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Tax and benefit system

Since its foundation in the 1960s, the IFS has studied the design of the UK's tax and benefit system, and the effects it has on individuals and companies. This continues to be a core part of the Institute's work. We monitor and analyse policy developments and proposals on an ongoing basis and use this work to make important contributions to public debates. Each year in the run up to the Budget we publish our own Green Budget, which addresses the challenges facing the Chancellor, and we publish analysis of policy changes immediately following the Budget and fiscal statements. More recently we have also began supporting the analysis of tax policy in developing countries, including via our TaxDev initiative.

To ensure that our analysis is relevant and impactful, we constantly maintain and improve the Institute's tax and benefit model. We use this, in conjunction with large cross-sectional household datasets, to model the impact of reforms on individuals' incomes and behaviour. As a public resource, we maintain surveys of the tax and benefit system and provide data on rates and allowances.

Our policy work is underpinned by academic research. IFS research has made seminal contributions in understanding how taxes and benefits affect choices – including over how much to work, study and invest in skills – and how the tax and benefit system provides insurance over peoples’ lifetimes. Researchers at IFS have also made important contributions on how corporate taxation affects where firms locate production and hold intellectual property.

 The decades of research on taxes and benefits, along with the expertise of the large network of IFS researchers and fellows, was bought together for the Mirrlees Review. This project identified the characteristics of a good tax system for any open developed economy, assessed the extent to which the UK tax system conforms to these ideals, and recommended how it might realistically be reformed in that direction. The review produced a set of chapters dealing with specific aspects of the tax system and a final volume that set out the conclusions for how to design the system as a whole.


Selected highlights

The IFS Green Budget 2019, in association with Citi and the Nuffield Foundation, is edited by Carl Emmerson, Christine Farquharson and Paul Johnson, and copy-edited by Judith Payne. The report looks at the issues and challenges facing Chancellor Sajid Javid as he prepares for his first Budget.
Video clip
Where do taxes come from? Helen Miller, Associate Director of the Institute for Fiscal Studies, answers this commonly asked question.
Journal article
The analysis considers purely Pareto improving reforms and also optimal design under social welfare functions with different degrees of inequality aversion.
Dimensions of Tax Design volume one of the Mirrlees Review, is a collection of papers from high profile researchers analysing the different aspects and characteristics of the tax system. This expert evidence informs the conclusions of the review in Tax by Design, which recommends how the tax system ...
Tax by Design is the final report from the Mirrlees Review. We present a picture of coherent tax reform whose aim is to identify the characteristics of a good tax system for any open developed economy, to assess the extent to which the UK tax system conforms to these ideals, and to recommend how it ...


Contact IFS on 020 7291 4800 or [email protected]

Helen Miller
Deputy Director
David Phillips
Associate Director
Stuart Adam
Senior Economist
Tom Waters
Senior Research Economist
Barra Roantree
International Research Associate
Robert Joyce
Deputy Director