Institute for Research in Economic and Fiscal issues

IREF Europe - Institute for Research in Economic and Fiscal issues

« Fiscal competition
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Online Articles

A critical time for the NHS

How is NHS coping with winter?
Winter is historically, and not surprisingly, a very challenging time for the UK National Health System, NHS, due to lower temperatures and the spread of viral infections. Winter 2015/2016 seems to be particularly bad and the system is showing clear signs of a (...)

The debate over Net Neutrality

Net neutrality: what is the debate about?
The Internet has probably been the fastest developing industry of the last two decades, leading it to become a necessary instrument in our daily life and a possible engine of economic growth. In this context, the net neutrality principle broadly says (...)

The 2016 reform of the UK labour market

The UK labour market at the beginning of 2016 is in a rather good shape. The rate of unemployment has decreased steadily in the last two years and is now approaching pre-crisis figures. Employment at 73.9% is reaching also record levels.
Presenting the summer budget, George Osborne, the (...)

How fiscal policy of the 1400s created Industrial Revolution in the 1800s

The Nobel-Laureate Douglass North passed away at the end of November. Though he didn’t specialise in fiscal questions, his analysis of institutions in early modern Europe reveals that actual fiscal choices about how to finance an army help to determine the fortunes and falls of European powers. (...)

No Schwexit, at least for now.
New developments in the land of the fiscally federal.

Sugar taxation won’t work and anway, there’s a better way.

The UK government has been watching Jamie Oliver’s TV shows and now wants to implement his plans for a new tax on sugar. The Commons‘ Health Committee has reported its overwhelming support for the idea at the end of November. Other than arguments that such taxes are “good per se“ because they will (...)

UK government is wrong. 5p for plastic bags *is* a tax. And it’s badly designed.

At the beginning of October, England became the last constituent part of the United Kingdom to introduce a compulsory charge for plastic shopping bags (to be paid by the shopper), after similar taxes had been introduced in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland in previous years. The relevant (...)

Policy Paper: Asylum migration and barriers to labour market entry
Policy recommendations for easier access

How taxes have created the cheating Volkswagen

Strange behaviours are often caused by strange taxes or subsidies. The strange behaviour of Volkswagen believing it could cheat and not get found out was motivated partly by the strange tax/subsidy policies in Europe which subsidised diesel at the cost of petrol (...)

Populism and government greed jeopardise rule of law

In an alarming trend, individuals, companies and institutions that have committed no crime are increasingly finding themselves subject to public witch-hunts on ill-defined ‘ethics’ charges. The practice is gaining traction in several countries, though it remains unclear who has the authority to (...)

Improving the environment in the EU: taxation does not work, property rights do.

Two routes exist in theory towards making people behave more environmentally: through taxation, and through better defining and upholding of property rights. Empirical evidence suggests that at least in the EU, environmental taxation does not seem to work. Greater reliance on property rights (...)

Press Independence, State Broadcasters, and Safeguard Against Power Abuse

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 (...)

Grab on African resources deepens. Not by China, but by the EU.

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 (...)

Germany: the highest income equality among large rich economies

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 (...)

EU has given a new meaning to the idea of "Fair Taxes"

"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 (...)

Subsidies: the real reason why foreigners cannot own land

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 - (...)

Can governments really save money by creating disasters abroad?

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 German government money on debt interest payments. (...)

Slovak government decides to prove that Marx was right
7 Lessons about Governments Bedding Big Business

Do economists believe too much in the market?
Market failure is discussed more frequently than government failure

Next tax on the menu in the EU: tax on meat.

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 (...)

Minimum wage increases employment! (But not of humans).

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 (...)

Just How Do Greek Taxes Differ From the Rest of the OECD?

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 (...)

Hungary vs. Czechia: new taxes discriminate and favour big business

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, (...)

It’s almost official. Bitcoin will be VAT-exempt in the EU

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 selling bitcoin (exchanging it for your ordinary (...)

Greeks hate it when people actually pay their taxes
Are Germans the redeemer or destroyer of the Greek tax system?

Piketty’s three main mistakes
New IREF book

Propaganda Wars: interest on Greek debt is not "profit"

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 (...)

EU’s tax haven blacklist: created by black magic method

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 (...)

The “Other” European Banana Problem

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 (...)

Social policy cannot pursue social good, says the ECJ

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 (...)

EU has too much money: The Proof

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 (...)

Greece cannot save itself by taxing exports
Summer in Greece? Silly taxes ahead.

Low labour taxes – less unemployment

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 (...)

What’s Wrong With | increasing budget for EU Parliamentary assistants

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.

EU should not encourage Nigeria to increase income taxes. (Or anyone else.)

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 (...)

It is not Brexit that endangers sovereign debt

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.

6 reasons to worry about inconclusive UK election
Political instability tends to worsen national debt

What’s Wrong With | Greek death tax uncharitable to foreigners
Greek death tax uncharitable to foreigners

Have you paid your tax? Belgian taxman won’t believe you.

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 (...)

Actual business tax? Almost half of profits in almost half of EU
Businesses pay a lot more than just corporate income tax.

EU’s complicated tax forms, measured

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 (...)

Text in e-books is irrelevant, says highest EU court

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 (...)

The new Greek (Secret) Tax Police

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. (...)

February’15 Assessment of Commision’s Legal Action

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 (...)

Planned Obsolescence: a tax with strange effect on economy

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 (...)

Fiscal health means more than current government debt
Some “fiscally healthy” Eurozone governments are in fact in dire straits

A guide to the world of negative interest rates

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 (...)

Croatian government has just grown bigger. And more sinister.

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 (...)

After banks and governments, now individuals want money for “unforeseen circumstances”

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 (...)

Greek debt servicing is not at all crippling

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 (...)

TTIP: ending some protections while creating others?

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 (...)

New rules encourage EU governments’ profligacy

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 (...)

Economic freedom down in Eurozone, up in non-Euro countries

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 (...)

Greeks have the safest jobs in the euro area
Greek labour market is hard to crack for an outsider

Freedom helps: especially in times of crisis
Greeks suffer consequences of lack of economic freedom

3 French Hens
Twelve Days of Fiscal Christmas

2 Turtle Doves
Twelve Days of Fiscal Christmas

1 Partridge in a Pear Tree
Twelve Days of Fiscal Christmas

ECJ ruling strengthens European Welfare States

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 (...)

Financial Transaction Tax cannot deliver

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 the regular meeting of financial ministers. It (...)

Increasing Tax Withholding? Bad Idea

"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 (...)

November’14 Assessment of Commision’s Legal Action

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 (...)

Pretence of Knowledge: The Case of Jean-Claude Juncker
The EU as an investment bank we can do without

Are tax cuts always necessarily good?

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 (...)

Swede dreams
What happens when high tax rates drop

“Water Tax”, the Ire of Ireland

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 (...)

Taxing the internet – is Hungary leading the way?
8 myths busted

Regulatory Role of One Jean Tirole

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 (...)

Deutschland Wages Über Alles
Minimum wage is a tax on those who create jobs

All aboard the fiscal board. Are you bored?
Should fiscal policy be taken away from governments?

New EU members banned from zero
Dawn of Zeroastrianism?

Fiscal assets and liabilities during a state divorce

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 (...)

Nobelist plays poker. For a pound.

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 (...)

5 ways of responding to financial crisis

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 (...)

Textbook guru: “Scrap corporate taxation!”
Why is anyone against it?

EU in bolshevik footsteps: the new GOELRO
A century later....

Cumbersome German pension schemes: Pool them!
New IREF Policy Paper

For whom the toll bells
So who would build roads without taxes?

