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Financial Provisions (Covid-19) (No. 2) Bill 2020: Second Stage (Resumed)

Wednesday, 29 July 2020

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 996 No. 2

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Financial Provisions (Covid-19) (No. 2) Bill 2020: Second Stage (Resumed)

  Question again proposed: “That the Bill be now read a Second Time.”

Deputy Róisín Shortall: Information on Róisín Shortall Zoom on Róisín Shortall On the help-to-buy scheme, I never thought it was a good idea and I certainly do not think so at this point. It appears to show a misunderstanding of the problem at the root of the cost of housing and the unaffordability of housing. That problem is the cost of land and the failure of successive Governments to address this issue. They have allowed widespread land hoarding to continue and, in so doing, allowed developers to control the cost of land and, therefore, housing. This subsidy approach is absolutely wrong. A subsidy fuels the cost of housing and contributes to house price inflation. We would be better off spending the money used for this subsidy. Rather than putting it into the pockets of developers, we should use it for a proper affordable housing scheme.

We know that claims to date have amounted to €271.4 million. As of last September, roughly 21% of help-to-buy scheme claims were for properties priced at over €375,000. This suggests people with incomes in the region of €100,000 and I am not sure that is what we should be doing in providing housing subsidies. The scheme undoubtedly benefits higher income households. We would be better off scrapping the scheme and putting the money into building affordable housing.

The cycle-to-work scheme is a good scheme but there are flaws in it. I have no idea why we need to increase the upper limit for the cost of bicycles. It seems excessive. There was an understanding we would move away from variable tax-based schemes and that tax relief would be provided at the standard rate. It is a two-tier approach to providing support to people and militates against those on lower incomes who are paying a 20% tax rate.

Sections 10 and 11 deal with carry-back rules for income tax relief for the self-employed as well as corporation tax losses. Like many other parts of the July stimulus, these measures are not sector-specific, which means they are less effective at targeting businesses specifically impacted by Covid. There is a question of whether business viability outside of the Covid context will be taken into consideration with tax loss relief.

I will raise some technical issues, particularly in relation to the temporary wage subsidy scheme. Revenue proposed to implement the scheme by means of a new PRSI class. If this happens, apart from significant difficulties in implementation, it would continue to mark or identify an employee's payslip when viewed by banks or other third parties. This would cause damage and disadvantage to an employee. The Payroll Software Developers Association is providing an alternative way of processing the payroll and I would like the Minister for Finance, Deputy Donohoe, to indicate whether he is open to considering its proposal.

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