An essential component of a free society is independent press. It plays a central role in preventing both state actors and private interest groups from pursuing their own interests through state power too aggressively. Journalists independent from political and economic power work effectively through two main channels: detecting and uncovering actual offenses, and safeguarding against further (...)
The best way how rich countries can help the poorer ones has always been to teach them how to fish. Not giving them fish. And certainly not taking fish away from them. Yet this is what the EU has been doing since the 1970s, and in September it has renewed three multi-year greatly underpriced leases of fishing grounds off Africa, to the detriment of poor African fishermen and for the benefit (...)
Germany Income per capita is not only high in Germany, it is also relatively equally distributed in the population. OECD data indicate that only a few small countries have income both higher and more equally distributed than Germany. In other large European countries like France, UK, Italy or Spain, income is lower (on average) and more unequally distributed. This international comparison (...)
"Fair tax(es)" is a beautiful idea everybody wants to subscribe to. Including, of course, modern EU politicians. Their idea of "fair tax", however, differs very much from the way in which people understood the concept in the past. It is no longer about making sure the tax is fair to the taxpayer. It is much more about making sure that the taxpayer pays "her fair share", meaning "enough". (...)
It is good when foreigners buy agricultural land. Johnny Foreigner will have evidentnly paid more than anyone else, and he can bring access to better capital, technology, know-how or marketing channels. That’s what the single market is for. Yet governments fear him and legalise against him - like the Slovak government recently (and many others). Some see it as a protection for domestic (...)
A new study from a German economics institute claims that the German state has already made €100bn from the Greek crisis as lenders flee from Greece into the safe haven of German government bonds, reducing their interest rate and saving the (...)
7 Lessons about Governments Bedding Big Business
Each employed Slovak worker will pay about a week’s take-home pay in extra taxes so that their government can bribe Jaguar into creating a few jobs located in Slovakia (for a while). We present lessons this teaches us, one for each day of such week.
Market failure is discussed more frequently than government failure
Economists are often accused (especially by other disciplines) of exaggerating the virtues of the market and of systematically downplaying the chances of a successful government intervention. In this view, economists are "market believers" and “state sceptics”, which is then reflected not only in research, but also in teaching and policy advice. It is true that economists deal with the causes (...)
The imagination of EU governments to come up with new kinds of tax is apparently inexhaustible. Tax on meat is now being prepared, as an answer to alleged “problems” with meat production and consumption. But taxes are generally bad solutions to “problems”, especially when those problems are created by other government (...)
It’s not just USA who is raising minimum wages significantly. New or increased minimum wages are spreading all across the EU, too (e.g. Germany, UK, Portugal..). If we take McDonald’s as a symbol of "minimum wage jobs", which governments are working the hardest to deprive such workers of any job at all?
If it wasn’t obvious already, Greeks do their taxes differently.. They rely more than is customary in OECD on the less visible taxes of VAT and Social Security. Income tax revenue (from people and companies) is much less prominent. If they are risking a lot less, it time to try to actually lower the income tax (...)
New retail tax in Hungary discriminates big business, which just happens to coincide with the finance minister’s nationalistic interest. New retail tax in Czechia favours big business, which just happens to coincide with the finance minister’s business interest. Curious thing, Coincidence...
You’ve heard of Bitcoin. Is it primarily a currency or a service? Its users probably could not care less; for many it will be both. Yet a distinction is necessary. Why? Well, taxes, of course! What else? If it is primarily a currency, buying or (...)
Are Germans the redeemer or destroyer of the Greek tax system?
Two recent stories from Greece reveal very different treatments of Germans paying taxes in Greece – depending on whether they are people or corporations.
New IREF book
Thomas Piketty’s book “Capital in the 21st century” was dubbed as “blockbuster”. But for a group of French intellectuals under the lead of IREF, a free market institute in Paris, it was important to demonstrate that the French economist’s “Capital” did not deserve its commercial success. “Anti-Piketty” is a collection of essays by renowned international economists and historians, critical of Thomas (...)
Greece failed to pay a 1.5 billion installment by the end of June. The rhetoric has long portrayed the lenders as fat cats living off Greece’s misery. Varoufakis had his sight on 1.9 billion which he called “ECB’s profiteering on poor Greeks” and should be “returned” to the Greeks to cover the IMF payment. In reality, the sum not only would not solve anything, its interpretation is plainly wrong. (...)
