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.

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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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After a long illness, bravely endured and productively resisted, Jens Bullerjahn died on 26 November 2022 at the age of 60. We mourn the FiFo Policy Fellow as an always stimulating co-author, an always demanding sparring partner and, above all, as an always good friend. Rest in peace.


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. Now the full version of the study financed by Agora Verkehrswende has been released. 


In addition to the urgent acute crises, 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. 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 intensive spending cuts are not the cure. The five great transformations call for the sixth transformation, the comprehensive modernisation of the German public sector. The long version of his essay is published in the latest Loccumer Protokoll and as FiFo DP 22-04. The ifo Schnelldienst 09/2022 offers a condensed version.


The FiFo director has already been honoured with the Ruhr Prize for Art and Science of the City of Mülheim an der Ruhr in 2021. Due to the pandemic, the festive award ceremony could only take place now. Following Michael Thöne's laudation in which he praised Klaus Mackscheidt as a scientist and a true Renaissance man, Lord Mayor Marc Buchholz presented him with the Ruhr Prize, the highest honour that Mülheim bestows. Klaus Mackscheidt also signed the Golden Book of his native city.


What experience does Germany have with financing municipalities sustainably? How can an effective system of intergovernmental transfers be established? Organised by GIZ together with Jens Bullerjahn and Michael Thöne, a Mozambican delegation with high-ranking representatives from the Ministries of Finance, Economics and Home Affairs as well as from the municipal authorities travelled for a week through Saxony-Anhalt and the political Berlin. At the Federal Ministry of Finance, the delegation discusses with State Secretary Werner Gatzer (in photo with Onofre Muianga and Michael Thöne). The German Embassy reports on Facebook.


 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.

25 October 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 / Oktober 2022 / Langbericht

06 September 2022

Staatliche Aufgabenerfüllung in den fünf großen Transformationen

FiFo Discussion Paper 22-04

Michael Thöne

FiFo / Juli 2022 / Discussion Paper, FiFo-Köln

(pdf, 288,90 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




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