Naked truth about France
Government is blatantly nudist

Caveat Venditor. Should governments compensate companies for embargos?

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 (...)

Silly season of silly taxes

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%. (...)

If you’ve won Wimbledon recently, read this.
Key to post-Wimbledon life? Lose the key!

Governments should not be able to blame courts for their deficits
Portuguese Constitution is too PC

Strange property of property tax: an Irish tale

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 (...)

The Sol y Sombra of one sombre tax reform by los sombreros

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 (...)

The Invisible Tax Riseth

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 (...)

Race to the bottom? What race?

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 (...)

28 Shades of Grey
Gross domestic product is getting more gross

Does turnout affect fiscal policy?

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 (...)

A New Ocean Discovered! - or just another subsidy?

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 (...)

Geographic Distance from Brussels Matters

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 (...)

What would be a “living wage” in the EU? The answer may surprise you.

The concept of Living wage is gaining popularity throughout the EU. The social pressure of its advocates probably stands behind the recent proposals to increase substantial minimum wages. Closer scrutiny of the proposed levels of living wages by the IREF reveals, however, that the relationship (...)

Swiss referendum on minimum wage and the EU
LLL: Location, Largess and Lessons

Wealth and growth: Mr. Piketty’s fallacious statistics
The misadventures of a new scientific materialism

Basic income is not so basic after all

Nobody likes poverty. But how do we end it? Suppose we give everyone some money. This will automatically include the poor, we don’t have to identify them, problem solved. Is it doable? Will anyone still work, create new ideas, write poetry, love?
The answer depends largely on how basic the (...)

Woes of Wolf of Wallstreet

The latest Scorsese blockbuster is still making the headlines for its novel artistic work with timelines. Does the Wolf, however, have anything whatsoever to say about Wall Street? Very little, and it may actually work to strengthen and entrench any bad practices that remain in the financial (...)

Are Members of European Parliament Smart or Dumb?

European elections are upon us. In a series of articles, IREF is helping to inform voters’ decision. Last week we analysed attendance rates by voters at elections and reasoned that European elections may be bad for democracy. It’s now time to turn the tables and consider attendance rates of (...)

The useless reshuffle : another French exception

Following lacklustre performance at local elections, the French President has appointed a new Prime Minister. Is it a good tactic, and will it change anything?

The fallacious statistics of Mr. Piketty
Book review

Are European Elections Bad for Democracy?
Where have all the voters gone....

Government’s Fiscal Monopoly: Mono or Poly?

European nations’ fiscal authorities must be doing an excellent job if people are willing to pay hundreds of thousands of euros for the privilege to pay taxes to them… Or is there something else behind the new market for EU citizenship?

The Butch Dutch
They want to be taxed.. or so they say.

Dutch Disease, 2nd edition
… And Then There Were Three…

Odd Odd-Number Experiment Has Odd Consequences. What Are The Odds?

Only those Parisians whose licence plates end with an odd number could drive their cars down the Boulevards last Monday. It was the 17th, an odd number. This is no solution to a real underlying problem which exists because of a lacking (...)

Anti-Pollution Measures: A Third Of Abuse Of Power, A Third Of Mismanagement And A Third Of Demagoguery

And maybe even a fourth third of “electoralism” in order to win the hearts of green voters! In fact, the executive power has nothing but contempt for users, taxpayers and citizens.

The Precautionary Principle Against Science

The culture of the single transgenic maize (MON810 , produced by Monsanto) approved by the European Union has been banned from France. It is the third time since 2008 that genetically modified corn is banned from the French territory. The decree of March 15th states that "in light of scientific (...)

Just How Unequal Would We Still Be If We Were All Equal?
Distribution Of Wealth Over The Life-Cycle And Inequality

Matteo Renzi And The Reform Challenge In Italy

Of all the shortcomings of the Italian economy, youth unemployment (40%) is the most worrying. The new Prime Minister, Matteo Renzi, took up this issue through labor law reform since it was outdated and harmful. Will he succeed where Mario Monti failed? Yet what happened at Fiat’s may be (...)

Obama The Ultimate Survival Guide
A Book By Wayne Allyn Root (Regnery, 2013)

France: Away From Global Economy?

"Made in France" produced and exported: it is indeed a very popular program, but it can only be achieved if companies want to stay in or move to France. However, they are escaping from this fiscal and regulatory hell. Abroad, corporate taxes are much lower than in France and the legal framework (...)

European Energy Policy Is a Failure

Security supply is not guaranteed, energy cost will increase and CO2 emissions will not be reduced. This is an obvious failure that Jean Pierre Riou, President of Mont Champot, has clearly seen. The IREF support his analysis.

Corporate Tax: Northern Good Practices

It is not forbidden to former socialist countries to reduce the weight of the state and drastically reduce taxes, especially on businesses. This was done in Sweden and Denmark, where unemployment is lower than in France .

The Word “Profit” Falls Into Oblivion in François Hollande’s Economic Liberalism

Here is a relevant remarks from Professor Florin Aftalion: the word "profit" has disappeared from the public debate to be replaced by the word "margin". This semantic shift is not trivial: the profit goes to CEOs and shareholders while the margin is under Government (...)

Comparison Between the Banque de France and the Bundesbank

A company is mismanaged when some indicators are in the red such as factory costs higher than those of its competitors; highly unprofitable activities; general and administrative costs much higher than those of its competitors; too many employees in too many locations; outstanding wages and (...)

Knowledge and Power

A little more than 30 years ago, George Gilder published a book titled: “Wealth and Poverty”. This book became a worldwide bestseller. As a researcher, an economist and an investor, the author showed that government intervention cannot reduce poverty, but economic growth and economic development (...)

The U.S. Economy Is Getting Better Thanks To The Stimulus. Really?

It seems logical: economic growth resumed in the United States, and since the United States used an economic stimulus thanks to budget deficits, it could be believed that public spending lead to recovery. Indeed, but… it is in the sectors that did not benefited from the Federal money that new (...)

More Taxes, Less Revenues
The Laffer Effect Has (Also) Arrived In France

Government Caring For Youth: The Path To Failure

France hosted in the November 15th week a summit dedicated to the "Fight Against Youth Unemployment." This is an excellent initiative for a country where the 16-25 years-old population reached a 26.1 % unemployment rate. Yet, France should be doing what is being done elsewhere, especially in (...)

France: A Free-Trader President After Hollande?

According to the Harris Interactive poll for Le Figaro daily and LCP television, French President Hollande would not be reelected in 2017. His fiscal policies are highly criticized and would cost him his reelection. It seems that Holland is discovering this principle : the more taxes, the less (...)

Violence and Absurdity of French Anti-Wealth Ideologists

Attacks against wealthy people are still going on in spite of the fact the Welfare-State is plundering taxpayers. In a recently published book, sociologists – I should say ideologists – Michel and Monique Pionçon-Charlot are criticizing those they call "deliquents". No, wealthy people are not (...)

The Stimulus Does Not Work

The crisis of the world economy since 2008 has encouraged various governments to increase the share of public spending. This increase was a general phenomenon among the OECD countries and contributed to an unprecedented debt hike. An IREF study comparing the development of key economic (...)

Working Hours : When France Forbids, Germany and Sweden Allow

And in France, there is a high level of unemployment whereas it is low elsewhere. And elsewhere, there is no Labor Code, no unions, no judges, and everybody is satisfied with the freedom of work, as reported by IREF European (...)