How do you make a credible list of countries whose tax policies you don’t agree with? Do you ask only half of your members, let them decide their own criteria, and have it approved by a few interest groups? If you are the EU, then yes.
Two decades after the last EU bananagate, it’s going bananas again. EU subsidy programme to bring "fruits, vegetables and bananas" [sic!] to schools is only partly trying to do a "good thing". Partly it’s changing schools into dumpsters for excess output of oversubsidised agriculture. And the EU Parliament has just infused it with EU propaganda: "EU food good, other food bad". Orwell’s (...)
So you thought you could have your cake and eat it. That you reduce tax on something which has benefitial implications for a disadvantaged social group, saves resources and is good for the environment. Think again, says the EU Court. Your young ones are, apparently, not a legitimate aim of social policy. (And you didn’t declare the goal in your law! Off with (...)
How do you know that any institution has too much money? When it does not manage, in spite of best intentions, to spend them all. Then there is room for scaling down the budget. The money will not disappear - it will be spent by the original "donors" instead. We show that the EU is, at least to some extent, such (...)
Summer in Greece? Silly taxes ahead.
In all epochs, exports were almost always considered good for an economy. That’s why modern governments have generally stayed away from trying to tax exports. Not so the current Greek government, however. By increasing the tax rate on a vital component of Greek exports it is hoping to raise some “free revenue”. It won’t (...)
An age-old phenomenon: Some unemployment exists and politicians want to fight it by creating conditions for new jobs. The usual recipe involves expanding government spending and investment programs. Figures for OECD countries show that places with low taxation of labour tend to exhibit low unemployment low and high levels of individual annual work hours. For politicians this serves as a much (...)
European Parliament has just voted to increase the budget each MEP can spend on their assistants. This can hardly be justified. Worse, it can increase the deluge of new regulations.
International institutions like IMF or World Bank do often give economic policy advice to poorer countries, but generally only after thorough analysis. EU does not specialise in such anaislys, and its diplomats should avoid dispensing such unfounded advice altogether.
There are plenty of reasons to panic about the level of UK government deficits and debt. But Brexit, even if it actually came, is not one of them. We review the relationship between a UK-sans-EU and public finance.
Political instability tends to worsen national debt
UK might not get a single party government after next month’s election. Again. Moody’s are not worried about the consequences for government finances. They probably should be.
Greek death tax uncharitable to foreigners
Say you want to pass your wealth to others after you die, since you cannot take it with you. If you pass it to friends and family, many (18) EU governments will take a hefty portion of it in inheritance tax. If you pass it to a charity, most (...)
In the Middle Ages in the Middle East, merchants and travellers would sometimes have a proof of having paid their tax tattooed on their necks, to prove that they don’t have to pay again. Modern EU has devised a less painful alternative – a “Portable Document A1”. It is automatically recognised everywhere - except in Belgium. That’s worse than (...)
Businesses pay a lot more than just corporate income tax.
The impression from media is that companies pay “only” somewhere around 20-30% tax rate in the EU, if they pay at all. That’s only the headline figure for one tax they pay. Total tax rates are well over 40%, French businesses pay 2/3 of their profits in tax. What’s worse, the big economies of Germany and France, already heavy taxers, have increased the tax rate over the past 10 years. This does (...)
Businesses both pay taxes and collect them from others for the government. How administratively burdensome is this activity across the EU, North American and EFTA? We assess the evidence and identify, whether it is the frequency of filing or complicated tax returns that matter.
The European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled last Thursday that e-books are not allowed to enjoy the lower VAT that “normal” books enjoy in some EU states, and that they have to be taxed at the standard (much higher) rate of other goods. The ECJ’s justification sounds strange and very counter-intuitive. Worse still, it discourages technological progress and greener methods of (...)
If you are playing for time, you have to swamp your creditors with proposals how you are going to improve. “This time it’ll work, honest, guv.” So the Greek government is now proposing a secret tax police, where ordinary citizens would be wired with cameras and microphones to catch tax evaders. It’s a terrible idea, especially when there are easier (...)
We are continuing our assessments of monthly packages of legal actions initiated by the European Commission against member states. Unfortunately, no information was made available by the EC since our November assessment until the current February package. At the beginning of December, the next had been scheduled for December 16th, but there is no trace of either the December ’14 or the (...)
The French government is hoping to help consumers – and increase growth – by making it illegal to manufacture products with artificially shortened lifetime. We argue that proving such case will be nearly impossible in modern technology and the ban will act as a tax, with consequences even worse than the status quo. If governments want to artificially boost production, they should in fact (...)
