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Tax Expenditures


The past fifty years has been a period of falling taxes on the rich in developed economies.  A report by the London School of Economics and Political Science has found that reducing taxes on the rich leads to higher income inequality and has little or no impact on economic growth or unemployment.  The report finds major tax cuts for the rich since the 1980s have increased income inequality without any offsetting gains in economic performance.   It concludes that governments seeking to restore public finances following the COVID-19 crisis should therefore not be concerned about the economic consequences of higher taxes on the rich.
 

According to the latest data published by the CSO, €2.4 billion was not collected by the Exchequer due to direct subsidies and revenue foregone due to preferential tax treatment supported fossil fuel activities in Ireland in 2018. This represents an increase of 8 per cent on the previous year. 

Budget 2021 is an opportunity for this new Government to end to policies that subsidise and encourage the extraction and use of fossil fuels. Without such a move, Ireland cannot cease to be a climate action laggard.

Despite the enormous cost to the exchequer of tax reliefs/expenditures (in 2016 tax reliefs amounted to approximately 10 per cent of total tax revenue) they are not subject to annual assessment as part of the budgetary process. It is extraordinary that this is the case, and Social Justice Ireland believes that reform should be a key part of the next Programme for Government, and of Budget 2021.

It is clear that tax policy will play a vital role both in the immediate Government response to support people and businesses, and in rebuilding our society and economy once the worst of the health impacts are contained.  The new Government has an opportunity to reform and broaden our tax base and lay the foundations to increase our total tax take now to ensure we are well prepared to meet any future shocks.  We have a once in a generation opportunity to build a new society, a new economy and a new country that reflects the lessons we have learned in recent weeks. 

As we navigate through the global crisis caused by COVID-19, it is clear that tax policy will play a vital role both in the immediate Government response to support people and businesses, and in rebuilding our society and economy once the worst of the health impacts are contained.  This policy briefing explores some options available to the new Government that would increase our overall tax take as a proportion of national income,  broaden our tax base, and deliver a tax policy that would support our social and economic recovery and a new Social Contract

If a country is setting social and economic goals, it is important that taxation policy supports these goals. Ireland needs to have a real debate, not just about the levels of services and infrastructure it wishes to have in the coming decades, but also how these are to be financed.   Read Social Justice Ireland's Election Briefing on Taxation for an outline of a number of key challenges facing Ireland and some policy proposals that should be in the next Programme for Government.