Germany : Less Welfare State, More Electoral Victories

Reforming is a path for reelection: German Chancellor Angela Merkel privatized, deregulated, capitalized. She did not reflate nor accepted deficits : she reduced taxes. For sure, there are some lessons to learn for France.

Dutch King Willem Alexander Ends The Welfare State
John Galt in The Netherlands?

A Greek Tragedy, Act III

While Ireland may exit its bailout program at the end of this year, Greece is far from getting out of it. Around 10 to 11 billion euros ($13.1-14.4 billion) from the second half of 2014 will be needed to keep it going next year and in 2015. This will be the Third Act of the economic tragedy (...)

Anti Free Trade: A French Obsession

This is the transaltion of an article published by Nicolas Lecaussin on August 14th, 2013
What is the common point between Socialists as Claude Bartolone, President of the French National Assembly, Pierre Moscovici, the Finance Minister, MP Jérôme Guedj, Conservatives as Xavier Bertrand, Health (...)

Better Be Insured Than On Welfare

This is the translation of an op-ed published by Jean-Philippe Delsol on August 24th, 2013 in the leading French newspaper “Le Figaro”.
In France, during the last 30 years, social spending went from 21% to 33%. It is the sign of an ever growing Big Government that is out of control and (...)

Bailing Out Greece For The Third Time: Useless and Illegimate?

"There will have to be another program in Greece," German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble said bluntly on August 20th. The two previous bail-outs amounted to about 240 billion euros but that was not enough. According to the International Monetary Fund, one the Troika member, the estimated (...)

5 Billion Euros: The Cost of Subsidized Jobs

“The youth is the utmost priority of my mandate”. Thus spoke François Hollande on January 23, 2013, when wishing a happy new year 2013. “Happy” may not have been the right term, “subsidized” should have been better. Indeed, when saying that 500 000 young people below 25 years-old do not have a job, (...)

The IREF in The Economist

Nicolas Lecaussin was quoted by The Economist (July 6th - Juy12th, 2013) about a report written with Lucas Léger on French high school economic textbooks. "The IREF study last year" said the Economist, "showed that, in one tome’s 382 pages, only 18 were devoted to business. "Entrepreneurs and (...)

Who Pays If Banks Fail

European Union finance ministers failed to reach a deal last week on this controversial issue. Germany and France are at odds about costs distribution. The Banking Union is at stake since this law on rescuing and closing banks in the EU is a key point. The problem is to know who is going to (...)

The Making of Tax Hell… And The Escape of Entrepreneurship

Why would you stay in a country where there are more than 200 types of taxes? And in which taxes are piled up and never removed. If French President François Hollande and his government want to fight against tax havens, French taxpayers and entrepreneurs are battling against the daily tax hell (...)

7.5%: Portugal’s New Corporate Tax

Competitiveness is embedded in the private sector. Employment is created only the private sector. Wealth increases through the private sector. No public intervention can manage to replace the private sector, no Government know how to make business and money. As a consequence, the real economy (...)

Objectives, Instruments and Problems of Macroprudential Supervision

Since events related to financial, banking, and debt crises regularly make it into the news, a term that seemingly originated from the Bank for International Settlements (BIS) in the late 1970s has become more popular: macroprudential supervision. Whereas microprudential supervision relates to (...)

The Risky Business of Protectionism For Global Value Chains

Globalization is often associated with delocalization and unfair competition with emergent countries that are flooding us with cheap goods and services regardless of good environmental practices or social benefits these populations should enjoy, like in rich countries. Beyond this spurious (...)

American States Are Tax Decrease Laboratories

In a recent post, Nicolas Lecaussin is pointing out that tax consequences can be studied as in a lab: some American States can be observed. Taxes were lowered in thirty States. If they gather only 20% of the US population, they have created 65% of US (...)

The Crisis is An Opportunity To Grow A Business

“A recession can be a good time to grow a business”. Thus is the opinion of Lord Young, a British cabinet minister under late Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and still having his own office in Downing Street. Lord Young’s comments are stated in a report to be published this week and addressed to (...)

School Choice Success in the US

The Friedman Foundation has published a report about the 22 American States that enforce school choice thanks to vouchers. Children’s work is better, teaching’s quality has improved and the overall cost of the school system is cheaper which is a benefit to low-income (...)

The European Quagmire

The European Commission’s forecasts are gloomy: a 0.1% decrease of European GDP in 2013 as a 0.4% decrease for the Eurozone. It seems that, one after the other, all the member states are collapsing and get trapped into economical disarray. The European Commission gives more time for France and (...)

European Banking (Dis)Union

Germany and Finance Minister Wolfgand Schäuble do not press for setting up a banking union and rejects a centralized authority whereas France and Finance Minister Pierre Moscovici are urging to set up the banking union through centralization. The latter position is also the Commission’s. The (...)

United Kingdom: 2.8 jobs created in the private sector for 1 public job lost

These figures, calculated by the IREF, point out what is happening in the United Kingdom governed by Premier David Cameron. Since the Tories arrived in power in 2010, between 500.000 and 600.000 public jobs disappeared while the private sector created 1.4 million jobs. Even if the United (...)

Going Back to Basics: The Promotion of Free Trade

Big Governments usually do not trust people or companies to improve living conditions. That is why notions of “social justice”, “solidarity”, “equality” and above all “sharing” were hijacked by Governments and turned into an economic principle: redistribution. Since it is believed the Government is the (...)

The Knowledge Economy Enters GDP

Knowledge has now become a capital investment and no longer a cost of producing goods. This change has been announced by Brent Moulton, head of national accounts at the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA), on April 22nd, 2013. This will change the way gross domestic products are calculated. It (...)

Effects of taxation on European multi-nationals’ financing and profits

The new IREF paper of Stefan Lutz, from the University of Manchester, UK, and the Universidad Complutense de Madrid, Spain, points out that if it is apparent that companies do not welcome taxation, the main reason is that taxes reduce profits: shareholders are disappointed and the prospects for (...)

The Receipt for Government Services for 2013

Richard Durana, Ph.D, director of Institute of Economic and Social Studies (INESS) has annouced that INESS released the Receipt for Government Services for 2013.
The annual price of the state for Slovakia increased by EUR 322 (7.3%) and reached EUR 4,704 per (...)

The Public Spending Trend Hampers The Economy

France is the best example of this economic truth. The French public sector is undermining the economy. It must be pointed out that in Spain and Ireland the crisis was due to a real-estate bubble. In France, the crisis is worsened by an obese bureaucracy. The trend is striking: the French (...)

Less Taxes and More Pragmatism Against Tax Havens

Here is a new and big campaign against tax havens. But tax exile will last as long as confiscatory and arbitrary taxes will last. It is the case in France. Should not a tax amnesty be proposed? The IREF is making the proposal that all sorting out that has begun this year should reach an (...)

The Iron Lady: A Transformational Premiership

“She did not just lead our country; she saved our country” said British Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron as a tribute Margaret Thatcher who died at 87, on April 8th, 2013. Tony Blair, former British Labor Prime Minister, declared: “Very few leaders get to change not only the political (...)

Small Governemnt vs Corruption

Corruption! A word that is destroying the base of the Government action. Above the “Cahuzac Case”, it is the whole public power that is stained with doubt and distrust. The clear and present danger is the rise of uncontrolled populisms seeking the collapse of a corrupt Government. But this would (...)

A Green Economy or An Economy Painted in Green

What if the « green economy » was just a joke? It has become trendy to label every activity as green. Thus environmentalism seems to be at the heart of the economy. Lucas Léger, IREF researcher, analyzed the Happy Planet Index and reveals the (...)

