What is the case for increasing council tax rates in Scotland?

This blog shows that council tax rates are now markedly lower in Scotland than in England and Wales. Increasing council tax in Scotland to match rates in Wales (or England) would raise substantial revenues, but would have adverse distributional implications. On balance, the case for more fundamental reform of property taxation would appear much stronger than the case for increasing rates within the existing system.

Differences in income tax policy between Scotland and rUK have been the subject of heated debate. There has been relatively little attention paid to differences in council tax policy in Scotland compared to England and Wales. But in some ways, the differences in council tax policy are more pronounced than they are for income tax.Continue reading

May 22, 2019

VAT assignment: paused for now, but will it be pulled for good?

The Scottish Government announced last week that the assignment of Scottish VAT revenues to the Scottish budget is likely to be delayed – possibly until after the fiscal framework review in 2022. Giving evidence to the Finance and Constitution Committee last week, Derek MacKay said: ‘I am becoming increasingly minded to postpone VAT assignment until VAT powers can be further discussed at the time of the fiscal framework review’.Continue reading

May 14, 2019

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