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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 156-165
 Header Item Disabled Drivers and Passengers Scheme
 Header Item Pensions Levy Issues
 Header Item VAT Rebates
 Header Item Property Taxation Application
 Header Item VAT Rates Application
 Header Item Redundant Apprentice Placement Scheme
 Header Item Student Grant Scheme Application Numbers
 Header Item Student Grant Scheme Eligibility
 Header Item Special Educational Needs Services Provision
 Header Item Schools Building Projects Status

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 802 No. 1

First Page Previous Page Page of 89 Next Page Last Page

Written Answers Nos. 156-165

Disabled Drivers and Passengers Scheme

 156. Deputy Peadar Tóibín Information on Peadar Tóibín Zoom on Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Finance Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan his views on correspondence (details supplied) regarding the 2000cc limit on the size of a viehicle that can be used by a person with a disability; and if he will change the regulations regarding same. [21536/13]

Minister for Finance (Deputy Michael Noonan): Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan The criteria relating to the engine size of a vehicle and the relief available for vehicles which qualify under the Disabled Drivers Passenger Scheme have been in place since 1989. The purpose of the scheme was to provide for ways in which people with a physical disability could become more mobile; it is felt that the present limit of 2000cc is sufficient to allow for an extensive choice of vehicle in that regard. The legislation does not provide for any exceptions and the provisions of SI 353/1994 must be fully adhered to. Reliefs will continue to be available to those properly qualified to receive them in accordance with those regulations.

Given the scale and scope of the scheme, any possible changes can only be made after careful consideration and with regard to the existing and prospective cost of the scheme and the available resources.

Pensions Levy Issues

 157. Deputy Brendan Smith Information on Brendan Smith Zoom on Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Finance Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan the position regarding the levy imposed on private pension funds; the date on which this commenced; the length of time it will be in place; the levies that have been collected to date; if the legislation was tested by the courts; if there is a firm committment to end this levy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21546/13]

Minister for Finance (Deputy Michael Noonan): Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan The pension fund levy applies at a rate of 0.6% per annum to the market value, on the valuation date, of assets under management in pension funds and pension plans approved under Irish tax legislation. The levy will operate for a period of 4 years only (2011 to 2014) and the legislative provisions giving effect to the levy (section 4 of Finance (No 2) Act 2011) were specifically drafted to reflect this.

The moneys raised from the pension fund levy are being used to pay for the Government’s Jobs Initiative introduced in May 2011. The measures introduced as part of the Jobs Initiative  include a new 9% VAT rate on certain activities, the halving of the lower rate of PRSI and small amounts of additional current and capital expenditure.

The implementation of a jobs and growth strategy is a key priority of the Government. The measures announced in the Jobs Initiative  are aimed at assisting in employment generation – providing opportunities for those who are out of work, to restore public morale and confidence in the economy and encourage spending by consumers.

  I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that receipts to date from the levy amounted to €463 million in 2011 and €483 million in 2012. This is broadly in line with the amounts anticipated to be collected in those years. There is no yield from the levy as yet in respect of 2013. The deadline date for payment of the levy in 2013 is 25 September next.

  I wished to be satisfied that the legislative provisions giving effect to the pension fund levy do not pose any legal difficulties. I received legal advice in that context.

  I confirmed in my Budget 2013 Speech that the levy will not be renewed after 2014.

VAT Rebates

 158. Deputy Brendan Smith Information on Brendan Smith Zoom on Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Finance Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan if he will clarify the matter in relation to VAT refunds on disabled persons extensions and walk-in showers for elderly with mobility problems; if he will outline the projects which do not allow the applicant to apply to the Revenue Commissioners for VAT refund; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21549/13]

Minister for Finance (Deputy Michael Noonan): Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that a provision exists for the refund of VAT incurred on qualifying goods for the use of disabled persons. The Value Added Tax (Refund of Tax) (No 15) Order 1981 specifies the degree of disability and defines the qualifying goods. In this context qualifying goods are defined as goods which are aids or appliances, including parts and accessories, specially constructed or adapted for use by a disabled person and includes goods which, although not so specially constructed or adapted, are of such a kind as might reasonably be treated as so constructed or adapted having regard to a particular disablement of that person. The provisions of the Order extend to works carried out on homes, including the installation of walk-in-showers, to adapt them to make them more accessible for disabled persons. The provisions do not apply to the actual construction of a home but would apply, for example, to certain alterations or adaptations that would be necessary to meet the particular needs of the disabled person. Age is not specifically mentioned in the Order as a degree of disability.

Any application under the Refund Order should be made on Form VAT 61A and submitted to the Revenue Commissioners’ Central Repayments Office in Monaghan.

