Joint research programme on the macroeconomy, taxation and banking

The joint research programme between the Department of Finance, the Revenue Commissioners and the ESRI on The Macroeconomy, Taxation and Banking began in January 2015 with the objective of undertaking research on a range of macroeconomic and taxation issues in Ireland. The programme was initially launched by the Director of the ESRI and the Secretary-General of the Department of Finance.

The programme was renewed for work to continue through 2017 and 2018.  It was also expanded to add a Banking research stream to the programme to undertake research on questions related to banking and financial stability in Ireland.  The research programme is an innovative initiative that builds on the ESRI’s proven economic research capability and the Department’s commitment to enhance its capacity for evidence-based policy analysis. To maximise the benefits of the different areas expertise of all the involved institutions and ensure close linkage between the research and policy objectives, many of the projects have involved collaboration between economists from the ESRI, the Department and the Revenue Commissioners. Examples of the range of topics investigated by the research programme include:

Impact of Brexit

One of the first completed projects as part of the programme was a comprehensive assessment of possible implications for the Irish economy of a UK exit from the European Union, which was prepared as a risk assessment in 2015 prior to the referendum result.  Following the referendum decision in favour of Brexit, more in-depth work on the potential effects on the Irish economy became a key focus of the research programme.  A major aspect of this involved the use of the ESRI’s COSMO macroeconomic model to examine a range of Brexit scenarios and the channels through which they could impact the Irish economy.  This work formed the baseline for how the effects of Brexit have been incorporated into forecasts for the path of Irish GDP.  At a more disaggregated level, other work on the potential impact of Brexit focused on transport connections between Ireland and the UK, specifically with regard to the role of the UK as a land-bridge to other trading partners. 

Sensitivity of taxes to economic activity

A number of different research papers examined aspects of the sensitivity of major Irish taxation aggregates to underlying economic activity. These included the sensitivity of overall tax revenues to different measures of output and more detailed analysis of the different levels of responsiveness to income tax, USC and VAT rates depending on household income levels and taxpayer type.  A comparison of tax elasticities in Ireland relative to other OECD countries and an analysis of the so-called “deadweight loss” of taxation (also referred to as the excess burden of taxation) arising from potential spillover effects of taxes on relative prices.

Multinationals, taxation and productivity spillovers

As the attraction of FDI has been a cornerstone of Irish industrial and economic policy for many years, understanding the factors that affect investment decisions of multinationals is an important area for research.  A number of aspects of the role and effects of corporate tax policy on the attractiveness of Ireland and other European countries to foreign direct investment were therefore examined, including the extent to which corporate tax policy impacts on the location choice of FDI in Ireland and other EU countries and how would changes in corporate tax policy would affect Ireland’s attractiveness to FDI. This research stream examines the role and effects of corporate tax policy on the attractiveness of Ireland and other European countries to foreign direct investment.  A further stream of research under this heading examines whether, and to what extent, the productivity performance of indigenous firms is linked to spillovers from foreign affiliates operating in Ireland. This updated previous work on intra-industry spillovers and extended the research by examining if spillovers are more likely to occur through supply chain linkages.

Household wealth distributions

The research under this heading examined the composition of household assets and liabilities to estimate the potential impact of a tax on household wealth in Ireland under a wide range of assumptions on how such a tax might be designed. The scenarios used were based on models of existing taxes on household wealth across Europe and a number of hypothetical tax designs structured to illustrate how the results are affected by varying qualifying thresholds or asset exemptions.  Further work examined the role of inheritance and gifts in determining the distribution of household wealth.

Fuel and carbon taxes

Reflecting the importance of carbon pricing in achieving targets on tackling climate change, this research aims to create a better understanding of how different carbon tax rates can be expected to impact both the economy and the level of CO2 emissions. This involves the development of an Energy Social Accounting Matrix which makes it possible to evaluate the emission reduction associated with specific carbon tax policies. The explicit modelling of sectorial inter-linkages makes it possible to investigate the wider economic impacts of a specific shock or policy through the different transmission channels in the economy and distributional impacts of policies.  Another topic undertaken as part of the research programme examined how the differential prices of motoring fuels between Ireland and Northern Ireland as well as exchange rate variations can create an incentive to purchase motoring fuels across the Border. 

SME investment and financing

Work on the investment patterns and financing requirements of small and medium enterprises is an important focus of this programme.  This topic analyses detailed information on investment activity at firm level to provide a comprehensive profile of SME investment patterns in Ireland and how this investment activity is financed. It also examines reasons why firms may not have invested and, in particular, the roles of uncertainty and credit access. Providing insight into these questions will ensure a better understanding of the investment activity of Irish SMEs as well as provide evidence to support the development of targeted policy initiatives around investment and investment financing.

Mortgage arrears

This topic aims to provide analysis of the Irish mortgage market and implications for financial stability by designing a micro-econometric stress-testing model which links mortgage arrears at the household level to the equity and affordability channels which drive arrears. This allows us to understand how shocks such as changes in the ECB policy rate will impact mortgage arrears. The research also explores the differences across households to see whether pockets of vulnerabilities are evident.

External Publications

Annual Report 2015

Annual Report 2016

Annual Report 2017

Annual Report 2018

Annual Report 2019

The Elasticity of Taxable Income by Jean Acheson, Brian Stanley, Seán Kennedy and Edgar Morgenroth, Department of Finance paper. Available here.