Some “fiscally healthy” Eurozone governments are in fact in dire straits
The Greek bankruptcy of 2010 was the latest impetus for reviving the debate on robustness of governments’ budgets in the Eurozone. It became clear that in order to assess the long-term fiscal health, it is not enough to look at the much used public debt-to-GDP ratio. Additional indicators need to be considered which take a broader (...)
Negative interest rates here, there, everywhere. What used to be taught as "impossible" in textbook is now a reality throughout the EU. And for the first time it even affects corporate bonds, not just "safe" sovereign ones. Why would anyone lend more than they receive, when they can just hang on to cash? We (...)
The poorest poor in Croatia are having their debts wiped out by the government. The motivation may be noble, but the apportioning of the costs is despicable. Once again, government’s power and reach grows, yet it keeps this fact under the carpet. Who’s next?
Earlier this week, Russian borrowers with Euro or Dollar mortgages called upon Putin to relieve them of their now increased interest payments. Banks should bear the costs, whilst the borrowers bore the benefits until now. We show that this bailout is just a repeated story of bank and government bailouts of recent (...)
Greece is said to be suffering under crippling burden of debt servicing. However, the official debt servicing is already lower than in other EU countries with much smaller debts. Furthermore, the actual interest payments payable by Greece are close to those that Germany is having to make on its incomparably healthier debt. When the general public learn about these relations, political support (...)
Transatlantic Trade and Investment negotiations are resuming. Popular support varies across Europe, we identify four distinct groups. Removing trade protectionism will generally benefit ordinary people. However, some protectionism may increase, especially in investment chapters. If governments rather give in to corporations than risk being sued by them frivolously, corporatism will (...)
New rules about deficits run by Member State governments have been announced by the European Commission. They are phrased as “guidance” so no Parliamentary approval is needed. They are said to “encourage structural reforms and investment”, but IREF shows that they discourage structural reforms and encourage only (...)
9 EU countries have not adopted the Euro, 19 have. Both groups include similar proportions of countries with high, medium and low levels of economic freedom. However, IREF’s investigation of what has been happening to economic freedom in the two groups reveals significant differences. While non-Euro countres moved towards more fiscally related freedom, in Eurozone it stagnated or (...)
Greek labour market is hard to crack for an outsider
The Greeks have voted and the left-wing Syriza emerged as the clear winner. There will now follow intensive discussions about Greek reforms and the relationship between Greece and the rest of the world. The labour market is one of the core battlegrounds in Greece. It is very difficult for the country’s unemployed to re-enter the labor market. This is borne out not only by the high unemployment (...)
Greeks suffer consequences of lack of economic freedom
For several weeks Greece has been, once again, at the centre of European economic policy. Grexit, Greece’s withdrawal from the Eurozone, is being debated again, in light of the forthcoming Greek election of 25 January. Proponents point to the opportunity after such withdrawal for a massive devaluation of Greek currency which would lower the price of Greek goods and services and make them (...)
Twelve Days of Fiscal Christmas
This article is from our mini-series looking at modern fiscal issues surrounding items listed in the famous 18th century English carol “Twelve Days of Christmas”. We believe that if the list can be used as an index measure of monetary inflation, (...)
Twelve Days of Fiscal Christmas
To replace the original sacrifice of two turtle doves, the biggest European authority in the Middle Ages, the Catholic Church, dictated what people should eat. EU governments continue doing the same, by fiscal means. However, this fiscal policy is full of paradoxes. Governments tax consumption of “bad” food, while also subsidising its production at the same (...)
Twelve Days of Fiscal Christmas
A partridge in a pear tree, the famous gift of the first day of Christmas, is at the centre of an EU fiscal paradox: European taxpayers are paying for extensive programmes to protect the habitat of the dwindling species. At the same time, they are fiscally forced to help to destroy partridge’s habitat through subsidised conversions into farmland and suburban (...)
New ECJ ruling confirms that member states can currently deprive non-residents of welfare payments. Yet, it has been popularly portrayed as a new tool to protect the spiralling costs of EU welfare states. We show that on the contrary, costs may rise, both in the short and long run, and the ruling makes welfare states even more entrenched. Meanwhile, the dominant part of “international welfare (...)
Free movement of people, capital, goods and services across national borders. Those are, allegedly, the pillars of European integration. One of them, the free movement of capital, crossed swords twice this week with EU policy makers convened at (...)
