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Snippet Contents:

The main aim of the budget announced yesterday is to keep the recovery moving. It is not just a budget for 2016 but also another step in our plan to sustain the recovery in the years ahead. The past few years have been difficult for the people of Ireland, but their efforts have made it possible for the country to exit an international bailout, reduce our debts and safely progress into recovery.
There is no denying that the country still faces many challenges arising from the economic crash brought about by the previous Administration. In addressing these challenges the budget for 2016 mirrors the Government's goals for now and into the future: to make work pay and remove the barriers to work; to support more job creation and regional economic growth; and to rebuild a strong economy that can support better public services. Budget 2016 represents another affordable and sensible step in addressing many of these challenges. The Government I have the honour to lead will continue along the path laid out yesterday in order that we can keep the recovery going.
Our first priority is to continue to make work pay. While the Government has changed Fianna Fáil’s bailout agreement to avoid future increases in income tax, it was clear that the existing level of tax on work and jobs was a drag on our recovery. Since the introduction of the universal social charge - a brutal tax - by Fianna Fáil, Ireland’s taxation system has discouraged work and effort and is a barrier to economic recovery. It was wrong that the Government took more than half of every extra euro being earned by hundreds of thousands of low and middle-income families. Marginal tax rates on middle-income earners in Ireland are much higher than in the United Kingdom and other countries where many of our people have emigrated to and with which we are in competition for mobile talent and investment.
Making work pay more than welfare will also be an essential part of our plan to get Ireland working again. Today, there are too many families for whom work simply does not pay and it encourages an intergenerational cycle of joblessness and poverty.
We started the process of reducing the tax burden on work and jobs for low and middle-income earners in the last budget and have continued with that strategy. By reducing the universal social charge rates and bands we are reducing the marginal rate of tax to 49.5% for all earners earning under €70,000. This is a key milestone on the path to recovery. As the Minister for Finance indicated yesterday, it is the first time since April 2009 that the marginal rate has dropped below 50% for middle-income workers. While we continue to cap the benefit at €70,000, those workers earning more will benefit on the portion of their income below this level.
These tax changes are only a step in our plan to progressively abolish USC during the next term of office in order to secure full employment. If returned, the Government will take another step each year towards the abolition of USC by 2020.
The Government is also determined to make work pay more than welfare. We established the Low Pay Commission this year to make annual recommendations on the level of the minimum wage. It recommended to the Government that a 50 cent increase was justified and yesterday the Government approved the increase to the new level of €9.15 an hour to support workers. This will have a positive impact for the 75,000 workers earning the minimum wage. The Government will continue to listen to the annual recommendations of the Low Pay Commission to ensure low-income workers will not be left behind as the economy recovers. A single person on the minimum wage will benefit by more than €700 arising from the budget.
The Government has also long signalled its desire to end the unfair tax treatment of self-employed workers. The Government supports those who created their own jobs and have created jobs for others. They are the shopkeepers, tradesmen and farmers who, in many cases, lead our recovery efforts in the domestic economy. As a first step to end their unfair tax treatment, the Government is introducing an earned-income tax credit to the value of €550. To support and reward their work and effort, we will complete the tax equalisation for the self-employed in the coming years, with other measures to support our job creators. This approach is in stark contrast to that of other parties in this House which want to tax job creators out of the country.
The Government will also prioritise more supports that will encourage and support working families. Not having a job is the biggest source of inequality in our society. Jobless households with children are at the greatest risk of experiencing child poverty and perpetuating a cycle of joblessness and welfare dependency, as often articulated by the Tánaiste. It is clear that excessive child care costs have become a barrier to work for many families. For this reason, the Government is making another first step in the budget to overhaul child care supports.