France is doomed

Nicolas Lecaussin analyzed the French President François Hollande’s interview on March 28 on TV. Nothing has come out of it: no reform, no tax decreases, no incentives. On the contrary, as Nicolas Lecaussin pointed out, François Hollande "stubbornly continues on the path of tax hikes and proposals (...)

Capital Control: A Threat on Free Markets

This is an unexpected outcome of the Cypriot “bail out – bail in”. The fact that the Cypriot Government is now able to control money transfers and cash withdrawals is a threat for the European market. Can it still be called a free market if restrictions are applied on the ability to move money? (...)

Cypriot Crisis: The Rise of the German Economic Governance

The Cypriot crisis has enthroned Germany has the leading European country. European economics are likely to be German driven from now on. Thus, fiscal profligacy or faulty business models are considered to have caused the recent crisis and the German cure to this is clear: austerity and (...)

Denmark: Corporate Tax Brought Down

Nicolas Lecaussin has pointed out in a recent article that, after Germany, the United Kingdom, Sweden and Finland, Denmark is also bringing down its corporate tax: 22% whereas France still is at 34.4%. But there is more: this measure is included in a “growth plan” aiming at giving more freedom to (...)

Pay Slips: 6 lines in Germany, 20 lines in France

6 lines against 20! In Germany, the gross salary is taxed by only few contributions (tax on salaries, solidarity, pension fee, Church). It was understood that flexibility is much more efficient with a fiscal and regulatory simplification.
In France, it is the exact opposite. The French pay (...)

Lessons Drawn From The Swiss Referendum

Jean-Philippe Delsol pointed out on a recent article the problem of democracy in Europe. Instead of having Nanny-States trying to control its people, let the people speak its own mind.The Swiss referendum on executives’ high wages is the perfect example of a people using Democracy as it should (...)

Fiscal Exodus or Fiscal Competition

Gilles Hennesy, an LVMH director who is executive vice-president of commercial at Moët Hennesy, and Christophe Navarre, chief executive of Moët Hennesy, are both moving to London. Bernard Charlès, chief executive of Dassault Systèmes, declared that some Dassault’s top managers already from France to (...)

Bail Out and Bail In: Two Solutions for Cyprus

If an agreement could not be found with the previous Cyprus communist-led government, negotiations resumed intensively between the Troika of European Union, International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank and the newly elected President Nicos Anastasiades. The Euro zone is again at (...)

Cyprus’ Bailout

The European Union is about to bail out Cyprus but no details on how it could be done are released yet. Joerg Asmussen, ECB board member, announced that “the troika of European Union, International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank would send a mission of experts to Cyprus on Tuesday (...)

Professional Training Reform: A New Financial System

The “Personal Professional Training Account” is one of the most interesting measures taken in the reform of the professional training sector announced by President François Hollande on March 4th in Blois, France. It is the first time that the “voucher principle” would be applied for the use of (...)

The Patriotic Tax Incentive

Diesel cars should eventually disappear in France. According to the French Court of Auditors (Cour des Comptes) the fact that gas oil is less expensive than regular unleaded gas causes a loss of 7 billion euros for the Government. Things must change. Yet, it is not that easy: 60% of the French (...)

The Truth About Foreign Investments in France

Are there as many foreign investments in France as Arnaud Montebourg claimed in his letter to Maurice Taylor? In his article, Lucas Léger, IREF researcher, analyzed statistical data and concluded that Montebourg was wrong. The truth is that, compared to the United Kingdom and Germany, France is (...)

The Civil Servants’ Working Time

The IREF figures on civil servants’ working time in the OECD countries were quoted in the radio show "Carrément Brunet" on RMC.

Taxing In and Out Of France

Fighting tax exile: this is Yann Galut’s aim. This French Socialist representative is at the head of a Committee created in the National Assembly to think out measures against tax exile. The work of this committee should end up in bills introduced in the Parliament as soon as (...)

Innovations Need Companies, Not Government

In a recent article, Lucas Léger, an IREF associate researcher, pointed out that even if the research is a French Government priority, entrepreneurship and innovation are not supported and the basic research would better off without Government (...)

What’s Next On The Fiscal Trend?

The IREF’s aim is to defend and promote economic freedom and fiscal competition. Our aim goes against the OECD’s last study that was commissioned by the G20 and called “Addressing Base Erosion and Profit Shifting”. It will be presented on February 15th at the G20 Summit in Moscow. The OECD claims (...)

A market for education: IREF study looks at the Swedish experience

The Swedish education market is one of the freest of the world. As such, it is one of the most interesting to study. Authored by Jacob Arfwedson, the IREF report “Vouchers and Free Schools: the Swedish Experience” provides striking insights into the dynamics of a budding free market in (...)

Sweden: human development index higher in places with more immigrants

Commentators often tend to link immigration to social problems and high unemployment. But as shown by the Swedish Reform Institute in a comprehensive study published in January 2013, this is not the case, on the contrary.

IKEA: low-cost, high-end and big bucks

By Jacob Arfwedson
For global capitalism to reach optimal eclosion, there are several basic conditions:
> free trade: companies are allowed to sell wherever they sense a profitable opportunity;
> the tech revolution: production may take place anywhere, whereas selling may be done thousands (...)

In France the legislative process is hijacked by those who depend on public money

Between 3 and 5 per cent of the members of Parliament, and 6 per cent of the senators: the parliamentarians with a background in business represent a tiny minority. An IREF study shows the contrast with four other countries where economic legislation is handled by people who know what it means. (...)

Google vs. French taxes

By Alexandre Diehl, Lawyer and IREF research Fellow
For the past few weeks, and as Google has announced “bad” results on the financial markets, the media are gurgling with strange and technical news on a possible tax audit for the company. What is going on? Has Google broken the law, or are the (...)

Five reasons to abandon the French social dialogue

By Nicolas Lecaussin
In France the national economy and the fate of thousands of employees are regularly linked to the grand “social conference”. Successive presidents have paid tribute to the ritual of “social dialogue”. Nicolas Sarkozy did so several times during his presidency with well-known (...)

6 Geese a-Laying
Twelve Days of Fiscal Christmas

5 Golden Rings
Twelve Days of Fiscal Christmas

4 Calling Birds
Twelve Days of Fiscal Christmas

12 Drummers Drumming
Twelve Days of Fiscal Christmas

11 Pipers Piping
Twelve Days of Fiscal Christmas

10 Lords a-Leaping
Twelve Days of Fiscal Christmas

9 Ladies Dancing
Twelve Days of Fiscal Christmas

8 Maids a-Milking
Twelve Days of Fiscal Christmas

7 Swans a-Swimming
Twelve Days of Fiscal Christmas

Season’s Greetings

Celebrating that the end of the world has been temporarily postponed (presumably due to government planning) the IREF Paris team wishes you Happy Holidays.
In lieu of Season’s Greetings, our Swedish and German colleagues have devised Calendars, revealing both government waste and clever advice (...)

Green jobs: a myth that destroys real jobs

By Nicolas Lecaussin
The French government recently announced the creation of 100 000 green jobs over the next three years. The goal is of course to stem rising unemployment. However, the tangible results of creating green jobs in several countries, as well as the real costs of these jobs, (...)

France: is anybody there???

By Jean-Philippe Delsol
The fiscal frenzy which has seized the French socialists not only means that the economy grinds to a halt. It is attacking the very foundations of society by destroying entrepreneurship and responsibility. Taxes are raining on the people and the promised shelters (...)