"In order to prevent tax fraud, income tax withholding should be increased so that governments over-withhold and most taxpayers receive a refund." This is the policy prescription in a new research about to be published. We argue that this conclusion is wrong. The authors have not proven the link between tax withholding and tax fraud, and even if, increased tax withholding creates more serious (...)
Every month, the EU Commision starts dozens of legal actions against Member States for non-compliance with EU law. We evaluate the November crop of fiscally-related cases. While 2 such actions are generally a good idea, 4 are a bad idea, reducing EU citizens’ opportunities for an efficient and transparent (...)
The EU as an investment bank we can do without
According to several reports, EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker is planning to introduce a 300 billion-euro investment package this Wednesday (November 26th). The idea is to establish a European fund that will assume liability risks on behalf of private investors. Only profitable projects would be eligible for the guarantee; the profitability of individual projects is to be (...)
Tax cuts are pretty rare in the real world. When they do happen, they tend to be very partial, offering unjust advantages to a specific group. But even broader tax cuts can paradoxically do much harm. Using Italy as an example, this piece argues that when tax cuts lead to greater debt, they may ultimately curtail rather than enhance liberty – and long run economic (...)
What happens when high tax rates drop
How do you pay for increased government spending on education, health care and social services? By lowering the tax rate, of course… Wait, what?! Oh indeed. A new report on Swedish fiscal developments over the last dozen or so years shows what’s possible to achieve when a country tries to shake off the reputation for Europe’s highest (...)
It is becoming a pattern. Another weekend, another 100,000+ protest against a new tax. Only not Hungary and tax on the internet, but Ireland and “tax on water”. At least that’s how many media are reporting it. ABC runs with the headline "Marchers Protest Ireland’s New Tax on Water Supply", RT leads with “Ireland Stands Up Against Water Tax”. Protestors’ banners also cite water tax. IREF shows (...)
8 myths busted
Large demonstrations took place over the weekend in Hungary. Somewhat unusually, people were not protesting against spending cuts, but against a new tax. A targeted tax on internet traffic. The issue of taxing this new paradigm of our lives will not go away anytime soon. As a companion to your on/offline debates, IREF busts 8 fiscal myths about the (...)
The new Nobel Memorial Laureate is one of prime architects of modern regulation of markets. To many that will make him a social engineer. However, as modern EU governments’ budgets are increasingly suffering from similar problems of failed previous regulation and self-regulation, his voice should increasingly be heard also in the European fiscal (...)
Minimum wage is a tax on those who create jobs
Germany’s minimum wage has been created at a pretty high level, higher than its equivalents in the UK or the US. Increasing the price and reducing the quantity of an economic activity it acts as a tax. A pretty unsocial one as it destroys jobs for the poor and punishes those who create them. That the poorer Eastern Germany should be hit the hardest is saddest of (...)
Should fiscal policy be taken away from governments?
When governments are unable to take care of their finances, is it time to appoint them a guardian who will take care of that business and (co-)determine fiscal policy? When is such guardian irreplaceable and how could they help?
Dawn of Zeroastrianism?
In 2006, the EU outlawed the zero, banning it from VAT rates of member states. Within two years the zero struck back. It now rules supreme in at least three economic areas, but in the tax domain it continues to be banned. Any newcomers to the EU will be hit especially hard. Why would anyone institute a minimum tax anyway? Surely we need protection from a maximum, not a (...)
With the Scottish referendum around the corner and other ones looming on the horizon, IREF investigates the accounts of states thinking about a divorce. What are assets and liabilities to be split? Is the currency such asset, for example?
Scotland’s coming referendum is offering the country “independence”. Politicians cannot agree about what exactly it would mean, especially what currency the new state would have. Now an economics Nobelist has added his voice to the debate. At face value the question of adopting another country’s currency is very simple, but closer scrutiny reveals deep fiscal connotations which complicate things. (...)
Most companies were hit hard by the freezing up of financial markets after 2008. Governments responded selectively – by selective tax cuts and subsidies, but they could have more meaningfully “help” everyone, not just big companies, by lowering corporate tax rates. Did they? IREF investigates, and shows EU countries’ responses fall into 5 (...)
Why is anyone against it?
A famous economist, author of even more famous economics textbooks, is calling for an end to corporate taxation. Not because he has been bought by the corporate world and multinational companies, but because it makes economic sense. Perhaps most surprisingly – it should make sense even to left-leaning (...)
