27th Annual Tax Research Network Conference fringe event - Taxation and Social Policy

Alan Walters Building (Main Lecture Theatre)
Tuesday 4 September 2018 (15:45-17:15)

If you would like to attend, please contact Helen Harris: h.m.a.harris@bham.ac.uk

Highlights from the CHASM/Social Policy Association Tax and Social Policy Fringe Event at the Tax Research Network Annual Conference

On the 4th September CHASM along with the SPA sponsored a well -attended fringe event at the TRN’s annual conference addressing the theme of Tax and Social Policy. With the aim of boosting awareness of and debate on the interplay between the two it brought together practitioners and academics from both fields, building on the work of the SPA’s Tax and Social Policy Group formed earlier this year.

As anticipated the event stimulated a lively discussion centring on the key issues raised by the speakers, Adrian Sinfield, Professor Emeritus of Social Policy, University of Edinburgh, Micheál Collins Assistant Professor of Social Policy at University College Dublin, and Sally Ruane, Reader in Social Policy at De Montfort University, Leicester.

Setting the scene for the event Aidrian pointed to the importance of taxation for social policy and the challenges faced in researching its ramifications. In particular he highlighted the extent to which discussion of welfare in the UK focused on the direct public provision of benefits and services and overlooked the scale and distributional impact of the tax system. Drawing attention to its often ‘upside down’ effects he emphasised the need for more transparent, comprehensive data on fiscal welfare and its inclusion in discussions of public spending and policy-making.

Micheál’s presentation provided further insights into these issues both in the UK and Ireland, especially with regard to the regressive nature of pension taxation. Drawing on his research in Ireland he also considered whether there was a gender contribution gap. Looked as a percentage of earnings this was, he argued, unsubstantial. In nominal terms though he suggested there was a pronounced gap, with policy tools leading to adverse consequences for women’s incomes in retirement.

Drawing on her qualitative research with eight focus groups, Sally extended the discussion with an analysis of lay theorisation and views of tax avoidance. This she explained appeared as major concern in people’s understanding of taxation, with some legal practices as well as evasion being widely seen as unfair and requiring government action. There was little allusion though to the role of the tax avoidance industry, its lobbying and connections to policy-makers, nor to that of the state in managing the economy.

Questions and comments from the delegates ranged widely, and there was considerable interest in furthering cross-disciplinary links which the event’s chair, Margaret May of CHASM, agreed to help take forward.

CHASM plans to continue to both further research on taxation and liaise with the SPA Tax and Social Policy Group.

It will be providing information about the Group’s meetings and if you wish to join the group or find out more about it, you can also contact Professor Andy Lymer, Director of CHASM  (a.lymer@bham.ac.uk) .