Paola De Agostini, John Hills and Holly Sutherland
Published 1 September 2015
This paper examines the distributional impacts of the changes to benefits, tax credits, pensions and direct taxes between the UK Elections in May 2010 and in May 2015. It also looks ahead to the longer-term effects of changes and plans that were announced by the 2010-2015 Coalition government, such as the complete introduction of Universal Credit and changes to the ways benefits, pensions and tax brackets are indexed from year to year, modelling what effects these would have after five more years. It shows that the changes 2010-15 did not have a common effect on all household incomes and nor did the direct tax-benefit changes contribute to deficit reduction. In effect reductions in benefits and tax credits financed part of the cuts in direct taxes. We find that the relative extent to which the changes most favoured the rich or the poor is sensitive to a wide range of analytical choices and assumptions, but under most sets of assumptions the main gains were in the upper middle of the income distribution and the main losers were at the bottom and those close to, but not at, the very top. Across most of the distribution the impact of the changes was regressive. Looking forward to the effects that Coalition policies would have had by 2020 we find a more strongly regressive picture but with open questions about the effect of Universal Credit on those not currently receiving their entitlements to means-tested payments, and so potentially increasing some of the lowest incomes.