Lessons from a successful think tank

The founder of the Adam Smith Institute, Dr. Madsen Pirie, visited IREF on Thursday 15 November to present his book Think Tank: The Story of the Adam Smith Institute (Biteback Publishing, 2012)
After discussing the specificity of the think tank as an independent influence on policy, and the (...)

Hollande is right about cutting public spending

At his press conference on Tuesday 13 November, François Hollande declared that, “Returning to a balanced budget essentially means looking to spending cuts rather than tax increases. Are we better off with 57 per cent of GDP of public spending, whereas it was 52 per cent five years ago?” He is (...)

TPA launches petition to freeze business taxation

The Taxpayers’ Alliance has launched a petition on its website ( to enable taxpayers to appeal to their members of Parliament on business rates.
Corporate taxation in the United Kingdom rose by 4.6 per cent in 2011, by 5.5 per cent in 2012. Yet the coalition government (...)

Romney or France’s Anti-Republican Obsession

In his book The Anti-American Obsession, philosopher Jean-François Revel exposed French fantasies and clichés on the United States and towards its President. It is customary in France to poke fun at US Presidents, treating them like morons who have gotten elected head of state in some miraculous (...)

Taxpayers Alliance against union subsidies

Our colleagues at the TPA have campaigned successfully against union subsidies. This means that the number of civil servants working for the unions at the taxpayers’ expense will now be reduced sharply. Currently, 0.26 per cent of the payroll in the Civil Service is spent on union (...)

Taxes are the largest expense for Swedes

Swedbank has calculated what Swedes already knew: taxes are by far the largest budget item for any household. An individual earning SEK 25,000 per month pays SEK 17,500 in taxes (of which SEK 6,100 to the municipality, SEK 4,300 in pension dues, SEK 3,380 to the health care authority and SEK (...)

The German taxpayers’ association demands a rebate

As tax revenues are flooding into the Treasury, the German taxpayers’ association (BdSt) has asked the federal government to axe the "stealth" tax increases and to cut spending further. Current estimates show that tax revenues will be substantially higher than previously thought: a record 600 (...)

French budget 2013: IREF moves to appeal to the Constitutional Council

IREF has examined the provisions of the French government’s 2013 budget proposal, and concludes that these are confiscatory and arbitrary. Henceforth taxpayers will be subject to taxation on revenues of which they do not dispose, and forced to pay taxes that are above the corresponding incomes. (...)

The greatest achievement of French statism: high unemployment

By Nicolas Lecaussin
Can you imagine that unemployment has been “priority number one” for French politicians over the past 35 years! Left, right and center have all claimed that their first objective was to reduce unemployment, in particular among young people. Yet they have failed every time. (...)

The French 2013 budget: fiscal iniquity and inefficiency

Jean-Philippe Delsol
Tax lawyer, deputy director of IREF
The government’s goal of reducing the budgetary deficit to 3 per cent of GDP is commendable, even though such a deficit will inevitably increase the French public debt as growth will be low or even close to zero. However, the tools (...)

The same euro mistake under a different name

Despite being bombed by information, it seems we have forgotten the roots of the debt crisis. Instead we play a martingale game, where the only precaution after losing a round is to double the bet for the next one. The solution is not called EFSM, EFSF, ESM, SMP, OMT or banking union. These are (...)

Sweden to slash corporate income tax

An old American joke has it that hell is where the Swedes are in charge of entertainment. But the last laugh in fiscal policy matters in Europe will probably go to Swedish legislators as they vote for implementing a reduction of corporate income taxes (...)

Warning: Last Exit to Belgium

The hyped rhetoric following the future Belgian exile of LVMH owner Bernard Arnault is no surprise to anyone well-versed in the French psyche.

The Single Income Tax

The Taxpayers’ Alliance has published a summary of its final report, proposing a Single Income Tax to tax streams of income once. As stated by Allister Heath, Chairman of the TPA Tax Commission, "the old order is broken and needs radical reform. But we are also realists: our proposals, while (...)

A Plan for Sound Money

In response to the financial crisis in the euro zone, the Lithuanian Free Market Institute (LFMI) has worked out and submitted to public institutions a plan which would help countries potentially exiting the euro zone to build stable and sound money. LFMI‘s proposal can be also used by the euro (...)

Yearbook 2012

How far should redistribution go? Who should pay for it and how? What is the proper role of the State and what is better left to private initiative? Should insolvent banks be bailed-out? Is it better to tax individuals when they consume or as soon as they earn their income? Should we rely on (...)

Italy in the tax turmoil

This paper is excerpted from the forthcoming "IREF’s Yearbook on Taxation" 2012
On July 6 the Berlusconi government passed a first package of mandating modest immediate cuts in the expenditure and similarly modest immediate increases in tax revenue to address concerns on the capacity of Italy (...)

Ireland on the way to recovery

This paper is excerpted from the forthcoming "IREF’s Yearbook on Taxation" 2012
In an unprecedented and historical move, the European Union forced the Irish government against its stated wishes to indebt itself in an € 85 billion international bailout comprising of the IMF, EU and bilateral (...)

Sweet Drop on Gauche Caviar: Chronology of the Portugese workers day saga

Portugal is traditionally a leftist country. Since the Carnation Revolution in 1974, in which the Left threw out the fascist government of Marcelo Caetano, it is fashionable in Portugal to be leftist and being labeled socialist. If a proof was needed, in the 2011 elections, all 6 parties in (...)

French 2011 fiscal reforms in retrospect

This paper is excerpted from the forthcoming "IREF’s Yearbook on Taxation" 2012
In view of the great fragility of French public finances, all the candidates to the April 2012 Presidential elections have felt the necessity to explain their strategy to put the country back on track, if elected. (...)

Lessons from Lithuanian austerity

In recent years, the Baltic States have been showcased as an austerity success story. While the whole world has seen countries such as Greece, Spain and Portugal struggling to reduce their public spending, Lithuania has been hailed as an austerity example. Lithuanian success in public spending (...)

The Spanish Corporate Income Tax Hike Will Hurt Economic Recovery

Last March 30, the Spanish Government announced its most important measures to reduce the fiscal deficit for 2012. These actions have been based on reducing public spending and, again, increasing taxes. “Again” because on December 30, 2011, the conservative new Government already raised the (...)

The Euro: A Community of Shared Destiny?

In March 2010, when the Greek debt crisis was heating up, then-ECB president Jean Claude Trichet declared to the EU parliament that the “monetary Union in Europe is far more than a monetary arrangement. It is a union of shared destiny”. Less than two months later the ECB reversed its refusal to (...)

Urgent Tax Measures Needed by the Spanish Economy

As is publicly known, Mariano Rajoy, leader of the Spanish Partido Popular, recently became president of the Spanish government. Mr. Rajoy is poised to introduce new measures needed by the Spanish economy in order to, in first instance, stop the bleeding (in general terms, but in particular (...)

A few recommendations to Spain’s new leader

“What would you (try to) do to save your country from economic collapse?” This is indeed a difficult and tricky question, and one that is normally answered along the lines of interventionist economic thinking. The fatal conceit that Hayek wrote about is embedded in this same question: it assumes (...)

Individual Rights and the Fight Against “Tax Evasion”

The emergence of a global government cartel without any restrictions to tax and spend their citizens’ wealth would lead to a world that is less free and less prosperous. The financial and economic crisis that unfolded from 2008 has led many governments to intensify their efforts against what has (...)

French unions live the good life. For how long?

France is famous for its wine, cheese and…unions. It is well established now that any reform considered by any government, left or right, has to be approved by unions (or, at least, not strongly opposed) in order to have a chance to be passed. Strange situation in a country where less than 8% of (...)

