The introduction of decoupled direct payments in the EU was a substantial change of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) in 2003. After decoupling direct payments from production, it has become evident, that distributional objectives are the major justification of farm payments. There are three facets: the distribution of payments among farmers within member states, the distribution of payments among member states, and the distribution of household incomes within member states. All of them will be affected if the volume and allocation of funds for the CAP will be changed in the new financial framework of the EU. The paper addresses the first distributional aspects. We provide an overview of the development of past and present research and findings on the distributional aspects of direct payments. We use the theory of federal fiscal relations to identify the policy agendas that should be handled at the EU level, at national levels, and at sub-national levels. We analyse how measures of concentration are affected if the criteria of direct payments are changed (e.g. a modified modulation scheme). This allows us to identify potential consequences after changing the way direct payments are distributed within EU member states. The summary of the paper discusses the distributional consequences of scenarios of the coming financial framework as far as agriculture is concerned.