Who are we?

We are members of an interdisciplinary team of scholars in Political Science, Economics and Sociology, members of the LIEPP (Laboratory for Interdisciplinary Evaluation of Public Policies) based in Sciences Po, Paris. We have launched in 2013 a research program on the political economy of Fiscal Welfare, looking at the usages and impacts of various forms of tax expenditures on national Welfare State arrangements.

Our first works on this topic have convinced us that – the US case put aside -, Fiscal Welfare remains largely understudied; moreover works already published or ongoing on this topic tend to be scattered and sometimes unaware of each other. This website aims to be a scientific resource platform on this topic. It aims at gathering publications, ongoing works, data, events that deal with the political economy of Fiscal Welfare in general, with a specific focus on European countries. All contributions (original or as a link to any kind of resources are welcome at postmaster@fiscalwelfare.eu).

Our research agenda

In a seminal essay, Titmuss (1958) highlighted the ‘social division of welfare’, distinguishing between three sources of welfare: social, occupational and fiscal welfare. He noted that most scholarship on the welfare state restricted itself to the world of social welfare, failing to note the growing scale and distributive tendencies of occupational and fiscal systems – and the ways in which they often ran counter to the distributive directions of the social welfare system.

Fifty years on, fiscal welfare remains largely ‘the hidden welfare state’, despite the growing use of tax expenditures/‘preferences’ for social purposes. Indeed, most European countries now support the development of private pensions through tax incentives, and these have also been on the increase in the fields of healthcare, home-ownership, childcare and eldercare, household services, as well as for low-income earners. In spite of the OECD’s collection of a dataset on “Tax Breaks for Social Purposes”, social tax expenditures in European countries remain largely un-documented. Some types of programs are rather well identified (e.g. child allowances, in-work tax credit) but tax breaks concerning pensions, health insurance or social services could be further explored.

For instance the conditions of eligibility (for households as well as for the private services) for tax credits, the types of tax concerned by the tax credits (personal income tax, earmarked payroll tax, corporate tax, VAT…), or the (absence of) complementarity between direct benefits (in cash and in kind) and fiscal welfare are seldom exposed and analyzed in the social policy literature.

While the more developed literature on the US case may be useful in shedding light on some of the issues around the growth and consequences of the use of social tax expenditures in Europe, the specificities of the form taken by social tax expenditures, as well as the specific institutional, political and economic context of European welfare states may nonetheless call for a different analytical framework. These questions can also largely be extended to non-European countries.

Nathalie Morel                                                                                                                                
Assistant professor in Political Sciences                                                              
Sciences Po, LIEPP & CEE

Michaël Zemmour
Assistant professor in Economics
Université Lille 1 & Sciences Po LIEPP affiliate

Chloé Touzet
PHD candidate 
University of Oxford, SPI & INET, & Sciences Po, LIEPP


A workshop took place in Paris, Sciences Po, on 26-27th May 2016

Please find the program here.