Bank regulation: Troubleshooter or Troublemaker?

A widespread understanding of the 2007-2008 crisis places the origins of the crisis in a capture of global economy by the finance industry. The “occupy Wall Street” group would surely agree, as well as most of those who get their economics from the general media. And President Sarkozy in his (...)

Taxing the Rich: a Promising Tool According to Many European Member States

The sovereign debt crisis forces our governments to stretch their imagination in order to find additional budget revenues. In Europe, as well as in the US, many voices call for additional contributions from the rich (not such a big stretch of imagination, in fact, if it was for the already high (...)

French austerity measures – more taxes and unconvincing plans to balance the budget

For the French government, it is more than ever urgent to convince everyone that the State deficit is moving in the right direction and the public debt is sustainable. In the context of an uncertain future for the French credit rating triple A note, the present debate on the budget of the State (...)

In next year’s presidential elections, voters will choose between statism of the left and statism of the right.

This article appeared in The Wall Street Journal
In next year’s French presidential elections, it seems increasingly likely that voters will be asked to choose between two types of statism: statism of the left and statism of the right. Over the weekend François Hollande won the final round of (...)

Bank stress tests or how governments are trying to fool the market

European governments are under pressure to shore up the banking sector in the face of growing worries about the industry’s capital levels, access to funding and earning power in the context of global crisis. Indeed, weakened by their bad sovereign debt holdings, several banks are scrutinized by (...)

Why do the rich want tax increases?

Yesterday, the US President Obama announced a new debt plan built on taxes on rich. He called for $1.5 trillion in new taxes on upper income taxpayers. His plan would end Bush-era tax cuts for top earners and would limit their deductions. This proposal is following the public debate on the (...)

G7 – in search of equilibrium

The French Minister of Finance, François Baroin, concluded the G7 meeting in Marseille with a statement that an equilibrium had been found between the necessity for fiscal consolidation and the necessity to avoid a recession. What kind of equilibrium is he talking about and is this equilibrium (...)

What’s the Matter With the French Banks?

The French bank BNP Paribas published a disclaimer to this article signed by our Director of development Nicolas Lecaussin and published in the Wall Street Journal. The paper is mentioning the difficulties of some of the French banks, including (...)

France - bad measures crowding out good ideas

The game of representative democracy is such that we constantly have to choose, not between policies, but between programs that are best seen as baskets of policies to be implemented if the candidate supporting that program is elected. The basket that the French President, Nicolas Sarkozy, (...)

The French social model challenged by the debt crisis

In 2009, 31.3% of the French GDP has been spent on welfare payments. Those include spending by the State-managed health care system, unemployment benefits and social benefits. The government agency in charge of those payments has tripled its deficits during the past 3 years reaching a record 28 (...)

Market Crises Versus Sovereign Crises

This article first appeared in the Wall Street Journal
Markets always make good scapegoats. When they do well, they are populated by profiteers. When they do badly, they are accused of causing trouble for everyone else.The denizens of the Dow, Nasdaq, CAC and DAX floors may be speculators and (...)

A new world

The world is probably going to change after the recent downgrading by Standard&Poor’s of the US debt rating from triple A to AA+. Beyond the disturbing loss of the landmark Treasuries represented for global finance, what is important here is the awareness that even the biggest world economy (...)

Who should pay for Greek’s mess?

After a huge transfer-loan of €110 billion last year, Greece is once again pending on EU-IMF charity in order to avoid default, or at least, to benefit from a smooth default (assuming such a thing exists). Meanwhile, the Greek economy is paralyzed and tensions grow inside Greece as well as in (...)

Portugal turns the page

Portugal has undergone a huge change. There is a completely new political leadership: younger, better prepared, and much more open to the civil society. But even this “right wing” government lack the theory to understand the causes of the crisis Portugal currently faces, and thus seem unable to (...)

Taxation on savings in Switzerland approved by most of EU member states

After being seriously blamed by Italian Minister of finances Giulio Tremont last month, Switzerland finally finds itself largely approved on its private savings policy in the recently revealed by the EU Commission report on enforcement of taxation on savings regulation. As a matter of fact, (...)

What is going on with Italy’s public finances?

Moody’s rating agency warned on Friday on Italy’s public debt and mentioned the reviewing of Italy’s credit rating for a possible downgrade. This change, if it happens, would increase the government’s borrowing costs and have a very negative impact on public (...)

Portugal -the State grows, the economy languishes

Portugal is the third EU country after Greece and Ireland to need financial bail-out in order to avoid bankruptcy of the State. How did things go so wrong and for what reason - is it only the fault of the international financial crisis, or - more probably - bad management of public finances (...)

Denmark is reforming tax policy

In January 2010, the largest tax reform in Denmark in more than ten years began taking effect, shifting some DKK 30 billion (€ 4.0 billion) of tax revenue when fully implemented in 2019. Of this, more than DKK 25 billion (€ 3.4 billion) is used to lower the marginal tax on income in order to (...)

France will soon change (again) its fiscal law, but not its fiscal policy

France’s government presents a project to introduce several modifications in the fiscal law; a project to be validated by the National Assembly before the symbolic date of July 14.

In Praise of Fiscal Divergence

This article appeared in the Wall Street Journal.
In the past year, Brussels has revealed its near-obsession with fiscal convergence in Europe. As the euro zone’s debt crises roil financial markets, the EU’s leaders have made clear that the only path they see to survival is centralized budgetary (...)

The Common Consolidated Corporate Tax Base - An instance of the EU’s Icarus Complex ?

On Wednesday16 March 2011 the EU Commission published a proposal to introduce a Common Consolidated Corporate Tax Base (CCCTB). A few days earlier, on Friday 11 March, the heads of state of the Euro area almost agreed on a « Pact for the Euro » to save the common currency from financial meltdown (...)

Harmonization of the European corporate tax base – not such a great idea

The European Commission has recently relaunched the proposal for a common system for calculating the tax base of businesses operating in the EU. According to the officials, the aim is to significantly reduce the administrative burden, compliance costs and legal uncertainties that businesses in (...)

Simpler and Clearer Fiscal Rules

Last year discussions for introduction of the so-called fiscal board in Bulgaria led to a project of the “Financial Stability Pact" prepared by the Ministry of Finance and presented by Simeon Djankov (see here). The pact provides for fiscal rules which cannot be bypassed by a simple majority in (...)

Why the Portuguese government fell?

Because the music stopped.
As Thatcher said, “They [socialists] always run out of other people’s money”. Portugal is now a perfect study case for this golden rule, with its quadruple-crisis.

Free market is not to be blamed for the private debt bubble: the case of Spain

When reflecting on the causes of the current economic and financial crisis, the huge upsurge in private debt is one of the most cited reasons. Some people insist on blaming the private sector for this. According to them, the sustainability of its behavior has been clearly put into question by (...)

Fiscal news from Germany

As we have reported here in last year’s IREF Yearbook on taxation, the German government that has been newly elected in autumn 2009 did have plans for a comprehensive tax reform. These plans included the introduction of an income tax schedule with stepwise increasing marginal tax rates, and (...)

Poland: Unjustified political opportunism

In 2010 the public deficit in Poland reached at least 7.9% of GDP. The public debt, in turn, balanced around 55% of GDP. In order to rescue public finance, the Polish government announced end of 2010 the dismantling of the reform of pension system. In the opinion of Polish authorities, this (...)

