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Snippet Contents:

This provision simply should not exist in the tax code. The section dealing with the dual abode allowance was put there by the Fianna Fáil Party in government and it is time for the Minister to take it out. Ministers' expenses should be available on exactly the same basis as any other expenses and the details thereof should be published. Ministers should be able to recoup the cost where they are genuinely required to stay in Dublin or elsewhere as part of their duties. However, having laundry expenses deducted from their tax bill in a private way is not acceptable.
In the short time remaining to me, I will comment briefly on a number of issues. We must have an overhaul of the VAT system. I cannot understand why the provision of lessons in Irish dancing, set dancing and brush dancing, which are part of Irish culture, are VAT-liable, while ballet lessons are not liable. We must closely examine these areas. There has been a great deal of talk about the money that has been allocated for the centenary celebration of the Easter Rising, with a range of groups bringing forward proposals to commemorate the events of 1916. Those proposals should be VAT exempt.
The Minister provides in this Bill for the elimination of the windfall tax, whereas we called in our alternative budget for its reduction to 41%. The Minister is saying the normal rates will apply in terms of capital gains tax and so on. Our view is that the tax should be charged at 41% and, crucially, rezonings should apply for only two years. There are two reasons for this approach. First, it tells landowners to release their land now in order to deal with the housing crisis, particularly in the capital. Second, it is an anti-corruption measure. Members of the Minister's own party were deeply involved in rezoning land for corrupt purposes in the past. The windfall tax was a way of discouraging that by greatly reducing the benefit to landowners of the massive increase in the value of their land. The Minister seems to think that type of corruption is a thing of the past. I hope he is right, but I remain of the view that the windfall tax should go back to where it was or at least be retained at an appropriate level after the two-year period.
In regard to the Living City initiative, it seems the "living" part has been dropped, with the Minister indicating that it is now applicable to a single-storey house. That is the effect of the deletion of subsection (3); it is saying there is no longer a requirement to live in the premises and it simply can be an upfront commercial business. Before this, there was a requirement to live upstairs in the Georgian house. Now the Minister is saying it does not matter - even where it is a single-storey premises being refurbished, one can have expenditure up to €400,000 for an individual and €1.4 million for a company written off over a ten-year period. There is no longer any requirement in terms of residing in the property. People in my constituency would love that, including those living on islands which are being depopulated. It is deeply unfair and the amount of tax forgone is simply not acceptable. The purpose of the initiative was to get people back living in city centres. That there is no longer a requirement for those availing of this benefit to live on the commercial premises to which the benefit applies drives a horse and carriage through the provision. I urge the Minister to reconsider it.