Enabling better policy making

The FiFo Institute for Public Economics at the University of Cologne unites top quality economic research with a straightforward "hands on"-approach to policy consulting. Our mission is to enable better policy making.

Primarily, we engage in all fields related to public finance, to urban economics and local finance, to environmental economics, and to questions of demographic change. We pursue these aims: By listening first. By providing the best information attainable. By answering the relevant research questions. By offering top-quality policy advice.

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In addition to the urgent acute crises (Corona, Ukraine war), Germany is facing five major chronic crises that require transformations. Climate crisis, demographic change, digital transformation, national security and the large backlog of investment gaps - five tasks for the future where a lot of "money needs to be spent". Almost never all of this is viewed in combination. But all has to be done simultaneously. With FiFo DP 22-04, Michael Thöne calculates the total volume of all necessary transformations at a conservative 300 billion euros a year. To finance all this, more taxes, more debt or discretionary spending cuts are not the cure. The five great transformations call for the sixth transformation, the comprehensive modernisation of the German public sector.


The vehicle tax and the privileged income tax treatment of company cars are central obstacles on the way to fairer and more climate-friendly mobility. A new study by FiFo Cologne and RWI Essen shows the decisive role of the purchase decision for the structure of the passenger car fleet. Based, among other things, on household surveys conducted by RWI, FiFo drafts reform models for both of the central levies that still stand in the way of the transformation today. The condensed version of the study financed by Agora Verkehrswende is released today; the full research report will follow in late summer.


 In a new study for the German Federal Audit Office, FiFo Policy Fellow Martin Werding and Benjamin Läpple identify the large demographic sustainability gap in our social security systems. Handelsblatt reports. In FiFo Report No. 31, they show that reforms can allocate these risks somewhat more equitably. However, the main burden for today's young people and the coming generation seems to be unavoidable. Therefore, we have to face this intergenerational issue at an early stage - just as we do now with climate change


How can taxes and special levies regulate human behaviour? And how should the resulting revenue be used? In FiFo Discussion Paper 22-3, Dieter Ewringmann and Klaus Mackscheidt analyse these questions with a view to the longstanding debate in public economics. For Germany, they recommend a CO2 levy that finances a compensation fund.


Congratulations to Martin Werding for his nomination to the Council of Economic Experts! His great expertise on the sustainability of fiscal policy and social protection will be a welcome addition to the work of the "Economic Wise Persons". See Martin Werding's work e.g. in FiFo Report No. 29 and in the newly published book "Deutschland und sein Geld" (Germany and its Money).


Public finances between ambition, day-to-day life and the crises are presented in the new book published by Jens Bullerjahn, Michael Thöne and Ringo Wagner. A wealth of perspectives from politics, academia and practitioners are brought together on 720 pages in 41 essays and 16 conversations with Olaf Scholz and many others. A very personal exchange between Jens Bullerjahn and Michael Thöne. Furthermore, there are contributions from FiFo by Eva Gerhards, Klaus Mackscheidt and a few more by Michael Thöne. More on that soon. The free digital book (in German) is available here; the free print version will follow in a few weeks.


"The more the better'' often is the motto of fiscal policy in crisis management. Which expenditures contribute to long-term goals and which, at worst, create burdens for the future is of secondary importance. Such differences in the quality of public finances, however, offer the starting point for improving governments’ performance and resilience without undermining the intergenerational sustainability of public finances. In FiFo Discussion Paper 22-2, Michael Thöne reviews the concept of the "Quality of Public Finances" (GPF) and discusses its contributions for the 2020s policies.


Wir stellen ein. Als Research Consultant des FiFo Köln bearbeiten Sie anwendungsorientierte Forschungsvorhaben in mehreren Feldern der Finanzpolitik. Ein Schwerpunkt liegt auf der wissenschaftliche Politikberatung der kommunalen Ebene und der Länder. Wir arbeiten auch intensiv zu Fragen der Klimapolitik und der europäischen Finanzen. Wenn unsere Jobanzeige Sie anspricht, senden Sie Ihre Bewerbungsunterlagen an: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


Biontech's profits create tax gains worth billions. The state of Rhineland-Palatinate even becomes a payer state in the federal-state fiscal equalisation system. Model calculations show a paradoxical drop of revenues in the short term, but more important is the possibly permanent shift of power in federal finances, Michael Thöne explains in the Handelsblatt. This will considerably shorten the time until the finely balanced construct needs to be revamped.

11 July 2022

Staatliche Aufgabenerfüllung in den fünf großen Transformationen

FiFo Discussion Paper 22-04

Michael Thöne

FiFo / Juli 2022 / Discussion Paper, FiFo-Köln

(pdf, 535,23 KB)
07 July 2022

Reformoptionen für eine faire und klimagerechte Kfz- und Dienstwagenbesteuerung


Michael Thöne Eva Gerhards, Mark Andor (RWI), Lukas Tomberg (RWI), Car-Friedrich Elmer (Agora Verkehrswende)

Agora Verkehrswende + FiFo Köln + RWI / Juli 2022 / Kompaktbericht




01 June 2022

FiFo Bericht Nr. 31

Martin Werding, Benjamin Läpple

FiFo/ Juni 2022/ Bericht, FiFo-Köln


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