Energy and Environmental Taxation: Theory and Practice within the EU

Environmental tax reforms have a history of almost two decades and were viewed as a way to the better world the “double-dividend” theory predicted. Much “political capital” has been invested in policies leading to environmental tax reforms on European and national levels from 1992 (the year of the (...)

The fallacy of low taxes in Spain: A comparative study of taxation

The current Socialist (PSOE) government in Spain has claimed in different occasions that the low fiscal pressure that Spain has experienced in 2008 and 2009, gives policy-makers a large leeway to raise taxes. Besides, this measure has been supported as necessary in order to maintain –or improve- (...)

The eurozone debt crisis: how to avoid the tail wagging the dog

While a resolution of the debt crisis currently facing the eurozone would be most welcome, it is not clear that the current discussion goes much beyond how to bailout member countries, and whether it should be the taxpayers of these countries, the German and French taxpayer or the holders of (...)

French Tax Law 2011 – what is going to change for the taxpayer

After the huge increase of public deficits during the past two years, the French government is claiming the beginning of a new era and promises to limit the budget deficit to 6 GDP points in 2011 (down from 7.7% in 2010). If this 1.7 GDP points reduction of deficit is reached, it will be the (...)

The informers’ new era

To denounce others to Authorities is unfortunately a frequent behavior that responds to the basest instincts of human beings: the desire for revenge, jealousy, collaboration with the ruling power.

Impact of the French 2006 cut in personal income tax rate on tax revenues

In 2006 a major change was implemented in France regarding the income tax. Not only the top marginal rate was lowered (from 48.09% to 40.00%), but the same treatment was applied to the other rates. Also, the number of brackets was reduced from 7 to 5. As a result, whatever the level of taxable (...)

The levels of public deficits in new member States are more worrying than it looks but a tax rate increase is no solution—the case of Slovakia

In Slovakia, the economic growth has been one of the strongest in the EU over the period 2004-2008 and it came with soaring tax revenues. This growth itself was the by-product of several important reforms, especially the tax reform. It was based on real investments, not on speculation on real (...)

Public Debt in Germany: Will the Debt Brake Change the Trend?

Like in most European economies, public debt in Germany is characterized by a secular upward trend. There are reasons to believe that the current trend is not sustainable. The ratio of debt to GDP is expected to reach 76,5 percent this year (Deutsche Bundesbank 2010), which implies a ratio that (...)

The French Public Debt – Worries and Solutions

In the context of debt crisis in the European Union, the French public debt finally attracts the attention of the government. Is the situation still under control and is there a chance for French authorities to limit the deterioration of public finances? To answer the question, Vesselina (...)

Poland: Time to come down from the clouds and face reality

In 2009 Poland was the only country in the European Union (EU) with positive economic growth. This was a result of both good policy and favorable circumstances. In 2010 Poland is no longer the sole “green island” of growth in EU. Furthermore, the state of public finance is a growing risk factor (...)

A Romanian “fiscal diary” or How not to make a fiscal reform

Romanian government took recently more and more controversial measures. Many of them are officially presented as a consequence of the economic and financial global crisis. Actually, they are the consequence of ill-conceived, poorly-explained and incoherently applied fiscal reforms. We have (...)

In those times of public finance distress let us remember how the Iron Lady did it

„We reform firmly, gradually and effectively” said Poland’s Finance Minister, refuting accusations that his government is postponing important reforms to public finances until after the next parliamentary elections, expected for 2011. And yet these reforms can be summed up in only in one way: they (...)

Energy Policy and Energy Taxation in the EU

This report offers a survey of EU energy taxation scheme and provides some insights on the possible outcomes of current EU policy in the energy domain. The authors are reviewing the existing legislation, namely the Council Directive 2003/96/EC and are analyzing the possible economic ground for (...)

Portuguese Companies continue to evade Corporate Tax

Portugal has a long tradition of corporate tax evasion. Perception of high tax burden, social tolerance to fraud and evasion, high psychological fiscal pressure* , instability and insecurity of the tax codes and complex and slow fiscal system are the factors usually pointed as the ultimate (...)

Phoney fiscal austerity in the United Kingdom

2009/2010 has been a period of phoney fiscalism in the United Kingdom. The period is sandwiched between the economic crisis, which put fiscal policy onto an emergency, macro-economic footing and an election (May 6th 2010). Economic crisis has been marked in the UK as in most other countries by (...)

Profitable Fiscal Competition

It’s not unusual to hear people criticise the fiscal competition states engage in, pretending that such practices lead to losses in tax revenues. In this matter, the expression “harmful fiscal competition”, which is notably retained by the European Union, is often used, though sometimes (...)

Some hot fiscal issues in the fall

Looking for budget savings
Some analysts are suspecting that the current fragile economic recovery will be damaged by the policy of government spending cuts that many countries undertook in order to reduce their public budget deficits. The debate is perfervid, in particular in the US where (...)

France’s Worst Enemy

This paper appeared in The Wall Street Journal.
When the economic crisis struck in 2008, the French government assured its citizens that our social model would protect and cushion us; that we would not be hit nearly as hard as other countries in the downturn.
Two years later, one can hardly (...)

Government employees win, private employees loose

The economic crisis is far from having created only victims. In France and all abroad, government employees didn’t suffer from the recession at all.
The last data from Eurostat are evidencing that during the crisis the share of government payments for salaries became a bigger part of government (...)

Tax competition or tax harmonization?

Following the last visit to Paris of the German Minister of Finances Wolfgang Schäuble, the French and German governments have decided to harmonize their tax systems. Both sides have emphasised the positive impact that such a harmonization could have on the economic growth in Europe and on the (...)

France’s new policy to ease “access to ownership” shows once again the prevailing fallacy of the planed recovery

The French Minister of Economy, Christine Lagarde, recently announced that the government will stimulate the housing market in an attempt to boost the economy. “Building and construction industry is a key sector, with important multiplier effect on the whole economy”, says Lagarde, “Our aim is to (...)

Don’t let anyone tell you there is nothing Greece could do!

It is summertime and everyone is happy to take a brake from what has been a terribly tormented spring. Many of our European politicians and policy advisers (IMF) feel satisfied—or at least claim to be—that they have done the right thing and kept the boat afloat. Now, they say, we just have to (...)

Lower taxes for stronger economic growth

For getting out of the public finance crisis it is a good thing to cut on spending. To reform the public sector is even better. But is it also necessary to increase taxes? With few others, Jean Philippe Delsol, administrator of IREF, had developed the conviction from past experience that one (...)

Incentives matter

Question: Mr. President announces that, starting in 2011, there will be a sharp increase in tax rates. What do you think individuals and businesses will do in 2010? Using basic economics, Arthur Laffer in a Wall Street Journal article dated June 6 gives us a very plausible scenario: Individuals (...)

Absurd tax on financial transactions

A few years ago, the so-called Tobin tax, designed to hit financial operations, was called-for by anti-globalization groups such as ATTAC. Today, in Europe, some parties claiming strangely to be liberalist, including heads of State, support the introduction of this new compulsory levy. Of (...)

Fiscal scapegoats

In the recent past, many States resorted to public spending increases in order to boost their shaky economies. At present, they have to face great deficits. They believed, no doubt, that there is no need to obey to financial constraints, but the market reminded them that any debt has to be (...)

When Will the Eurozone Collapse?

As a long-standing critic of the concept of a single European currency, I have not rejoiced at the current problems in the eurozone that threaten the very survival of the euro. Before discussing the events surrounding the Greek debt crisis further, I must provide at least a working definition (...)

Taxation in Europe 2010

IREF is presenting for the third consecutive year a unique report on taxation in Europe. You can find here expert analysis of the fiscal policy in 22 european countries, the most recent data and forecast for future developments. Summary by Professor Pierre (...)