Property Taxation Application

 159. Deputy Sean Fleming Information on Seán Fleming Zoom on Seán Fleming asked the Minister for Finance Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan if he will estimate the number of residential properties in respect of which Revenue has not issued letters regarding the local property tax; and the plans to follow up the liable persons in respect of these properties; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21572/13]

Minister for Finance (Deputy Michael Noonan): Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan An important aspect of the work undertaken by Revenue in the implementation of Local Property Tax (LPT) has been the compilation of the first ever Register of residential properties in the State and the matching of the residential property with its owner or owners, where this information was available. I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that LPT Returns, personalised letters and an LPT Guide have issued to owners of 1.66 million residential properties either by post or by way of their ROS (Revenue Online Service) inbox. In the absence of a Register, it is not possible to state the number of residential properties in respect of which Revenue has not issued an LPT Return. I am advised that there are a number of possible reasons why the owners of certain residential properties have not yet been received LPT Returns, including:

Where the original LPT Return and personalised letter, which was issued as part of the general issue of LPT Returns, has been sent back undelivered by An Post. I am advised that there are approximately 26,000 such letters, of which some 9,000 have already been reissued, and work on the others is ongoing.

Several properties have the same non-unique address, which is not unusual in rural areas. A further complication in this category is cases where the owners' first names and surnames are the same.

A property was not reflected in any of the original data sources that Revenue used to establish the LPT Register. This would largely consist of new residential properties acquired since the start of the year, which are now in use as a residence.

  As regards the follow up, I am advised that the Commissioners are continuing to refine and build the Register from additional data sources. They will also re-fresh the LPT Register shortly with the most updated version of the Local Government Management Agency’s (LGMA) Household Charge database and they will continue to do this until the LGMA database is handed over to them after 1 July 2013.

As the Deputy is aware, LPT is a self-assessed tax and, in common with other self-assessed taxes, certain responsibilities rest with the taxpayer even where they have not received a communication from Revenue. I have indicated to the House on a number of occasions, most recently in my reply to Questions Nos. 87 and 92 on 1 May (20686/13 and 20652/13), that liable persons, who have not yet received a Return from Revenue, must still self-assess the amount of LPT due, complete and file their LPT Return and pay the tax due. They should contact the LPT helpline on 1890 200 255 or they can login to LPT online at www.revenue.ie and file a return by clicking on the "I have not received a Property PIN" tab. There is good evidence on the helpline that people are responding to the message.

  The process of ensuring that the LPT Register is as accurate and complete as possible will be an ongoing one, given the scale of the task, and will continue beyond the filing deadlines. I am satisfied that the continuing work of the Commissioners will ensure that all residential property owners are registered for the tax and will be advised of their compliance obligations if they do not come forward of their own accord.

VAT Rates Application

 160. Deputy Ciara Conway Information on Ciara Conway Zoom on Ciara Conway asked the Minister for Finance Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan if he will clarify the rate of VAT on each of the following contraceptives, all types of contraceptive pill available over the counter here, in addition to contraceptive patches, implants, injectable contraception, emergency contraception, vaginal rings, implants, diaphragms, condoms, injectable and intra-uterine devices and systems; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21578/13]

Minister for Finance (Deputy Michael Noonan): Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that oral contraceptive pills are liable to VAT at the zero rate and non-oral contraceptives are liable to VAT at the 13.5% reduced rate. The VAT rating of goods and services is constrained by the requirements of EU VAT law with which Irish VAT law must comply. Under the EU VAT Directive, Member States may retain the zero rate on goods and services, such as oral contraceptives, which were in place on 1 January 1991, but cannot extend the zero rate to new goods and services. In addition, Member States may only apply a reduced VAT rate to those goods and services which are listed under Annex III of the VAT Directive. Annex III does include products used for contraception and this is the basis for applying the reduced rate to non-oral contraceptives.

Redundant Apprentice Placement Scheme

 161. Deputy Barry Cowen Information on Barry Cowen Zoom on Barry Cowen asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn if funding will be made available from FÁS in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Offaly to complete their carpentry and joinery apprenticeship phase seven module, where a local registered contractor is willing to take them on; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21351/13]

Minister of State at the Department of Education and Skills (Deputy Ciarán Cannon): Information on Ciarán Cannon Zoom on Ciarán Cannon This is a day to day operational matter for FÁS who have responsibility for the Redundant Apprentice Placement Scheme (RAPS).

  I understand from FÁS that the individual in question recently declined to take up an offer of a place on this scheme with an employer in Templemore.