A century later....
EU governments are increasingly subsidising electric plug-in cars. Many countries have “five year action plans” to electrify their roads, using tax money. Environmental benefits will actually decrease with e-car proliferation, and the governments are forcing us to pay for something we may soon not want.
New IREF Policy Paper
A new IREF Policy Paper by Senior Fellow Alexander Fink analyses the colourful patchwork of various private pension schemes the government has created, and compares their inflexibility and other disadvantages to the US system. A “single pot” which would enjoy some of the currently individualized incentives would be a much better idea for everyone in Germany. And it may even contribute towards (...)
So who would build roads without taxes?
A century after privately built and operated roads were either nationalized or closed down, a new private toll road has sprung up in England. It is popular with drivers, if not with the local government. Is it always wrong to charge for use of infrastructure built from tax money? Is it OK that many EU countries start charging for highway (...)
Government is blatantly nudist
Summer temperatures bring new wave of strikes to France (not that they’re seasonal…). Two concurrent current strikes involve nudity. Fiscally, though, they have very different implications. It does not depend on what you do with your clothes, it depends on who is your employer.
After many Occidental countries imposed sanctions on some Russian businesses, Russia has retaliated by restrictions on some Occidental ones. Trade wars rarely work. However, a new fiscal phenomenon has appeared: affected EU companies seek compensation from the state for loss of markets. Should they get (...)
The media world calls Summer “the silly season”. When politics takes summer break, it is time to roll out the “silly stories” to fill the media. Not this year. Politics strikes back and rolls out silly taxes on media. Hungary’s ruling party introduced a new tax on advertising revenues of up to 40%. This is terrible economics, but economics cannot compete with terrible (...)
Key to post-Wimbledon life? Lose the key!
Carrying keys on your person is dangerous if you are a Wimbledon champion, tax authorities will charge you heavily for such audacity. At least one EU government’s budget apparently relies on its citizens winning the Wimbledon. And it encourages envy. If successful sports-people representing their countries want to help their fellow citizens, they should stop being (...)
Portuguese Constitution is too PC
Portugal’s Constitutional court joined the ranks of those European courts that have halted crucial welfare reforms by governments. IREF reviews the evidence and concludes that fiscal policy must, for better or worse, remain the sovereign responsibility of the government held accountable at the next election. Being able to blame the courts would pave the way for governments to court misery, the (...)
Desperate times call for desperate measures. European governments cannot raise enough tax to cover their spending. Ireland has even been forced to adopt what economists generally consider the least distortive tax feasible. That is good (considering the alternatives), but its execution leaves much to be desired. Strange incentives remain, and punishment for success is built (...)
Spanish government has just announced it will cut some taxes. The actual cut will not come until early next year, and just like a Spanish rodeo arenas, it has a sunny and a shady side to it. The sol is the riddance of tax breaks. The sombra, however, is ushered by the EU pressing for higher taxes.
Stalin said: No man – no problem. EU governments’ tax policies are following suit. Shifting taxes onto a man who does not (yet) exist is one way of solving problems. Are governments also subtly changing existing taxes into less visible ones? Is this a more humane form of “No man protesting – no problem”? IREF (...)
Tax harmonisation in the EU is pursued in order to prevent competitive lowering of tax rates, an alleged race to the bottom. What race?, IREF asks. Taxes are an ever increasing (at best stable) portion of GDP, and have been for years.
Gross domestic product is getting more gross
Prostitution is going to enter official Italian GDP figures, allegedly to help the government meet its fiscal targets... The story went viral. IREF brings you the real story beyond the headlines. Prostitutes in GDP are perfectly normal, everywhere. It’s the way that we measure our governments’ indebtedness that is not (...)
How economics - and the fiscal cycle - affect voter turnout is a richly studied question. But what about the other way? Can turnout - how many or few voters turn up to vote - affect the fiscal situation in the following period? IREF investigates and finds that people simply going and voting can be good for fiscal freedom. At least a (...)
Cypriot government has unilaterally “redefined” one of the conditions of its 10bn bailout package and lifted a ban on government officials traveling business class. Is this an exercise in customary opulent luxury or is it actually a hidden subsidy? And aren’t all governments guilty?
Voter turnout at the latest European Parliament election is much debated. Many countries saw further drops compared to last EP elections in 2009, fuelling concerns about widening democratic deficit. Beyond the general facade, IREF discovers an interesting geographic pattern in the turnout numbers.
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