Is the Scottish budget for 2019/20 disadvantaged by UK Government policy decisions on income tax?

Is the Scottish budget for 2019/20 disadvantaged by UK Government policy decisions on income tax? The Scottish Government argues that it is. The government’s case is reasonable – but potentially undermined by its own stated policy commitments.

The Smith Commission identified two ‘no detriment’ principles which it said should apply to Scotland’s new fiscal framework.

The first was that there should be ‘no detriment’ simply as the result of the initial transfer of a particular power.

The second – and the one relevant to this blog – was that neither government should face detriment as a result of a policy decision taken by the other. Specifically, ‘where either government makes a policy decision which effects the revenues or expenditure of the other, the decision-making government should reimburse the other where there is an additional cost, or receive a transfer if there is a saving’.Continue reading

May 13, 2019

Budget 2019-20: what next?

This spring the Scottish Budget for 2019-20 secured safe passage through Parliament.

Once again, the debate – at least outside parliament – focussed upon the familiar issues of income tax rates and local government budgets.

But important longer-term trends are starting to emerge which will shape the Scottish budget in new ways. With the next election just over two years away, these issues are likely to increase in importance as the campaign approaches.

In this blog, we set out five key issues to watch out for.Continue reading

April 23, 2019

The emerging outlook for Scottish income tax revenues

How have Scotland’s revenues from income tax been performing since income tax powers were transferred to the Scottish Parliament in April 2017?

This is clearly an important question to ask. The Scottish budget in any year is determined in part by the rate of growth of Scottish income tax revenues per capita since 2016/17 compared to the growth of equivalent income tax revenues per capita in the rest of the UK (rUK).

We are nearly at the end of the second year of Scottish income tax devolution. But official income tax revenue outturn figures for 2017/18 will not be published until this summer, whilst outturn figures for 2018/19 will not be available until summer 2020.

Whilst income tax revenue data is not yet available, HMRC has published some information on the number of taxpayers who pay tax through Pay as you Earn (PAYE), and the average income of those PAYE income taxpayers, in 2017/18 and the first two quarters of 2018/19.Continue reading

February 26, 2019

Taxing contradictions: is Scotland the fairest taxed part of the UK?

Delivering his Draft Budget in December, Derek MacKay argued that Scotland was the ‘fairest taxed part of the UK’. As the dust settles on the 2019/20 Scottish Budget, it’s a good time to reflect on the Scottish Government’s approach to taxation, and to examine that claim.

Devolved tax policy in Scotland and the claim to fairness

Looking across each of the taxes controlled by Holyrood, the common thread underpinning policy decisions is the Scottish Government’s desire to make two claims.

First, that Scottish tax policy is more progressive than the equivalent policy in other parts of the UK. Second, that those with the lowest incomes, or living in the lowest value properties, pay relatively less tax in Scotland than they would do in rUK.Continue reading

February 21, 2019

How does the Scottish Government assess the impact of its budget on tackling Child Poverty?

The Scottish Parliament has adopted statutory targets to substantially reduce rates of child poverty over the period to 2030. But to what extent will the policies set out in the government’s budget for 2019/20 contribute to the achievement of these targets?

The Scottish Government publishes complementary analysis alongside its budget each year that shows how it has taken due regard of its statutory duties to reduce differences in outcomes by protected characteristics and socio-economic disadvantage. The information provided in this Equality Budget Statement (EBS) provides the Scottish Government’s own assessment of how Budget spending will impact on equality and socio-economic outcomes in Scotland.

In this blog, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation and the Fraser of Allander Institute reflect on the insight that the Scottish Government analysis provides with regards to tackling child poverty.Continue reading

January 10, 2019