  I understand that he has indicated to FÁS that he would like to secure a placement on the RAPS with an alternative employer in Co Offaly. However, the FÁS Midlands Region has allocated its 2013 budget to other redundant apprentices. FÁS may be in a position to re-allocate a place to the individual in question should someone decide not to go ahead with their planned placement.

Student Grant Scheme Application Numbers

 162. Deputy Tom Fleming Information on Tom Fleming Zoom on Tom Fleming asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn the number of applicants for third level education grants nationally; the number of students that have been paid grants and college fees to date; the number that were refused; the up to date position regarding the number of students who sought to appeal and are accepted as valid appeals; the number of students that have been requested to supply further information on their claim to proceed or to confirm that they are still seeking a grant; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21120/13]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn I understand from Student Universal Support Ireland (SUSI) that, as at close of business on 6th May 2013, it has received 69,612 student grant applications nationally for attendance at both further and higher education. Some 37,936 students have been paid their maintenance or have had their entitlement to fee confirmed (where awarded a "fees only" grant).

Some 20,027 applications have been refused. This figure includes applications refused as part of SUSI's close out strategy on incomplete applications. Some 6,900 appeals have been received by SUSI to date. Some 1,694 students who have been requested to provide additional information have not done so. These students are being contacted by SUSI as part of their close out strategy for applications for the 2012/13 academic year to confirm that they are still seeking a grant.

Student Grant Scheme Eligibility

 163. Deputy Joe Higgins Information on Joe Higgins Zoom on Joe Higgins asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn if he will address the anomaly in the correspondence (details supplied) whereby persons who complete a foundation course under the springboard initiative in order to access third level can be made ineligible for free fees in respect of their third level course on the basis that the foundation course is itself a major award. [21141/13]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn I can confirm to the Deputy that the matter to which he refers is currently under consideration and officials from SUSI will be in contact with the student shortly.

Special Educational Needs Services Provision

 164. Deputy Helen McEntee Information on Helen McEntee Zoom on Helen McEntee asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn if he will give an assurance to all those affected by Down syndrome that the awaited National Council for Special Education report on whether Down syndrome should be reclassified as a low-incidence disability in all incidents regardless of assessed cognitive ability will be examined and acted upon by his office promptly on receipt of the report. [21143/13]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn The Deputy will be aware of this Government's ongoing commitment to ensuring that all children with special educational needs, including children with Down's syndrome, can have access to an education appropriate to their needs. The policy of my Department is to secure the maximum possible level of inclusion of students with special educational needs in mainstream primary and post-primary schools, or where a special school or special class placement may be required to ensure such placements are provided for.

Pupils with Down's syndrome attending mainstream schools may receive additional teaching support in primary schools, either under the terms of the General Allocation Model (GAM) of teaching supports, if the pupil's educational psychological assessment places the pupil in the mild general learning disability/high incidence disability category, or through an allocation of individual additional resource teaching hours which are allocated by the National Council for Special Education (NCSE), if the child is assessed as being within the low incidence category of special need, as defined by my Department's Circular Sp Ed 02/05.

Pupils with Down's syndrome may be allocated resources under the category of mild general learning disability, or under the categories of moderate general learning difficulty or Assessed Syndrome, in conjunction with another Low Incidence disability. There is not presently a distinct disability category of Down's syndrome for resource allocation purposes.

I have asked the National Council for Special Education to provide me with policy advice on the issue of whether Down's syndrome should be reclassified as a low incidence disability in all instances, regardless of assessed cognitive ability. This advice will be included in the NCSE's comprehensive policy advice on how the education system can best support children with special educational needs which is currently in preparation and which is expected in the coming weeks. The position in relation to the implementation of any recommendations which may contained in the report will be considered once the report has been received by my Department.

Schools Building Projects Status

 165. Deputy Niall Collins Information on Niall Collins Zoom on Niall Collins asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn if he will sanction funding approval in respect of a school (details supplied) in County Cork to enable construction to commence without further delay. [21155/13]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn I wish to advise the Deputy that my Department approved funding to the school to which he refers for the provision of two classrooms for pupils with special needs.

Subsequent engagement by my Department with the school resulted however in the project being withdrawn by my Department due to building design issues, the extent to which the school's plans exceeded the scope of the original grant allocation and the significant additional funding sought by the school to deliver a project based on the school's plans. The school has since requested that the Department would re-consider its decision. However my Department's views have been conveyed to the school that for the reasons outlined above it is not possible to accede to the school's request.

My Department is continuing to work with the National Council for Special Education in respect of how best to meet the accommodation needs for pupils with special needs in the area.


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