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Independent scrutiny of public finances: the IFS Green Budget

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Our funding enables the IFS to provide an independent assessment of tax and spending options and their likely impacts ahead of the Chancellor’s Budget.

Free from political influence, the IFS Green Budget underpins media debate and increases public understanding about the public finances.

By Nuffield Foundation

The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) publishes the Green Budget every year in the run-up to the Chancellor’s Budget.

It provides a comprehensive assessment of the state of the public finances, the key economic questions facing the government, and the likely impacts of different public policy options. Crucially, it provides independent challenge to the government – an important factor in gaining public trust.

We have funded the Green Budget for the last seven years, enabling it to become an influential event in the annual fiscal calendar. Each year, hundreds of economists, policy-makers, researchers and journalists attend the launch, which is also live-streamed. The IFS produce short accessible summaries and videos, which are shared on social media, generating direct engagement with people.

The Green Budget is widely reported in the media, helping to improve public understanding of the tax and spending options available to the government, and their likely impact. It is used by journalists in their questioning of politicians and IFS spokespeople are interviewed in broadcast, print and online media.  

The IFS also provides face-to-face briefings for researchers at the House of Commons and the House of Lords, as well as MPs from all major parties and devolved administrations.

The value of the Green Budget is not only its impact on the quality of the debate on live Budget issues, but also in its longer-term impact on the quality of policy-making through greater use of evidence and a better understanding of the trade-offs being made in the public finances.

Christine Farquharson from the Institute for Fiscal Studies discusses the issues facing Chancellor Sajid Javid as he prepares for his first Budget and the policies political parties should be considering, October 2019.

Why a ‘Green Budget’?

The Green Budget is so called because unlike most other Bills, the government does not publish a green paper for the Finance Bill, which enacts the proposals announced in the Budget. The IFS produces the Green budget in order to provide independent scrutiny of important decisions about taxes, spending and public policy.

Is it possible to know the state of the UK public finances under present conditions? No. The unknowns are too great. But the Green Budget — a superb analysis of the UK’s fiscal position by the Institute for Fiscal Studies — shows we do know some things, even if many are “known unknowns.” Martin Wolf, Chief Economics Commentator, Financial Times

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We improve people’s lives by funding research that informs social policy, primarily in EducationWelfare and Justice. We also fund student programmes that give young people skills and confidence in science and research.

We offer our grant-holders the freedom to frame questions and enable new thinking. Our research must stand up to rigorous academic scrutiny, but we understand that to be successful in effecting change, it also needs to be relevant to people’s experience.