Why the EU should think twice before granting a loan to Greece

The disaster everyone feared for several months finally occurred yesterday – Greece’s credit rating was reduced to junk status and financial markets slumped. Moreover, Portugal’s debt has also been downgraded, Spanish stocks plunged more than four percentage points and in Italy it was difficult to (...)

Recently published official data on 2009 economic growth are showing disparities among EU countries

Last week, Eurostat published the statistics on GDP growth for 2009 and it is without surprise that we read in the data a slowing down of economic growth for OECD countries. The average decrease in GDP points for EU countries is -4.2%. But this average is hiding some astonishing (...)

The tax cap about to be abandoned in France?

Traditionally in France the rich are suspected to be responsible for every bad thing happening within the economy. The current crisis is no exception to the rule and many voices are heard saying that the rich should pay more taxes to redeem themselves from their sins that brought the (...)

Tea Party in the USA and its parallel in French politics

In the Boston Tea Party (Dec. 1773) local patriots dressed as Mohawk Indians and dumped the containers of tea into the harbor. The British parliament had passed the Tea Act to establish officials in major American cities to collect the new tax on tea (Americans had been buying tea from Dutch (...)

Public debt: aren’t we glad to rely on speculation and financial markets!

Constant attacks on tax havens and hedge funds by some politicians and statesmen is at least inappropriate. As a matter of fact, it is thanks to “speculators” that we have learnt about the pitiful state of public finance in several states (for example in Greece). On the other hand, international (...)

Nicolas Sarkozy’s Perestroika

This article appeared in the Wall Street Journal on March 18, 2010
In the wake of his party’s crushing defeat in regional elections, it’s time to take stock of Nicolas Sarkozy’s presidency, three years on. As in the USSR between 1985 and 1991, France has of late experienced a period of (...)

Collecting the Wages of Fear

This article appeared in The Wall Street Journal on February 24, 2010
In the 20th century, we often heard the maxim, "the war is the health of the state." In the 21st, fear has become the health of the state. We are encouraged to fear all manner of things—for our finances, for our (...)

Tempting the Tipping Point

If governments continue to pile on more and more debt, when will they reach the tipping point? The Greeks appear to be close to the tipping point, and it is only a matter of time before other European countries, and eventually even the United States, begin their fiscal death spiral. The Greek (...)

Value-Added Tax: No Easy Fix for the Deficit

There is a growing call by backers of bigger government for Congress to impose a value-added tax (VAT) on top of all the other taxes Americans already pay. A VAT is similar to a national retail sales tax but is collected at every stage of business production until its entire burden ultimately (...)

The Factors and Motivations of Fiscal Stability - A Comparative Analysis of 26 Countries

There has been a rising academic debate on the sustainability of deficit spending and accumulated debt in governments across the globe. This correlates with a growing concern that excessive government deficits and accumulated debt will lead to unstable financial environments and a devalued (...)

Choosing the Nation’s Fiscal Future

In a joint report from the National Research Council and the National Academy of Public Administration, its authors, including AEI’s Joseph Antos, describe the United States’ fiscal outlook, asserting that the present budgetary path is unsustainable. If today’s policies, particularly those (...)

Bailing out the Banks Was Wrong, but New Tax Won’t Make It Right

The Obama administration has just proposed a new fee — otherwise known as a tax — on the country’s largest financial institutions. The tax aims to recover the difference between the bailout funds provided to these institutions a year and a half ago and the amounts ultimately returned to the (...)

Why Government Spending Does Not Stimulate Economic Growth: Answering the Critics

Despite decades of repeated failure, President Obama and Congress continue to promote the myth that government can spend its way out of recession. Heritage Foundation economic policy expert Brian Riedl dispels the stimulus myth, lays out the evidence that government spending does not end (...)

Can Slovakia afford an increase in tax rates?

Recent study of the European Commission on taxation trends confirmed the position of Slovakia among the countries with the lowest tax burden in European Union. With total 29,4 % share on GDP, Slovak government imposed the second lowest taxes upon its economy in 2007. Share of direct taxes on (...)

Yearbook on Taxation 2009

What is the current state of public finance in the EU countries? How did the various governments reacted to the crisis which developed in the second half of 2008? To what extent did it trigger a change in tax policy? IREF has asked scholars and experts from fifteen different EU countries to (...)

Yearbook on Taxation 2008

Introduction by Pierre Garello, Director of the Research Department of IREF
We already knew what the general situation and trends are in the EU. Namely, that the EU- 27 is still the region of the world with the highest fiscal burden, that situations differ greatly among EU member states (with (...)

Les pauvres veulent plus de libertés et moins d’aides

Les individus pauvres font confiance au marché. C’est la principale conclusion qui ressort d’une récente étude de la Banque mondiale bizarrement passée sous silence par les médias français. Analyse de Nicolas Lecaussin

Taxation in Estonia

The system of taxation of corporate profits, introduced in 2000 in Estonia, is unique. Under this system the reinvested profit is not taxed, only the distributed profit is taxed. Thus, the taxation is shifted from the moment when profits are earned to the moment when profits are distributed to (...)

Fiscal decentralization in Ireland

Abstract: It has been observed that while the respective theoretical merits of fiscal centralisation and decentralisation are debatable, it is even more difficult to empirically assess the degree of centralisation that exists in the real world. In particular, there is no index of the degree of (...)

The Polish Case – fiscal decentralisation

Abstract: The idea to compare the fiscal decentralisation and trends in this respect in the European countries is a core for the IREF project. This means that the strict rules of measurement of this complex issue, as fiscal decentralisation is, should be applied to all fiscal systems. (...)

Financial Federalism in Germany: Cooperation or Competition?

Abstract: In this article, German federalism is analyzed through its implications for public spending and for public revenue. The structure of government spending and taxation has evolved in the direction of greater centralisation. This tendency reveals itself (1) in the constitutional changes (...)

The British Tax System: Opposing Trends

Abstract: This article points to the highly centralized nature of the British tax system. A first section shows how all tax law derives from Parliament, the “onlie begetter” of legally enforceable instruments. It is suggested that this system is not democratically accountable at sub-national (...)

Fiscal Decentralisation: The Swiss Case

Abstract : Switzerland provides a potential laboratory for testing various hypotheses connected with tax competition because of its extremely decentralized fiscal system. Twenty-six cantons (some of them extremely small) have retained the ultimate power of deciding tax questions, and hence not (...)

The Recentralization of the French Local Finance System

Abstract: The main characteristic of the French local tax system undoubtedly resides in a convoluted structure which impedes any progress in the development of tax competition between local authorities. On the contrary, recent legislative evolutions make obvious a trend of recentralization of (...)

Fiscal Centralization in Central Europe

After the political changes in 1989-1990 Central- and Eastern-European countries went through significant political, judicial, economic and social changes. Although the political and economic transitions have been analized intensively, not too much attention has been devoted for a long time to (...)

Fiscal decentralisation in Spain

Abstract: The arrival of the democratic State in Spain acquired its definitive form, at legal and institutional levels, when the General Courts approved the Constitution on October 31st, 1978, which was ratified on December 6th and sanctioned on December 27th. The establishment of a democratic (...)

Moving Toward a Quasifederal System: Intergovernmental Relations in Italy

Abstract: The paper illustrates the evolution of the territorial system of government in Italy. A traditionally centralized state is turning into a quasifederation. The reasons underpinning this transformation are the growing insatisfaction with the inefficiency of the central government, the (...)

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