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Finance Bill 2014

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Snippet Contents:

With every budget the old maxim applies that the devil is in the detail and the detail of the budget is usually in the Finance Bill. In examining this Bill, it is clear that it does include measures that will begin to ease some of the burden for ordinary people. In the past few years the difficult economic adjustments undertaken through the troika programme have taken billions of euro out of the economy through tax rises and spending cuts. This budget is the first without the troika's hands on it and we have, albeit in a modest and responsible way, been able to provide some relief to hard-pressed families. I am encouraged by the content of this Bill with regards to income tax and the universal social charge, USC. Every person in the State who pays these charges will benefit from the changes in this Bill.
One criticism of successive budgets is that they have widened the gap between rich and poor and that the tax system has been regressive. This budget has begun to move the burden of distribution back in a more progressive direction and I very much welcome this. For example, after the implementation of this budget, the 1% of all earners in the State on over €200,000 will account for 21% of all taxes paid in 2015 - this is up from 19% in 2014. The 6% of all earners on over €100,000 will account for 44% of all taxes paid in 2015 - this is up from 42% in 2014. The 76% of all earners on under €50,000 will account for 20% of all taxes paid in 2015 - this is down from 21% in 2014. Also, the benefit of decreasing income tax for high earners is capped at €70,000.
The pension levy will be phased out by the end of 2015 and I know this will be welcomed by a lot of people, particularly retired older people. The introduction of the pension levy helped fund a VAT reduction in the hospitality sector and this helped instil buoyancy into our tourism market which, in turn, helped with the retention and creation of jobs in the tourism sector. As we are returning to growth, I welcome the fact that this levy is being phased out as this measure will benefit up to 750,000 people. Allied to this, a further 80,000 of the lowest earners in our economy will be removed from the USC and this will help many low earners, including part-time workers. When this budget was announced I received a call from a Labour Party supporter in university who supplements her studies with part-time work. She was grateful for the changes in the USC as it will help her meet the costs of attending college.
I am also happy that there has been no increase in the old reliable taxes on petrol and diesel. The cost of putting fuel into a car is very high and is prohibitive for some. I believe these duties need to be examined in future budgets with a view to making commuting more affordable. We need to make it more affordable for people to travel to and from work, to leave their children at school and to go shopping in our local towns and villages. I represent a large rural area in north County Dublin and transport to urban centres is a key concern as people need their cars in order to engage with the local economy. I think we need to look at reducing these duties in future budgets. Before the economic crash we had some of the cheapest motor fuel costs in Europe and, while our entire taxation system has had to change after the neglect of Fianna Fáil, we are now in a situation where up to 60% of the money we pay for motor fuel goes to the Exchequer. As the economy improves, I believe this should be re-examined with a view to reducing this burden on people.
I wish to say a word on the plight of road hauliers who see themselves at a competitive disadvantage relative to their counterparts in Northern Ireland and in mainland Britain - I have several in my constituency. Although I understand from the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Deputy Paschal Donohoe, that a working group is in place to look at the issue, there is disappointment that the pace of progress is slow and that the matter was not dealt with in the context of budget 2015.
I wish to speak about the need for further assistance for people in paying water charges. I know we are awaiting further clarification from the Cabinet regarding the charges and I am conscious of speaking on this when we do not have full clarity yet. However, I ask the Minister to examine the possibility of the inclusion in this Bill of a refundable tax credit in respect of water charges, as proposed by SIPTU and the Nevin Economic Research Institute. Perhaps this could be done on Committee stage. We need to ensure water charges are clear and, most important, affordable. The Irish Water debate has dominated the airwaves in the past few weeks and I understand many of the concerns people have. I welcome the initial intention to provide a water support payment and I look forward to further clarification from the Cabinet in the coming days and weeks.