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Launched in 2018 with the endorsement of the Social Policy Association the group aims to foster a greater interest in and understanding of the nature of taxation and its relationship to the core concerns of social policy such as resource allocation, inequality and social welfare.

The first event of its 2019 programme was held at Birmingham University on 12 February in cooperation with CHASM and the Department of Social Policy. Full details and recordings of the presentations delivered can be found on the event page.  

Reflecting the group’s aims it was attended both by those engaged in Social Policy analysis and those with an interest in taxation, leading to an extensive discussion of the issues raised by the speakers: Andy Lymer , Professor of Accounting and Taxation and Director of CHASM, University of Birmingham; Fran Bennett,  Senior Research and Teaching Fellow, Department of Social Policy and Intervention, University of Oxford; and Claire Keane, Senior Research Officer and Programme Manager for Taxation, Welfare and Pensions Research, Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI), Dublin.

Andy stressed the need for closer links between researchers, policy-makers and practitioners in the fields of Tax and Social Policy. To this end he provided an overview of taxation as a subject, drawing attention to its interdisciplinary nature, the main journals and UK research centres and current trends and concerns in research and practice.  Here he pointed particularly to the turn to behavioural economics in tax analyses and debates over the issues of ‘equity’, ‘fair share’, transparency and compliance.

Speaking in her role as a member of the Women’s Budget Group, Fran took up some of these issues in a wide-ranging consideration of taxation and gender in the UK. This highlighted the extent to which benefit cuts and tax changes since 2010 had been far from gender neutral, with the Married Couples Transferable Tax Allowance and high-income child benefit tax charge in particular compromising the principle of independent taxation. To realise this and avoid an ‘independence penalty’ she argued tax and benefits should be viewed together and policy refocused on wider measures, especially childcare, enhanced rights and support for carers’ and more generous parental leave with stronger provisions for fathers. 

Many of the concerns raised by Fran were echoed in Claire’s presentation on the gender impact of Irish Budgetary policy between 2008-2018. Going beyond the household level her analysis, based on an assessment framework using the ESRI’s tax-benefit model and data from the Survey on Income and Living Conditions, focused on the ‘tax-unit’ level. Overall, she suggested gender differences arising from tax and benefit changes over the period emanated from the interplay between budgetary policy, women’s economic activity and the presence of children, with women being more affected by revised welfare payments. In explicating this she also highlighted the issue of variations in couples’ income sharing.

A wide-ranging debate followed each presentation and the event also provided participants with an opportunity to talk about their own research interests and how to develop the group’s work in the light of an update from its convenors, Micheál Collins, University College Dublin, Sally Ruane, De Montfort University, Leicester and Adrian Sinfield, University of Edinburgh.

The group’s next event will be on 24 May (10.30am to 4pm) at the Chartered Institute of Taxation (CIT), 30 Monck Street, London SW1P 2AP. Two speakers will be considering taxation and wealth: Adam Corlett, Senior Economic Analyst of the Resolution Foundation, and Karen Rowlingson, Professor of Social Policy, Birmingham and Chair designate of the Social Policy Association.  The third speaker will be Robin Williamson who has just retired from the Low Incomes Tax Reform Group based at the CIT who will be reflecting on the social policy issues that he has had to deal with and key areas that need to be pursued. If you wish to attend, please register at via eventbrite.

By Margaret May, Hon Research Fellow, CHASM