Whenever the European Union’s budget is discussed, much of the political focus is on net balances – whether countries pay in more than they receive – rather than on the broader overall positive effects of EU spending. The largest net contributor countries have sought to limit their contributions, leading to the build-up of an ad-hoc, complex, opaque and regressive system of revenue corrections.
A complex system of EU budget revenue corrections has been developed since the mid-1980s. I quantify their impacts: which countries pay and benefit from it and by how much and highlight several anomalies. The best solution would be to reform EU budget spending to provide only European public goods and eliminate all rebates. But if that’s not possible, then at least the rationale for the rebates should be spelt out clearly, and a transparent system built on clear principles should replace the current ad hoc, complicated, non-transparent and regressive system.