers altered our thinking about important economic issues and laid the groundwork for further progress in economic research. One such ...
Observation
This observation summarises the findings of new IFS research on recent trends in those receiving out of work disability benefits published in the Journal of Economic Perspectives. Over time, an increasing proportion of these recipients is: younger rather than older, female rather than male, and ...
Observation
The devolution of powers over national insurance contributions (NICs), welfare policy and corporation tax, among other areas, are set out as priorities in the SNP manifesto as a stepping stone to full fiscal responsibility. In this Observation article, we assess the plans for these specific areas.
Observation
Yesterday, the SNP published their election manifesto. In this observation we examine what these plans would mean for the Scottish Government’s budget and powers, and the challenges involved in moving beyond them to reach full fiscal responsibility for Scotland.
Observation
The Liberal Democrats' manifesto highlights a commitment to protect education spending per pupil in England for 2–19 year-olds in real terms. Labour and the Conservatives have also announced protections for education spending in England. In this Observation, we analyse the implications of these ...
Observation
The Conservatives have announced that they would introduce a new Inheritance Tax allowance for main residences that are transferred to children or grandchildren. This new IFS observation describes the policy and argues that if £1 billion is to be spent on cutting Inheritance Tax an increase in the ...