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

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 But official income tax revenue outturn figures for 2017/18 will not be published until this summer, whilst outturn figures for 2018/19 will not be available until summer 2020.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

Scottish income tax policy 2019/20

This afternoon, Mr Mackay set out the proposed income tax parameters for 2019/20 in the draft Budget.

These are shown in the table at the bottom of this blog, together with last year’s policy and the 2019/20 UK policy.

Mr MacKay said that 99% of Scottish income taxpayers will pay less tax in 2019/20 than they did in 2018/19.

This statement is correct in the sense that, in 2019/20, 99% of taxpayers will benefit from a higher tax-free personal allowance**, (and to a lesser extent the Scottish Government’s increase in the thresholds for the basic and intermediate rates).

What about comparisons with the rest of the UK? Mr Mackay pointed out that 55% of Scottish taxpayers will pay less income tax than rUK taxpayers with equivalent income.

This is true in that the 19% Starter Rate in Scotland means that those with income less than £27,000 (slightly above the Scottish median income) will pay less tax than rUK counterparts.

It is worth bearing in mind however that the difference between Scottish and rUK tax liabilities at this end of the income distribution is small – the maximum benefit to Scottish income taxpayers is just over £20 per year.

Some examples of the difference in liabilities for different salaries are given in the diagram below.

Continue reading

December 12, 2018

VAT Assignment – A bridge too far for fiscal devolution?

Alongside this month’s Budget, the Scottish Fiscal Commission will set out forecasts for VAT revenues in Scotland.

2019-20 will mark the first year in which VAT assignment will be explicitly incorporated into the Budget (although, as with all the phased implementations of Scotland’s new tax powers it will be 2020-21 before it has a meaningful implication for spending).

In this blog we remind readers of the background to VAT assignment, discuss the approach that has been put forward for implementation and outline some implications for the Scottish Budget.

Working out how much VAT is raised in Scotland is exceptionally difficult. Unfortunately, a paper published recently by the UK Government on how it plans to do this suggests that little progress has been made in finding a robust way forward after over 3 years of trying.

Given the sums involved, the Scottish Parliament would be taking on a significant – and unreasonable – risk based upon current plans. It should, at the very least, press for a delay in the assignation of VAT to the Scottish Budget.Continue reading

December 6, 2018